OKLAHOMA CITY – Julius Jones, an Oklahoma man who has been on death row for nearly two decades for a murder he says he did not commit, will get a chance to present the case for his innocence to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. The board voted 3-1 today to advance his case to a “stage two” hearing that will take place later this year.
Jones’ defense team recently shared new evidence of his innocence, including a sworn affidavit from a man who said that Jones’ codefendant, Christopher Jordan, confessed to the murder Jones is on death row for (read the affidavit here).
“Christopher Jordan spent years behind bars casually confessing to murder and to framing Julius,” said Dale Baich, Julius’ attorney. “It is unimaginable that the state would execute a man given that another suspect in the case confessed to the crime multiple times.
“We are thrilled that the Board has agreed to consider the growing body of evidence that Julius is innocent, and convinced that any fair and impartial review of the facts of the case will result in the commutation of his sentence and his release from prison,” Baich continued.
Oklahoma County has a history of overturned convictions and exonerations, particularly during the era of former District Attorney Bob Macy, whose office prosecuted Jones’ case. One-third of Macy’s death penalty convictions were overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct, according to Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project. Three people sent to death row by Macy have already been exonerated.
Antoinette Jones, Julius’ sister, said today was an important day for her family.
“My family knows Julius is not guilty because we were with Julius at our house when the murder occurred,” she said. “We never got to tell that story, and the truth about Julius has been buried for a long time. Now, finally, that truth may come out. Our thanks go out to the many people in Oklahoma and all across the country who helped to lift up Julius’ case and spread the word about his wrongful conviction.”
Rev. Jon Middendorf with the Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene said that many people of faith have felt compelled to take action after hearing about Jones’ case.
“You can’t sit idly by while people are victimized or brutalized by a system that hasn’t given them a fair chance,” said Middendorf. “This is what it means to be a Christian and to live your values. It’s time to speak out and to act, and that is what many people of faith will continue to do when it comes to Julius Jones.”
Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, an Oklahoma activist and faith leader, started a petition to free Jones that now has over 6.3 million signatures. She said the decision by the Pardon and Parole Board shows the work being done to shine a light on Julius’ case is making an impact.
“The whole world is watching this case,” said Jones-Davis. “They want to know if Oklahoma is a place where justice and truth prevail. Today we took a step in the right direction.”