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Unless Oklahoma's governor intervenes, Julius Jones will be executed Thursday


Later today, the state of Oklahoma may execute Julius Jones. Mr. Jones was found guilty of the 1999 murder of a man named Paul Howell. He has consistently denied he did it, and many people believe he was wrongly convicted.

Seth Bodine of member station KOSU is with us from Oklahoma City. Good morning, Seth.

SETH BODINE, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: Can you tell us about the crime?

BODINE: Paul Howell was shot and killed in July 1999. He was pulling into his parents' driveway when he was shot in front of his sister and two daughters. Julius Jones was convicted of killing Howell and stealing his car. Jones is Black, and Howell was white. Jones' supporters believe he is one more innocent man wrongly convicted, but Howell's family believes they have the right person behind bars.

KING: Why do Julius Jones' supporters believe he was wrongly convicted? What evidence or non-evidence are they working with?

BODINE: Well, there's an alibi. Jones and his family maintained that he was at home the night of Howell's murder, playing games with his sibling and eating dinner. The jury was never presented this information during trial. There's also reports of a racist in the jury. Jones' attorneys say there was evidence that wasn't presented during the trial. And, you know, eyewitness descriptions during trial don't match. His attorneys say this was a better description of Jones' co-defendant, who testified against Jones, Christopher Jordan. And Jones has long said that Jordan framed him. There's also some reports that he had been framed.

KING: OK. So there is a lot going on there, which makes me wonder what Jones' supporters are doing in the days and now hours before his execution. Are they trying to fight this still?

BODINE: Yes, they are. High schools are protesting. There's protests at the Legislature, the Capitol building in Oklahoma City, protests in front of the governor's mansion. Kim Kardashian West has spoken out about Julius Jones, and the Pardon and Parole Board of Oklahoma has recommended clemency for Jones.

KING: It's significant, Seth, that Oklahoma uses lethal injection as the means of capital punishment.

BODINE: Yes, and that's part of the problem here. There's been several botched executions. In 2015, Oklahoma used the wrong drug for lethal injection, and that caused a pause for six years. And now, six years later, Oklahoma is undergoing executions again. And it's still not going well. In the most recent, there was reporting of the inmate convulsing and even vomiting on himself before dying. So there's some serious questions about the drugs the state of Oklahoma uses for executions.

KING: Given those questions and all of the others surrounding this case, do you think it is likely that this execution will happen today?

BODINE: It's really unknown what will happen. The Pardon and Parole Board has made the suggestion twice to commute Jones' sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole. And that's based on doubts of evidence that Jones is guilty. Now, that decision lies in the hands of Governor Kevin Stitt. There's a few things he could do. He could take the recommendation and give Jones clemency. He could delay the execution to take more time to make a decision. Or he could let the execution go.

KING: Seth Bodine with member station KOSU. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Seth Bodine joined KOSU in June 2020, focusing on agriculture and rural issues.