In Oklahoma, justice is being subverted by racism. Julius Jones is scheduled to be executed on November 18, 2021, for a crime he likely did not even commit. Jones has maintained his innocence for 22 years, claiming that he received inadequate counsel and that the jury did not hear exculpatory evidence during the trial. Furthermore, he claims that racism played a pivotal role in his conviction; an argument substantiated by America’s longstanding history of racial discrimination in the justice system. With 6 million Americans in support of his freedom, America begs for justice for Julius Jones.
In 2002, Julius Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the killing of Paul Howell: a white man who was tragically shot and killed in his parent’s driveway on July 28, 1999. Jones,19 at the time of the crime, claims the first time he saw Howell was on television after his death was reported. It is likely that Jones was roped into a murder he had no part in by co-defendant Christopher Jordan, whose testimony heavily influenced the decision of the case.
Claiming to be the getaway driver and not the triggerman, Christopher Jordan was also convicted in the murder of Paul Howell but served a reduced sentence and was released in 2014. Jones’s lawyers find it extremely likely that Jordan framed Jone, as Jordan could have easily planted the murder weapon as well as other incriminating evidence when visiting Jones’ family home shortly after the murder. Jordan also matched the description of the killer, who had 1-2 inches of hair while Jones had a shaved head. Furthermore, multiple inmates (none of which know each other) who were incarcerated alongside Jordan claim that he confessed to framing Jones to receive a reduced sentence for himself.
Jones had a strong alibi: he was home with his family when the murder occured. With such compelling evidence pointing to Julius Jones’ innocence, why was he convicted as the murderer of Paul Howell instead of Christopher Jordan? His ill-prepared and inexperienced legal team failed to present any of this evidence or to call Julius or his family to the stand during his trial.
The entire case was poisoned with racism from the start. Jones’ arresting officer called him the “n-word” and taunted him, daring him to run and claiming he would shoot him if he did. Eleven of the twelve jurors on the case were white; one of which referred to him as an “n-word” and suggested that Julius be taken behind the courthouse and shot. Not to mention, Jones was given the death penalty without any irrefutable evidence that he was indeed the killer. Unfortunately, this drastic sentence for a black man is not an anomaly in America. A recent report from the Death Penalty Information Center shows that since the death penalty resumed in 1977, 295 black defendants were executed for killing a white victim while only 21 white defendants were executed for the killing of a black victim (even though black people are disproportionately the victims of crime). This is nothing new. Black individuals have always been unjustly overrepresented on death row across the United States. The death penalty has historically been used on the black community by white majorities to maintain social power. As they are currently being carried out, state-ordered executions are the modern-day equivalent to Jim Crow lynchings.
Jones’ last chance to fight through these systemic failures and save his life is October 26, 2021, at his clemency hearing. The political process is seemingly already being corrupted by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, who are trying to get two board members disqualified from hearing Jones’ case stating the members have a political conflict of interest because of their work with inmates on criminal justice reform.
The justice system is broken but Americans refuse to stand by as their country continues its longstanding history of racial discrimination. With over fifty-thousand followers on Instagram and over six million petition signatures, #JusticeforJuliusJones has taken the internet by storm. Jones’ case has amassed a large media following, resulting in advocacy from celebrities with massive influence like Kim Kardashian and Viola Davis. Hopefully, the public discontent with Julius Jones’ possible execution will force Oklahoma to reconsider.