OKLAHOMA CITY – A conversation on the criminal justice system this week brought together legal experts and the family of a man on death row. Julius Jones became the focus of the “What Lies Between Us? with Ayanna Najuma” community discussion series.

The event takes place every other Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Full Circle bookstore, using books to delve into community issues. This week, participants say they were trying to save a life.

Attorneys, judges and corrections board members all joined host Najuma in the discussion, highlighting how mass incarceration helps the rural areas where private prisons are often located.

Oklahoma DOC board member Reginald Hines explained, “That is an economic boost for those areas, and where do most of the people that are incarcerated…come from? They come from the urban areas.”

Those who have worked in the legal field for years admit the system is flawed.

“The courts in our country were never intended to do justice,” added attorney and tribal Supreme Court Justice Peggy Big Eagle. “We do law. That’s what we’re supposed to do, is law.”

That led the conversation to the Julius Jones case. He was convicted of murdering a man in Edmond in 1999. Jones did not get to testify in his own defense, after his original attorney died and he was appointed a group of public defenders.

Jones’s last possible appeal now is to Governor Kevin Stitt.

A former teacher of Jones, Dr. John Thompson, said, “Have them read the fact sheet and then ask one simple question: If Barry Albert hadn’t died, do you think he would be on death row today?”

Jones’s sister immediately responded, “No.”

They hope the governor will hear their voices, as they push to eliminate the death penalty altogether in the state, saying conservatives should also consider the additional cost to house death row inmates.

Big Eagle explained, “You have to have a separate facility. You have to have a death house, and you have to keep it staffed and you have to keep it cooled, even if no one is there.”

Their goal is to get their appeal for clemency to the governor's desk before time runs out.

To learn more about the “What Lies Between Us? with Ayanna Najuma” series, click here.