‘After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,’ says Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt
“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Governor Kevin Stitt announced in a statement.
Mr Stitt’s decision came just hours before Mr Jones was scheduled to die by lethal injection. The governor’s statement was released at 1.29pm on Thursday; the execution was set for 4pm.
In announcing the decision, the governor’s office emphasised that Mr Jones will have no chance to shorten his prison sentence. His punishment has been commuted “to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole, on the condition that he shall never again be eligible to apply for, be considered for, or receive any additional commutation, pardon, or parole,”Lui die verklaring.
Mr Jones was convicted in 2002 of murdering Paul Howell, a 45-year-old businessman who was killed in a carjacking in 1999. Mr Jones has consistently denied that he committed the murder, and Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board has twice recommended commuting his death sentence.
Hierdie week, thousands of protesters demanded the execution be called off. Byna 2,000 studente walked out of Oklahoma schools, demonstrators picketed outside Mr Stitt’s office, and others – perhaps recognizing the importance of the governor’s Christian faith – protested in a church parking lot near the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Two Christian conservative organisations, the American Conservative Union and the Faith & Freedom Coalition, also appealed to that faith in a letter to the governor last month.
“We recognize that this is a difficult decision, and we don’t envy you having to make it,” that letter said. “Maar, as representatives of staunchly pro-life organizations, we believe that taking an innocent life – whether a baby in its mother’s womb or a wrongly convicted adult – is wrong. As long as that outcome is possible, we believe one must err on the side of life.”
With his reference to “prayerful consideration,” Mr Stitt appeared to indicate that such religious arguments were persuasive to him.
Mr Jones’ lawyers welcomed the news.
“Governor Stitt took an important step today towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man,” attorney Amanda Bass said in a statement. “While we had hoped the governor would adopt the [Pardon and Parole] Board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’s innocence, we are grateful that the governor has prevented an irreparable mistake.”
Mr Stitt’s announcement did not, egter, declare Mr Jones innocent. In 'n statement, the family of Mr Howell thanked the governor for that.
“We know Governor Stitt had a difficult decision to make,” het die familie gesê. “We take comfort that his decision affirmed the guilt of Julius Jones and he shall not be eligible to apply for, or be considered for, a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life.”