Gov. Stitt Speaks After He Rejects State Pardon & Parole Board's Recommendation On Julius Jones' Case

Wednesday, September 29th 2021, 5:22 pm

Gov. Kevin Stitt said he will not make a decision on Julius Jones' case until after Jones' clemency hearing.

The death row inmate was convicted for the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell.

Jones' clemency hearing will be held in less than a month, on Oct. 26. 

Stitt spoke with News 9 for the first time since he rejected the pardon and parole board's recommendation to commute Jones' sentence.

The board already recommended commuting his sentence to life with the possibility of parole.

But Stitt wants to wait for a clemency hearing that's scheduled to take place in less than a month.

"We think the best avenue for that is in the clemency hearing, and so that's what we directed the pardon and parole board to do," Stitt said.

Jones is the first death row inmate to go through the commutation process in Oklahoma.

The decision that death row inmates could apply for commutation was clarified in 2020 by then-Attorney General Mike Hunter.

With an execution date of November 18 looming for Jones, Stitt said his decision to have him go through the clemency process does not mean he disregards the board's recommendation.

"Not necessarily disregard," Stitt said. "But the commutation was a new precedent so every single person on death row gets a clemency hearing. That is the appropriate way to deal with this. That's when the defendant gets to speak. That's when the victim's family gets to speak."

The governor insisted this is a much more thorough process and is historically the way Oklahoma has handled death row cases.

The biggest difference between the commutation hearing Jones just went through and the clemency hearing is Jones will have the opportunity to appear virtually and address the board for 20 minutes.

It would be the first time anyone would hear from Jones and what he has to say about the night Paul Howell was killed.

The pardon and parole board said the Howell family will have the same 20 minutes to speak.

Jones' legal team and the state, represented by Attorney General John M. O'Connor, will each have 40 minutes to speak.

The governor said his office will be watching the hearing closely.

"Then, we will make out decision after the pardon and parole board weighs all the evidence from the clemency hearing," Stitt said.

Those fighting for Jones and the family of Paul Howell both sent News 9 statements reacting to the governor's decision.

Jones' supporters released the following statement:

"We are disappointed in Governor Kevin Stitt’s decision to deny Julius’ recommendation for commutation. The governor has made it clear this is about process, not about Julius’ case for innocence. 
"Julius’ legal team is prepared to make the same compelling case for innocence at a 10/26 clemency hearing to the Oklahoma Pardon & Parole Board. 
"We continue to urge everyone to contact Governor Stitt at, to share Julius' story of innocence and to keep Julius’ family in their thoughts and prayers. They are understandably devastated by this latest news. 
"The fight for #justiceforjulius continues."

The Howell family released the following statement:Howell family statement