A prison inmate on death row who Kim Kardashian has been advocating to release is one step closer to walking free from jail after his sentence was recommended for commutation by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
Julius Jones’ freedom now depends on Oklahoma Governor Kevin Sitt, who will either accept the suggestion from the board or decline it.
Kim praised the news as the ‘first moment of justice’ for Jones and thanked the three pardon and parole board members who voted in favor of the commutation.
‘Thank you… for your courage and integrity today,’ the reality star turned justice advocate tweeted Monday. ‘Their votes to recommend commutation of his death sentence to life with the possibility of parole mark the first moment of #JusticeforJuliusJones,’ she wrote.
The decision was reached with a 3-1 vote, after one member of the board listened to claims of bias in the case from the Defense Attorney’s office and changed their mind about recommending Jones for a commutation.
If the commutation is approved by the governor, it will lessen Jones’ death sentence to life with the possibility of parole.
Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended the governor commute the death sentence of Julius Jones, who is convicted for the 1999 murder of 45-year-old businessman Paul Howell
FILE – Kim Kardashian West meets with members of Julius Jones’ family at Tabernacle Baptist Church of Oklahoma City
On twitter, Kardashian voiced her joy after hearing the news and thanked the three Pardon & Parole Board members who voted in favor of recommending Jones for commutation
Kim had previously posed with Jones’ attorney, Dale Baich outside the jail where Jones is being held, in 2019
The inmate has spent 22 years in jail after he was convicted in 2002 for the 1999 murder of 45-year-old businessman Paul Howell.
Jones has always maintained his innocence and claims he was convicted as a result of racial discrimination. The family say they have compelling evidence of his innocence.
On Monday, his family celebrated the news.
‘We are overjoyed. Although that recommendation means he will not be walking out a free man as soon as we hoped, Julius would be able to spend his days inside prison no longer on death row and, in the future, be eligible for parole,’ Alex Weintz, a spokesperson for the Jones family, told TMZ.
Sitt’s office has said that they will consider Jones’ case as they do with all incoming ones.
Demonstrators march in support of Julius Jones, who has been incarcerated for more than 20 years for a crime he says he did not commit
Supporters cheer after the third yes vote at a march and rally in support Julius Jones during the commutation hearing in Oklahoma City on Monday
Antoinette Jones, left, the sister of convicted killer Julius Jones, and her cousin Dionne Carruthers, right, walk from an Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board hearing
Jimmy Lawson, a friend of Julius Jones, hugs Madeline Davis-Jones, the mother of Julius Jones, following the recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board that Julius Jones’ death sentence be commuted to life in prison, during a commutation hearing for her son
@Justice4Julius shared a picture of supporters of Jones hugging each other and holding signs in celebration of the decision
‘The governor takes his role in this process seriously and will carefully consider the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation as he does in all cases.
‘We will not have any further comment until the governor has made a decision,’ said the statement.
@Justice4Julius shared a picture of supporters of Jones hugging each other and holding signs in celebration of the commutation recommendation, after the hearing in Oklahoma City.
Jones’ plight first came to Kim Kardashian’s attention after she watched Viola Davis’ documentary ‘The Last Defense,’ in which Jones was featured.
Since then, the reality TV star who is also pursuing a career in law, has taken a deep interest in advocating for the man’s freedom.
In November last year, she visited Jones in prison and spent time with his family.
In October 2019, Kim appealed to Stitt and the state Pardon and Parole Board to consider Jones’s clemency petition.
The socialite shared images of Julius Jones’ mother and his attorney to her popular Instagram account in 2019
In October 2019 the reality star said there is ‘compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted’ and went on to share a link to his clemency petition
Back then, Kim said in a tweet: ‘I have been following the case of Julius Jones for little while now.
Julius Jones was convicted of murder in the 1999 shooting of 45-year-old Paul Howell, pictured
‘Julius Jones is on death row in Oklahoma, despite maintaining his innocence and compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted. His case has also been strained with so much racial discrimination.’
Jones was a 19-year-old honor student on a scholarship at the University of Oklahoma at the time of the murder of Paul Howell in July 1999, and his mother said his son was with her on the night of the murder.
He has insisted throughout the years that his 2002 conviction was the result of bias from a racist juror.
Businessman Howell was shot and killed in the driveway of his parents’ Edmond home and investigators say the suspect then fled in a Suburban.
Jones was arrested along with a co-defendant who fit an eyewitness’s description of the shooter, while Jones did not. Jones claims his friends conspired to frame him after a robbery gone wrong which ended in the murder.
Businessman Howell was shot and killed in the driveway of his parents’ Edmond home (pictured) and investigators say the suspect then fled in a Suburban
Rachel Howell, daughter of murder victim Paul Howell, sits next to a large photo of her father as she listens during a commutation hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for his convicted killer, Julius Jones
According to Justice for Julius: ‘In a case riddled with odious racial discrimination – including a police officer’s use of a racial slur during Jones’ arrest and the State’s removal of all prospective black jurors except one – evidence shows that a juror used the n-word before jury deliberations at the sentencing phase.
‘The US Supreme Court has made unequivocally clear that our criminal justice system cannot tolerate such blatant examples of racial prejudice on the part of even a single juror.’
Jones also claims his defense attorneys did not even bring up his alibi at trial and did not call any witnesses to the stand who could have attested for Jones’s location on the night of the killing.
He said: ‘I have spent the past twenty years on death row for a crime I did not commit, did not witness, and was not at. I feel terrible for Mr Howell and his family, but I was not responsible.’
He appealed to the Supreme Court after a juror told Jones’ lawyers in 2017 that another juror used a racist term to describe Jones in his 2002 trial, saying authorities should ‘shoot him behind the jail.’
The court rejected that appeal.
Kardashian has been championing prison reform in recent years, following her success with convincing then-President Trump to commute the life sentence of nonviolent drug offender Alice Marie Johnson in June 2018.
In April 2019, the mother-of-four revealed that she wants to become a lawyer and is said to be in the midst of a four-year apprenticeship with a San Francisco law firm. She is expected to take the California Bar exam in 2022.