Rev. Anthony Washington told supporters of Oklahoma death-row inmate Julius Jones during a Sunday vigil that “the world is watching what’s going on in McAlester, Oklahoma.”
The McAlester-based Mt. Triumph Baptist Church reverend was one of numerous faith leaders and Julius Jones supporters who gathered Sunday outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to pray for the death-row inmate and proclaim his innocence.
Approximately 100 supporters of Jones attended the vigil organized by Minister Keith Jossell, Jones’ spiritual advisor.
Jones, a Black man, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 in the death of Paul Howell, a white businessman, in Edmond in 1999. Jones has maintained that he is innocent and was never even at the crime scene.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set Jones’ execution date for Nov. 18 despite the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommending his sentence be commuted to life in prison.
Washington said that Jones’ supporters should pray, ask God for guidance, and remain grounded.
“We have to continue. It’s Julius now, but it’ll be somebody else later,” Washington said.
Oklahoma Conference of Churches Executive Director Rev. Dr. Shannon Fleck said it shouldn’t take this much to set one man free.
Fleck turned toward the prison and spoke through a megaphone to Jones.
“You are not alone. We stand outside these gates along with you,” Fleck said with a loud cheer coming from the crowd.
Attorney Kelli Masters, who argued for Jones during his commutation hearing in September, spoke about her argument in front of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
“As I shared with at the commutation hearing with the pardon and parole board that day, it is my opinion the original attorneys who represented Julius should have faced discipline,” Masters said. “I shared my thoughts, my words as a believer first of all, as an attorney, and as an Oklahoman who wants to see Oklahoma get this right.”
Masters said when she was first contacted about Jones 18 months ago, she did not know about the case.
“So I asked to learn more, I asked if I could spend time understanding Julius’ story,” Masters said.
Masters said she went through every document in the case file line by line so she could fully understand the case.
“And I came to only one conclusion,” Master said. “Not only was it not a fair trial, not only was there problems after problems in the process that led us to this point, but I had a very strong sense that Julius was in fact innocent.”
Antoinette Jones, Julius Jones’ sister, said that despite the negative comments that are said in the case, she must keep moving forward.
“Because I know the truth,” Antoinette Jones said.
Antoinette Jones called upon Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to correct the mistake the state made against her brother.
Stitt said he would not consider the commutation recommended by the Pardon and Parole Board for Jones and said that a clemency hearing “is the appropriate venue for our state to consider death row cases.”
Jones’ clemency hearing is scheduled for Oct. 26. Attorneys for Jones filed the petition for clemency on Friday.
If the board issues a similar recommendation, Stitt will have until Jones’ execution date to approve or deny that recommendation.
Antoinette Jones said that her brother said that the messages and the mail that he receives gives him several hours “to step away from being where he is located and to go into something positive” and that is helps him get away.
Jossell said in closing that the decisions on Julius Jones’s case are being made now and that they will be revealed on Oct. 26.
“We accomplished our purpose for today, but we have not finished our fight,” Jossell said. “We have much work to do because decisions are being made today and decisions will be revealed on the 26th.”
Contact Derrick James at firstname.lastname@example.org