Oklahoma governor commutes Julius Jones death sentence

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) on Thursday commuted death row inmate Julius Jones’s sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

The governor was facing mounting pressure to intervene with only hours until Jones's execution, which was set for today. 

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said in a statement.

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The announcement from Stitt’s office said that it was on the condition that he would not be allowed to apply or be considered for any other commutation, parole or pardon.

In 1999, Jones was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of businessman Paul Howell. However, Jones has insisted on his innocence, alleging that a juror's racism contaminated his trial and that he was framed by a high school friend of his, who he says is the real murderer, according to The Associated Press.

His case received national attention following its exploration in the 2018 documentary "The Last Defense."

Several celebrities made the case for commuting Jones's sentence, including NBA basketball players Trae Young, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin and reality TV star and criminal justice advocate Kim KardashianKimberly (Kim) Noel Kardashian WestInvestors sue Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather over cryptocurrency promotion Victim's brother rips Colorado governor for reducing trucker's 110-year sentence 2021's top political celebrity moments MORE West, according to the AP. Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has also spotlighted the issue.
 
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 in favor of recommending that Stitt commute Jones's sentence with the possibility of parole, noting that some of the evidence that resulted in Jones's conviction left them with doubts, per the AP
 
Asked about the commutation, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOn student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Part of US military support package arrives in Ukraine Biden seeks to save what he can from Build Back Better MORE said President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion The Fed has a clear mandate to mitigate climate risks Biden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' MORE "has grave concerns about whether capital punishment as currently implemented" is consistent with U.S. values.

“I’d note, for us on a federal level, the attorney general has halted executions at the federal level. We are in the process of conducting an important review of the federal death penalty, and the president believes that’s an important step forward. But this, as you know, was a state-level sentence. The action needed to be taken on a state level so there wasn’t a real role the federal government could officially play in that regard," Psaki said.

“But certainly, the president’s grave concerns about the death penalty and the implementation of that were reflected on how he viewed that case.”
 
Updated at 3:32 p.m.