Gov. Kevin Stitt is now the final arbiter in Julius Jones’ execution after the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted Nov. 1 to recommend clemency.
Stitt remained silent about Jones’ impending execution on Wednesday even as the Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for another death row prisoner over concerns about how Oklahoma conducts executions.
On Wednesday, the board heard the clemency case for Bigler Jobe Stouffer II, a 79-year-old man serving a death sentence for the 1985 shooting of his girlfriend’s estranged husband, Doug Ivens, and Ivens’ girlfriend, Linda Reaves, a teacher.
Like Jones, Stouffer claims to be innocent. On Wednesday, the five-member Pardon and Parole board agreed Stouffer was guilty of the killing, but voted 3-2 to recommend clemency for Stouffer, despite their belief in his guilt. Four of the board’s members said they voted for clemency because of concerns about the state’s ability to carry out humane executions.
Board members Larry Morris, who was appointed by the presiding judge of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle, both Stitt appointees, voted in favor of clemency. Richard Smothermon, a former district attorney, and Scott Williams, another Stitt appointee, voted against clemency.
Williams, Morris, Doyle and Luck all expressed hesitancy over their role in sending someone to the death chamber. Morris said he questioned being asked to “participate in a process” that he said was “obviously flawed.”
“We’ve had people on a table suffering for 30 minutes,” Morris said, referencing the botched 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett. “I don’t think any humane society ought to be executing people that way until we figure out how to do it right.”
Morris also said he was troubled by John Marion Grant’s execution in October. Grant went into “full body convulsions” after being administered midazolam, a non-painkilling sedative, during his execution last month and vomited on himself twice, according to media witnesses.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor disagreed with the board’s vote, saying it “was improperly based on whether an inmate will suffer pain during an execution.”
“This concern is not a concern for the Pardon and Parole Board,” O’Connor said in a statement. “Instead, it is a concern of the courts. The courts, in declining to grant a stay of execution for other death row inmates, have spoken.”
Stitt has yet to speak publicly this week about Jones’ scheduled Thursday execution, even as Jones’ supporters have camped outside the governor’s office in hopes of a meeting.
Donelle Harder, Stitt’s former communications director who now serves as his campaign chairwoman, told KOCO on Wednesday that Stitt is “fully focused on this very important decision.”
In Oklahoma City, barriers surrounded the Governor’s Mansion on Wednesday, where people have camped outside in recent days to urge Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence. The state Department of Public Safety announced that security would be tighter at the State Capitol on Thursday, and members of the state’s House of Representatives received an email Wednesday afternoon informing them House offices would close Thursday at noon.
Jones’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, spoke to supporters at the Oklahoma Capitol on Wednesday, urging the crowd to continue speaking out on behalf of her son as his execution nears.
“My strength comes from you all, from the people of Oklahoma,” she told the crowd. “Thank y’all for listening to me and letting me vent. I love y’all.”
Jones’ sister, Antoinette Jones, told the crowd she had just spoken on the phone with her brother.
“He said he thanks y’all for letting God move you. He said he loves each and every one of you,” she said. “He said God has spoken, it is time. It’s time to correct this injustice.”
The family of Paul Howell, whom Jones was convicted of murdering during a carjacking in Edmond in 1999, told KFOR they would not be making any statements, and would instead use “time this to be with family.”
On Monday, supporters and members of Jones’ family took a letter to Stitt and tried to speak with the governor at the capitol. They were instead met by Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema, who told the family the governor had “received the letter,” but would not meet with them.
“There’s a process,” Hannema said, before turning and walking away, leaving Jones’ family standing behind a desk. Jones’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, asked a staffer from Stitt’s office if she could at least take a souvenir writing pen with her.
On Tuesday, a reporter with The Black Times Oklahoma tweeted a video of Oklahoma City Pastor Derrick Scobey saying he had met with Stitt’s general counsel and was “very encouraged” by the discussion.
“I know I felt better when I was getting ready to come down these steps than I felt coming up these steps,” Scobey said. “We are believing God, we are truly believing God, that our governor will grant clemency for Julius Jones.”
Stitt met with attorneys for Jones last week, and has met with the Howell family, and Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor previously. O’Connor’s office has defended Jones’ death sentence.
Bass told The Frontier she was able to meet with Stitt last week, and said she was thankful that she had the opportunity to address his questions about the case.
“I will say we did have a robust, substantive conversation about the case,” Bass said. “We’re grateful he’s looking at everything.”
Jones has maintained for two decades that he had nothing to do with Howell’s murder. Police arrested both Jones and Christopher Jordan, a friend of Jones, for the killing. Jordan told police that Jones was the gunman and Jones was eventually convicted and sentenced to death. Jordan, who was also convicted of first-degree murder, received a 30-year prison sentence and was released after 15 years.
Howell’s family believes Jones was the murderer and appeared earlier this month at his clemency hearing, urging the state’s Pardon and Parole Board to not recommend clemency. The board ultimately voted 3-1, with one member recusing himself, to recommend that Stitt grant clemency.