Oklahoma’s Governor Commutes Julius Jones’ Death Sentence, Halting Today’s Scheduled Execution

Oklahoma governor. Kevin Stitt, the Oklahoma Governor, announced that he would commute the sentence of Julius Jones (41), who was sentenced for 1999 murder of a businessman in a carjacking.

Jones’ imminent execution was a major news story. Jones has not only maintained his innocence and denied being at the crime scene, but several Republican legislators and Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board members agreed there was sufficient evidence to convict Jones. The Board voted 3–1 earlier in November to recommend that the Republican governor commute his sentence.

Jones advocates note that Christopher Jordan was a codefendant and agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. Jordan would then point the finger at Jones, in return for 15 years imprisonment instead of being on death row. Multiple people have said that Jordan has confessed to the crime.

Stitt waited for the Pardon and Parole Board to make a recommendation. His oversight has seen the Oklahoma executions resume. They had been suspended for six years because of concerns over drug protocol issues that caused serious problems. In October the first execution after the hiatus, of John Marion Grant, made the man go into convulsions and vomit before his death.

Stitt made the announcement in a statement. He stated, “After prayerful considerations and review materials from all sides to this case I have determined that Julius Jones’ sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment without any possibility of parole.”

Stitt’s executive order contains some very harsh conditions. According to Oklahoma’s administrative code, an Inmate cannot apply for an additional commute on the sentence after receiving a positive commutation from the Governor. Stitt was recommended by the Board to consider changing Jones’ sentence from life imprisonment with parole. Stitt argues that neither Oklahoma’s Constitution nor the state laws give him the authority to issue such a recommendation in his executive orders. The state constitution states that the governor is not authorized to grant parole to someone who has been sentenced to death without parole.

Stitt included the following directive in his executive order. “Julius Darius Jones shall no longer be eligible for or be thought for a commutation of sentence, pardon or parole for his remainder of life.”

Jones demanded that he never be released fully even if proving his innocence was proven false. Jones’ lawyer Amanda Bass issued a statement, expressing relief that Jones won’t die.

Bass wrote, “Governor Stitt made an important step today to restore public faith in our criminal justice system by making sure that Oklahoma doesn’t execute an innocent man.” We had hoped that the Governor would fully adopt the Board recommendation by changing Julius’s sentence from life to life and giving him parole, but the overwhelming evidence has proven his innocence. The Governor is a blessing.