'No mercy' for Julius Jones, Oklahoma County district attorney tells pardon and parole board
Top prosecutors are urging the state Pardon and Parole Board to show “no mercy” when it meets next week to consider the commutation of Julius Jones, the Black death row inmate convicted of first-degree murder in the 1999 killing of Paul Howell, a white Edmond businessman.
Over an activist-driven and celebrity-endorsed chorus of support to release Jones, 40, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and Attorney General Mike Hunter called on the Pardon and Parole Board to deny Jones’s request for a commutation hearing.
“Julius Jones and his attorneys have engaged in a coordinated and alarmingly successful campaign of misinformation, spurred by media frenzy, which is specifically targeted to manipulate and mislead the public through dissemination of half-truths and, frequently, outright lies,” Prater wrote in a 15-page letter to the Board this week.
Jones’ petition is on the Stage 1 commutation docket for consideration by the Board on March 8.
Stage 1 determines the qualifications for commutation. If passed to Stage 2, a hearing is held, and if a majority of the Board favors commutation, the matter is passed to the governor’s office for consideration.
Jones was convicted at a jury trial in 2002 of murdering Howell, an insurance executive, during a carjacking.
Jurors chose the death penalty as punishment.
Howell was gunned down on July 28, 1999, in his parents' driveway in Edmond after a back-to-school shopping trip with his daughters. Stolen was his 1997 Suburban.
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Jones applied for clemency in 2019. His supporters, which include athletes like Baker Mayfield and entertainers like Kim Kardashian, have called for his release from prison and death row.
More than 6 million people have signed a Change.org petition asking that Jones be granted clemency or that his sentence be commuted.
“As people of faith, we can’t just stand by and let this man be executed,” Pastor Jon Middendorf of the Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene said in a statement before a late February march on Jones' behalf. “There is real and compelling evidence that Julius is innocent. Taking his life would be a grave injustice as well as a terrible tragedy. We are lending our voices and prayers to this effort in the hopes that we can finally bring Julius home to his family.”
Supporters of Jones have recently circulated letters and video interviews of Arkansas inmate Roderick Wesley, who claims an acquaintance of Jones admitted to killing Howell.
Wesley said Christopher Jordan told him “my co-defendant is on death row behind a murder I committed.”
Jordan admitted to the carjacking and served prison time.
Jones’ legal team has argued that Jordan, not Jones, matched the only eyewitness description of the shooter.
In 2018, his attorneys hoped the first test on a red bandanna would exonerate Jones, but a forensics lab in Virginia reported that the DNA from a stain on the bandanna worn by Howell’s killer "matches" Jones' DNA.
In his letter to the Pardon and Parole Board, Prater said Jones’ commutation application is rife with demonstrable falsehoods, including, but not limited to:
“His claim that he had no prior violent conduct prior to the murder; his claim that he was at home with his family on the night of Paul Howell’s murder; and his assertion that Christopher Jordan was released early from prison as a result of a secret deal with prosecutors.”
Jones has a history of relying on the claims of other convicted murderers to spring him from prison, Prater said.
Those are Emmanuel Littlejohn and Christopher Berry, who years ago claimed they heard Christopher Jordan bragging about shooting Paul Howell while in the county jail.
Prater said both had credibility problems, but Berry was a convicted child abuser and murderer who implicated Jones by claiming Jordan told him his “partner in the case was charged with capital murder,” with the partner being Jones.
In his letter, Prater discussed the DNA evidence, testimony from the eyewitness who described Jones’ appearance the day Howell was murdered, and Jones’ “escalating pattern of criminal conduct.”
Prater told the Board that 19 days before murdering Howell, Jones committed an armed robbery at the Royal Jewelers jewelry store inside Quail Springs Mall by placing a gun to the store owner’s head.
A couple weeks later, Jones committed back-to-back carjackings at Hideaway Pizza on Western Avenue in Oklahoma City, Prater wrote.
“The jury’s verdict should not be disturbed,” Prater wrote. “Julius Jones showed Paul Howell no mercy, and he presents no valid reason why he should be accorded any now.”
In his 32-page letter to the Pardon and Parole Board, Attorney General Mike Hunter covered the same evidence Prater presented, saying his correspondence refutes “some of the most egregious misrepresentations” Jones has made to the Board and public.
“And the DNA testing obtained by Mr. Jones himself has only confirmed what the jury found: there is no reasonable doubt that Julius Jones placed a gun against the head of Paul Howell and pulled the trigger — killing a father in front of his children—in the hope of obtaining a little money for Mr. Howell’s Suburban,” Hunter wrote.