40 days to save a life: The race to spare Julius Jones from the death chamber

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TeaThat was the senseless and sensationalist murder of Paul Howell in 1999. The murder in front of her two young daughters devastated her family and stunned the surrounding community. Hundreds of officers and heavily armed SWAT soldiers search for two black teenagers accused of killing a wealthy white businessman during a carjacking in the Oklahoma City suburbs.

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Once police caught a suspect, the state’s foremost prosecutor and newspaper editorial board, 19-year-old Julius Jones, called for the death penalty in a few days, before all the facts could be established.

After a year of front-page testing, his wish came true. Jones was sentenced to death. The system did justice as it was envisioned then. The sentence was sharp, and the most solemn imaginable.

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But despite being in the headlines in this case, there is another side to this story which has come to the fore recently. Julius Jones has always insisted that he is innocent, the victim of a frantic police investigation and the prosecution is a perfect storm of vengeance. From the moment he was arrested, he has never been able to stand in court and share his full side of the story—not during his feverish trial, nor during decades of fruitless appeals. . He has remained on Oklahoma death row for more than 20 years, a survivor but largely sent to the grave in silence. till now.

Julius Jones, 41, has been on the death row for more than 20 years, and has ended his appeal for a murder he says he did not commit.

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Julius Jones, 41, has been on the death row for more than 20 years, and has ended his appeal for a murder he says he did not commit.

After years of work from family, local activists, public defenders, and most recently, Hollywood stalwarts like actress Viola Davis and reality star Kim Kardashian West, Jones will have one last shot at justice in what she says is 20 years old. There is delay. His legal appeals ended, but on October 26, Jones, now 41 years old, after spending more time than ever living on the death penalty, appeared before Oklahoma officials to argue for his life during a Will go Mercy the hearing. If Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt is shaken by what he hears, Jones could be stripped of the death penalty and sentenced to life imprisonment instead, opening up the possibility of parole and eventually becomes free. If Mr Stitt is not convinced, the date for Jones’ execution is already set 18 November.

Jones was put to death during the height of the “hard on crime” era. His fate begs the question: How much has the criminal justice system, and America at large, really changed after years of civil rights activism?

Boy Scouts and ‘Superpredators’

Paul Howell, a 45-year-old insurance officer, was shot and killed on the way to his parents on July 28, 1999. His sister Megan Toby was the only eyewitness. He said the shooter was a young black man, wearing a red bandana over his face, with a few inches of hair visible from the underside of his head cap.

Even by the standards of the time, an era that gave birth to the peculiar “superpredator“The killer black teen stereotype, Julius Jones would seem an unlikely candidate because the face was hidden under that mask.

(The Howell family did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

“Sometimes I think he’s a little Boy Scout or something,” said Julius’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones. Granthshala. Julius was active in church, in sports, helping neighborhood children with their homework. “He loved helping people, I think that’s one of his problems.”

Her younger sister, Antoinette Jones, remembered how Julius had once taken her to a fair, where he had promised to let her go for a walk with his friends, only to make sure she was safe. Looking back from behind him secretly.

The Julius Jones family described him as a gentle child, always helping his sister and fellow children in the neighbourhood.

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The Julius Jones family described him as a gentle child, always helping his sister and fellow children in the neighbourhood.

Julius was one of only two black men to graduate in the top 10 percent of his class at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City. At the time of Paul Howell’s murder, he was at the University of Oklahoma. on an academic scholarship.

He was one of those kids who “made it”, but the place he made it from was great too. According to Madeline, a veteran schoolteacher, it was a type of middle-class, multi-racial community where people knew each other and got along, and all parents worked collectively, with fathers being one on sports teams. – took care of other’s children. And the families go for picnics with each other.

“We just had a great time,” she said. “You don’t see the color, but it was very varied.”

When he went to college, however, Julius began to drift. The summer after his first year, in 1999, he began committing petty crimes.

“Being young, I got into shoplifting just out of want of money. I stole the pager. I stole things I could sell,” he told a jailhouse phone call in the 2018 ABC documentary series last defenseIn which detailed information about his case was given. “Wrong is wrong. I shouldn’t have. And I’m not trying to hide from anyone that I’ve broken the law, because I have. But just because I’ve broken the law doesn’t make me a murderer.”

That summer, he was reunited with an acquaintance named Chris Jordan. They knew each other from school and basketball, but Jordan never graduated and became affiliated with gang members while Julius went to university. Jordan, who had a car, gave Julius a ride, and Julius offered to take a college entrance exam for him in exchange for money. After all, he loved helping people and he needed money too.

Their paths will soon part once again: Chris Howell will make a deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty in the shooting and testify against Julius, and his old basketball friend will be on death row.

red bandana

Two days after Paul Howell’s murder, police located his GMC suburb in a parking lot near a famous chop shop, destroying cars of suspicious origin and selling them for parts. The shop’s owners, Kermit Lottie and LaDell King, who were known to police as a prolific dealer in stolen cars, were both professional informers for the Oklahoma police. They traded information with authorities for a generous fee or a tacit license for uninterrupted operation.

Mr. King claimed, as did his colleague Chris Jordan, that Julius had confessed to killing Mr. Howell and tried to sell his suburb to Mr. Lottie, who refused to purchase the vehicle. Granthshala King was unable to be traced for comment, including public record searches.

Meanwhile, Julius has said that he was at home with his family during the murder, eating spaghetti and playing the board game “Monopoly”.

“It’s a life on the line,” explained her sister Antoinette. Granthshala. “It’s an innocent life on the line.”

After being arrested, Julius counters that Chris Jordan had in fact confessed to the murder after the fact, which was denied by Mr. Jordan.

There was a rapidly disappearing window, as police searched for a suspect, where Julius could reach and give his version of events. However, at this time, as a search operation in the suburbs for Mr. Howell’s killer, Julius was too afraid to take action. Oklahoma, to this day, is Highest black money holding rate in the country, and Julius did not trust the system to protect him if he volunteered himself.

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“You have to understand that the environment I grew up in, the people I grew up around, you shouldn’t have talked to the police,” Julius told the ABC documentary crew. “Bad things can happen to you or your family.”

Those bad things will get to him and his family anyway.

“From my point of view, it was like half and half. There were some good cops and some bad cops,” Antoinette remembers of the area. “In the early ’90s there were a lot of cops who were bent on taking on young black men, adding cases to them once they were put in the system.”

Still, in her cramped neighborhood, and in her family, she knew many law enforcement officers who would attend local sports games and other community events.

“I understood that the police were going to do their job and their job was to make sure people were safe,” she continued. “I didn’t have a really bad encounter with the police until the evening, when they came to my house and pointed a gun at me for the first time.”

Once the police got Julius’ name, they began to charge towards a proposal. Officers surrounded the Jones family home, pulled out Julius’ relatives at gunpoint, and tore the house down. Inside, in a crawl space, they found a gun matching the murder weapon wrapped in a red bandana.

It didn’t matter that a few days before the murder, Julius was photographed doing donuts in an empty parking lot during a mugshot, with short hair, not the kind of cornrows that Chris Jordan had at the time. Were. Out from under the skull cap. It didn’t matter that the marks of Julius were not found in the car. It didn’t seem like the night after the murder, Chris Jordan asked to sleep…

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / End the Death Penalty

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