Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott petitions Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt for Julius Jones' freedom
Dak Prescott is the latest high-profile athlete to write a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt asking to commute the sentence of Julius Jones, an Oklahoma inmate on death row.
In a letter published Thursday by Time magazine, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback urged Gov. Stitt to "make a direct impact by addressing a specific miscarriage of justice" in Jones' 2002 conviction of murder in the first degree for the 1999 killing of Edmond businessman Paul Howell. Jones, who has long claimed his innocence of the crime, applied for clemency last October to the Pardon & Parole board.
The case has gained national attention in recent months with NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield and NBA stars Blake Griffin, Buddy Hield, Russell Westbrook and Trae Young writing letters to Gov. Stitt saying Jones did not receive a fair trial. Jones' case also was featured two years ago in ABC's docuseries, "The Last Defense."
For Griffin, a forward for the Detroit Pistons and former OU star, the case is a personal one since his father, Tommy, grew up with Jones' parents and later coached him in basketball and football at John Marshall High School.
"Our familial relationship goes back generations. My father grew up with Julius’ parents. Our grandmothers were best friends," Griffin wrote. "The Jones family has always had strong values and deep commitments to the community."
Unlike the other pro athletes to write letters urging Jones' release, Prescott lacks any strong ties to Oklahoma. However, Prescott was moved to act "after reviewing the facts" of the case.
Here is Prescott's full letter to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, as first published by Time magazine:
Dear Governor Stitt and Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Members,
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I am writing to express my wholehearted support of Julius Jones’ commutation application.
As a black man in this country right now, I experience injustices firsthand day in and day out, even as an athlete with “celebrity status.” Current events are shining a much-needed light on deep-seated prejudices and systemic mistreatment of black people, and it is my sincere hope that the cultural movements of today will lead to significant social changes that will create a better tomorrow. To that end, you all are in the unique position of being able to make a direct impact by addressing a specific miscarriage of justice.
After reviewing the facts of the Julius Jones case, I firmly believe the wrong person is being punished for this terrible crime; furthermore, an evaluation of the process that led to Mr. Jones’ conviction raises serious legal and ethical concerns. I implore you to right this wrong. Please don’t let another innocent black man die from the systemic mistreatment that has plagued our nation for far too long.
It is my firm belief that Julius Jones’ conviction and death sentence is an egregious injustice. Mr. Jones has been on death row for 20 years, despite written affidavits from his trial lawyers describing the ways they failed him in court. Mr. Jones’ attorneys never presented the photo taken 9 days prior to the crime that could have provided clarity about the shooter’s description. They were appointed without having any experience in death penalty cases, and did not even present Mr. Jones’ alibi at trial. In addition, a member of the jury (comprised of 11 white members out of 12) has confirmed that the jury acted with racial animus – admitting that inappropriate and biased statements were made by other jurors during the trial, including the use of racial slurs.
The treatment of Julius Jones is the kind of miscarriage of justice African American men like myself live in fear of, and that is why I feel compelled to use the influence that God has blessed me with to speak up for what I believe is right and to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Julius Jones’ case is a clear example of what can happen to a person who cannot afford legal representation, and what can happen to a black person at any time in this country – which is exactly why so many are protesting for the changes we so desperately need. I ask for you to please do your part to help bring about this change by giving thoughtful and sincere consideration to your review of Julius Jones’ commutation application. My prayer is that he is able to salvage what remains of his life and that, through the righting of a decades-old wrong, he will be restored to his family soon.
Rayne Dakota “Dak” Prescott