OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency for Julius Jones in a hearing on Monday.
They also recommended Jones’s sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole. This will now go to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt for his decision.
“Governor Stitt is aware of the Pardon and Parole Board’s vote today," Stitt's office said in a statement to 2 News Oklahoma on Monday.
"Our office will not offer further comment until the Governor has made a final decision.”
Jones spoke out during the hearing, his first time doing so since his conviction. He maintained his innocence.
“I am not the person responsible for taking Mr. Howell’s life," Jones said. "I was not involved in the planning of this robbery. I was not present during this robbery. And I did not know anyone had been killed until the day after Mr. Howell was murdered.”
Howell's family also spoke out during the hearing. They said they want Jones held responsible for Howell's death.
“Julius Jones is still a physical threat to society," one Howell family member said. "Julius Jones has shown absolutely no remorse for his involvement and actions in Paul’s murder despite overwhelming evidence.”
Jones is currently serving time and has been sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of Edmond man Paul Howell. Over the two decades since his sentencing, Jones and his supporters have long advocated that he is innocent.
In September with three out of five votes, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to approve a recommendation to commute the death sentence for Jones. Approval of commutation would downgrade Jones's sentence to life in prison.
However, despite the board's vote, Jones was set an execution date in the month of November. Attorneys for Jones filed objections saying that setting an execution date is "inappropriate" without a decision from the governor.
Stitt has since stated that he won't make a decision on commuting Jones's death sentence until after a clemency hearing is held.
According to the Associated Press, inmates on death row, including Jones, had their execution dates put on hold after a botched lethal injection left an inmate writing in pain on a gurney in 2014 and a mix-up in drugs in 2015.
After a six-year hiatus, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced in October they would continue with executions in the state. But many are questioning the agency's execution process when John Marion Grant "convulsed" and vomited after receiving the first lethal injection drug on Oct. 28.
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