The fight to save Julius Jones, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a crime he said he didn’t commit is one of many reasons professional athletes are getting involved with criminal justice reform.
The “julius jones update” is a story about how NBA stars like Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin went to the court to save Julius Jones. The story includes an interview with Julius Jones.
Note from the editor: This article was first published on June 17, 2020. Julius Jones’ death sentence was reduced to life in prison with no chance of release on Thursday.
H Unit has been home to JULIUS JONES for the last 18 years.
He’s on death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, doing time for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. He’s in a cell with 53 other inmates packed in two rows.
Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Paul Howell in 2002. On July 28, 1999, the 45-year-old businessman was shot in the head while sitting in his parents’ driveway in Edmond, Oklahoma, in a tan GMC Suburban. At the site, two shell casings were discovered. Megan Tobey, Howell’s sister, was the lone witness.
Jones, then 19, was apprehended after a three-day hunt for a suspect described as a young black person wearing a white shirt, a skull or stocking hat, and a red bandana over his face.
Jones said in his clemency report, “As God is my testimony, I was not engaged in any manner in the crimes that resulted to Howell being shot and murdered.” “I’ve been on death row for the last 20 years for a crime I didn’t commit, didn’t witness, and wasn’t present at.”
Jones submitted his clemency report in October 2019, requesting that his sentence be modified to time served. Jones has exhausted all of his appeals and is now eligible for execution, which may happen as early as this autumn.
The Julius Jones Coalition, a group of family, friends, and community organizers dedicated to proving Jones’ innocence, has gained traction in recent months, with NBA stars Blake Griffin is a professional basketball player., Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, and Buddy Hield, as well as NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield, writing and sending letters to the governor’s office.
Each letter addresses a critical problem that contributed to Jones’ conviction — racial prejudice, a botched investigation, and an underprepared defense — and demonstrates that the person on death row is the wrong person.
“[Jones’] conviction was tarnished by a very faulty process,” tweeted Westbrook, the former Oklahoma City Thunder star who now plays for the Houston Rockets. “As more information about his condition becomes available, I join many others in expressing regret and deep worry over his conviction and execution sentence.”
The players’ name recognition — all of whom have significant links to Oklahoma — is something organizers hope will resonate, particularly now. As nationwide demonstrations against police violence continue, the Black Lives Matter branch in Oklahoma City has included a commutation for Jones in a list of requests handed to Mayor David Holt.
The aim for those campaigning for Jones’ release has remained simple: raise as much awareness as possible about his case, persuade the Pardon and Parole Board to consider his clemency, and bring it to the governor for approval.
“I never knew how important it is for individuals to ensure that justice is done properly. I’m ready to go to any length.”
Without the state’s mismanagement of two executions in 2014 and 2015, Jones’ case would not have gained traction. All executions in Oklahoma were put on hold after critical reports that resulted in resignations and a comprehensive review of the prison’s protocols, preventing Jones from being executed.
However, the state stated in February that executions will resume this year. Jones’ legal team predicted that when it occurs, he’ll be among the first in line.
The execution chamber, which has been rebuilt since its last usage, is a few hundred feet from Jones’ jail cell. It replaced a previous version from the 1950s, which had seen 111 executions.
The operations area is located on the opposite side of a door leading into the chemical chamber of the execution room, and three cream-colored phones were installed as part of the modifications.
The line out of the jail is designated “external extension.” Another option is “internal extension,” which is a line into the execution chamber that alerts the warden that the execution is about to commence.
The final phone is on the right, behind a label in a black frame: Governor’s office.
Maya Moore, a WNBA standout, has embarked on an amazing journey for justice.
Russell Westbrook wrote to Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt in a letter.
The United States Supreme Court declined to hear an allegation that a racist jury was involved in Jones’ trial in 2019. Another juror, Victoria Armstrong, submitted a Facebook post to Jones’ legal team in 2017, alleging that before evidence was given, juror Jerry Brown remarked the trial was a “waste of time” and they should “just take the n——- out and kill him behind the prison.”
Jones said in his clemency report, “I was tried by a jury that contained at least one racist.” “I was never given a chance.”
During the trial, Armstrong stated she went to the judge with the information the next day.
“Beyond the apparent flaws in the trial, another problem that continues to weigh on me is the blatant racial prejudice that pervaded Julius’ arrest, prosecution, and conviction,” Mayfield, a former Oklahoma quarterback who is now with the Cleveland Browns, said in his letter.
He went on to say, “Every American is supposed to be promised a fair and impartial trial.” “However, it is inconceivable to infer that Julius had fair and unbiased treatment when your arresting officer calls you the ‘N-word,’ when a jury calls you the ‘N-word,’ and when all of this occurs in the background of decades of death sentence verdicts tilted against black males.”
There is no racist insult in the trial transcript. The court requested the jury, which had just one black member at the time, to confirm their capacity to be unbiased, and the trial proceeded.
“To learn that a juror reportedly used the N-word while referring to Julius during trial and was still on the jury is profoundly upsetting to me,” Westbrook wrote.
“WESTSIDE” CHRIS Jones’ high school teammate at John Marshall was JORDAN, and the two stayed friends after graduation.
Jordan first told investigators that he remained the night following the murder at Jones’ residence, but at trial, he altered his narrative to claim he never did. Jordan slept in the upstairs bedroom, while Julius slept on the downstairs sofa, according to the Jones family.
Jones and Jordan were named as suspects three days after the murder, thanks to information from informants. Jordan sat in the back of a squad cruiser while police searched the Jones’ house. Investigators emerged from the second-story crawl space carrying a pistol wrapped in a red bandana.
Jordan admitted to police that he saw Howell being shot and falling to the ground, and that he may have handled and perhaps loaded the murder weapon. However, his narrative changed throughout the trial. Jordan stated that he was 300 feet away when the pistol was fired, that he never saw the gun, and that he just heard a gunshot.
Young, an All-Star guard with the Atlanta Hawks, claimed in his letter that “Julius’ co-defendant, who testified against him, altered his testimony no less than six times when probed by the police.” “Julius’ lawyers, who had expertise with the death sentence and were inadequately equipped, failed to cross-examine the co-defendant about his discrepancies.”
Jordan’s evidence was inconsistent enough that the questioning detectives asked him in one session, “We don’t have this backwards, do we?” according to the records.
“julius jones innocence project” is a documentary that tells the story of how NBA stars, including Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook, fought to save Julius Jones from being sentenced to death for murder.
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