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EXECUTION STOPPED: Julius Jones death sentence commuted, will serve life in prison

Police presence at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester
People setting up canopies at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester
Posted at 9:25 AM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 21:24:06-05

12:13 p.m.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt granted clemency to death row inmate Julius Jones about four hours ahead of his scheduled execution.

Jones will serve a life sentence without the possibility for parole.

Cheers erupted in the Oklahoma capitol as the news spread.

Julius Jones death sentence commuted

MORE >>> Gov. Stitt stops execution of Julius Jones amid unrest in OKC

Supporters in McAlester, where the execution was scheduled to take place, had emotional reactions.

Live from McAlester on reactions to Julius Jones' commutation with Brady Halbleib

Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor released a statement following Stitt's announcement expressing disappointment in the sparing of Jones' life.

“The Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General respects the statutory authority of the Governor to make this decision. I know Governor Stitt is making what he believes is the right decision.  I appreciate the Governor’s condition that Mr. Jones never be released from prison.  However, we are greatly disappointed that after 22 years, four appeals, including the review of 13 appellate Judges, the work of the investigators, prosecutors, jurors, and the trial Judge have been set aside.  A thorough review of the evidence confirms Julius Jones’ guilt in this case and that the death penalty was warranted. Our office will continue to work for justice and for the safety of all Oklahomans, including families like Paul Howell’s. We recognize that the pain of losing a loved one never ends, and our hearts and prayers are with the Howell family.”

10:40 a.m.

Attorneys for Julius Jones and other Oklahoma death row inmates filed an emergency motion Thursday only a few hours ahead of Jones's scheduled execution in McAlester.

The motion filed in federal court seeks an injunction to hold off on the execution citing evidence from the killing of John Grant that cast doubt on the state's lethal injection procedure.

"The Execution Protocol and the use of midazolam, as well as the cursory consciousness checks done under the Protocol, pose a serious and substantial risk of severe suffering and pain to prisoners," the attorneys say in the motion.

They also noted that their motion only had to be filed so close to the execution time because Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had not yet granted clemency to Jones.

Despite the motion, preparations were already underway for the execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

6:00 a.m.

McAlester police set up areas with caution tape and people started showing up hours before the execution is set to take place.

Following the pursuit of commutation

Stitt has not made a decision on whether to follow a recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for clemency. On Nov. 1, the Board voted three to one to recommend commuting Jones's sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

READ MORE: Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommends clemency for Julius Jones

If there is no word or if Stitt does not accept the recommendation, officials will follow through with the procedure of lethal injection. Jones had his final meal and spoke with his family potentially for the last time.

This is coming after weeks of discussion and questions after John Marion Grant's execution. 2 News senior reporter Sharon Phillips was there and described the execution as "violent" due to Grant convulsing and vomiting before his death. Grant was the first person to be executed in Oklahoma since 2015.

READ MORE: John Grant convulsed, vomited during Oklahoma's first execution since 2015

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary will close its gates at 3 p.m. and will not open again until after the scheduled execution follows through. Police are expected to stay in the area to heavily monitor activities throughout the day.

As of right now, Jones is expected to be executed at 4 p.m.

Amanda Bass, one of Jones's attorneys, gave this statement:

“With Julius Jones’s scheduled execution just hours away and despite two Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend clemency for Mr. Jones based on evidence of his innocence, Governor Stitt has remained silent. Yesterday, the Board recommended clemency for another death row prisoner based on grave concerns that Oklahoma cannot carry out a safe and constitutional execution.

Thousands of people across Oklahoma, the country, and the world have called on the Governor to prevent Oklahoma from executing an innocent man. Those supporting clemency for Mr. Jones span the political and religious spectrum and include dozens of prominent conservatives and Evangelical faith leaders. High school students in Oklahoma City walked out of their classrooms yesterday to express their horror that the state is poised to commit an irrevocable injustice. The Governor promised he would carefully consider everything presented to him and would issue a decision after meeting with Mr. Jones’s lawyers and the victim’s family.

Our hope is that the Governor will ensure that this execution does not go forward given the many concerns about the execution process and Mr. Jones’s case.”

This is a developing story. We'll continue to update as we learn more.

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