Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt will wait until after Julius Jones’ clemency hearing to make a final decision on his fate.
In a letter sent today to Pardon and Parole Board director Tom Bates, Stitt said he is “not accepting the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of Julius Jones because a clemency hearing, not a commutation hearing, is the appropriate venue for our state to consider death row cases.”
During an interview Sept. 24, Stitt alluded to his decision when asked whether he would accept a request to meet with the family of Paul Howell, the man Jones is convicted of killing.
“That’s the thing about the clemency hearing. It’s more of an all-day process that actually the defendant speaks, the Attorney General’s Office gets to present, the defense attorney gets to present. It’s a much more thorough process than just the commutation,” Stitt said. “So those are the things that our attorneys are looking at and advising us on. But yes, I’ve reached out to former governors and how they handled this. They would meet with — in this case, the Howell family — so [that is] one thing that I would probably do. And then meet with the defense attorneys.”
Julius Jones clemency hearing set for Oct. 26
With one member recusing himself after a prosecutor alleged he had a conflict of interest, the board voted 3-1 on Sept. 13 to recommend that Stitt commute Jones’ sentence from death to life with the possibility of parole.
A clemency hearing for Jones has been set for Tuesday, Oct. 26. A Nov. 18 execution date has also been established. State law directs that death-row inmates receive a clemency hearing at least 21 days prior to their execution date.
Jones, who has been on death row for 22 years after being convicted in the 1999 murder of Edmond father Paul Howell, has maintained his innocence.
The text of Stitt’s full letter to Bates appears below:
I am not accepting the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of Julius Jones because a clemency hearing, not a commutation hearing, is the appropriate venue for our state to consider death row cases.
Stitt wrote in the letter to Bates clemency hearings are more thorough.
Clemency hearings are more intensive and thorough than a commutation hearing and include the option for the inmate to speak publicly before the Pardon and Parole Board as well as the victim’s family and attorneys from both sides.
The precedent in Oklahoma is for death row inmates to receive the clemency hearings to which they are entitled prior to their execution date.