The Oklahoman

Court refuses to intervene in parole board hearing for Jones

- Nolan Clay

Death row inmate Julius Jones will get his commutatio­n hearing before the full Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday after all.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday refused to bar board chairman Adam Luck and board member Kelly Doyle from participat­ing.

“We’ll be prepared for the hearing on Monday and look forward to the truth coming out,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said after the ruling.

Prater had complained to the Supreme Court that Luck and Doyle are biased toward releasing inmates and should be disqualified. Both have advocated for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma.

Prater had asked the Supreme Court to order Luck and Doyle not to participat­e until justices could decide if they should be disqualified.

A ruling in the district attorney’s favor could have resulted in a delay in the commutatio­n hearing, set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

“What we really have here is a veiled attempt to attack the executive power of the governor,” Luck’s attorney, Evan Gatewood, told a Supreme Court referee Friday.

Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Luck and Doyle to the board in February 2019. He said at the time they would bring a fresh perspectiv­e.

“What we have here is Mr. Prater thinks his idea of what the parole board should look like should override what the governor of this state thinks the parole board should look like,” Gatewood said. “That’s what’s really going on.”

Jones, 41, is facing execution for the 1999 fatal shooting of an Edmond insur

ance executive during a carjacking. Jurors chose the death penalty as punishment at a 2002 trial.

He claims he is innocent and was framed by the actual killer.

The victim, Paul Howell, was gunned down in his parents' driveway in Edmond after a back-to-school shopping trip with his daughters. His 1997 Suburban was stolen.

Millions signed a petition in Jones' support after ABC in 2018 aired the documentar­y series, “The Last Defense,” about his innocence claim. His supporters include celebrity Kim Kardashian, who visited him last year at the Oklahoma State Penitentia­ry in McAlester.

James Corden, the host of “The Late Late Show,” spoke this week at length on the program about Jones' case.

“I sincerely beg you to join me in taking action and shining a light on Julius' story because together we might be able to spare the life of an innocent man,” Corden told viewers.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is being asked to schedule an execution for Jones for later this year. The Supreme Court referee was told the execution could be set for Nov. 18.

The Pardon and Parole Board has five members. Jones needs three to vote in his favor for his commutatio­n request to move forward.

The board is expected to recommend his sentence be commuted to life in prison or life in prison without the possibilit­y of parole.

He would remain on death row if the board rejects his commutatio­n request.

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