The Justice for Julius campaign, powered by Represent Justice, began in March 2020 to support a grassroot effort to save Julius Jones, an innocent Black man, from execution in Oklahoma. In 2018, the NY Innocence Project and JuVee Productions produced “The Last Defense”, which brought Jones’ story to national attention.
Jones’ case was rife with racial bias, ineffective counsel, and undisclosed evidence. After international outcry, diverse advocacy across sectors, and celebrity engagement, the campaign culminated in a sentence commutation to Life Without Parole (LWOP) four hours before Julius’ scheduled execution on November 18, 2021. The campaign reached 2.84 billion people on social media, largely thanks to the engagement from dozens of prominent influencers, like: NBA stars Blake Griffin, Trae Young and Russell Westbrook; media magnate Kim Kardashian; and some of the nation’s top faith leaders like Bishop TD Jakes. Over 6.5 million people signed the campaign’s Change.org petition, which was the platforms number one petition of 2021 and 528,036 citizens around the country and world took email actions and placed phone calls to the Oklahoma Governor and Pardon and Parole Board.
While Julius is still in prison, there is no doubt the campaign played a critical role in the Governor’s decision to commute the death sentence, which now gives Oklahomans future options to bring Julius home. Because of a robust public awareness strategy which included video storytelling, press engagement, and hyper-targeted digital content, in the weeks leading up Julius’ death sentence commutation, polls showed:
- 61% of Oklahomans believed Julius’ sentence should be commuted (compared to 47% when we first polled).
- 46% of Oklahomans believed Julius was likely innocent (compared to 36% when we first polled).
- Nearly 50% of Oklahomans had heard of Julius (compared to 21% when we first polled).
The impact of the Justice for Julius campaign has been far reaching in Oklahoma and across the country, and has been noted as a model for other death penalty campaigns. To continue the sustainable work, the Julius Jones Institute is being established as a 501c3 organization to promote criminal justice reforms, youth interventions, and civic engagement actions and training.