Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commuted the death sentence of Julius Jones hours before he was set to be executed for a murder conviction on Thursday. Jones will now serve life in prison, The New York Times reports.
“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’s sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said in a statement.
Jones was convicted in 2002 of first-degree murder in the killing of Paul Howell during a carjacking where he was fatally shot in 1999. Jones, who was 19 at the time, has maintained his innocence.
Several celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, have advocated for his stay. On Thursday, Kardashian took to Twitter to thank Stitt and share that she had spoken with Jones on Wednesday. “He also wanted me to pass a few messages along that were really important to him,” she wrote in a thread. “The most important is that you have to always make sure you are doing the right thing. Julius was hanging out with the wrong crowd and that landed him in the position he’s in today.”
Amanda Bass, a lawyer for Jones, said in a statement that while they wanted parole as a possibility, they are “grateful” for the decision.
“While we had hoped the governor would adopt the 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,” she said.
Jones is among a number of Oklahoma Death Row inmates who have sought to stay their executions in recent months. Richard Glossip is among them. The inmate has been on Death Watch three times over the last 25 years that he’s been imprisoned for a murder he says he didn’t commit.
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