SCOTUS will review Julius Jones petition this month


Julius Jones was arrested in 1999 and sent to Oklahoma’s death row three years later for a carjacking murder it’s likely he didn’t commit. Now, for the first time in 19 years, there is reason to hope that justice will finally be done in his case.

The U.S. Supreme Court said last week that it will review a petition filed last November by Jones’ lawyers. The petition is asking the Court to order a hearing on Jones’ case based on issues raised by the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, which released an exhaustive report in April 2017 that detailed numerous flaws in the state’s death penalty scheme, including racial disparity in sentencing. The high Court will review the petition on September 24th.

In addition, the City Sentinel reports that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals will consider questions raised by Jones’ lawyers that at least one juror that sentenced Jones to death was a racist.

According to the City Sentinel, court filings indicate that a juror reported that another juror said “They should just take that [n-word] out and shoot him behind the jail.” The juror reportedly informed the judge of the comment, but the judge did not take any action.

And, in another development, a district judge last week ruled that any communication with the lab that is testing for DNA on a red bandana that an eyewitness testified the shooter was wearing during the carjacking must involve the defense as well as the state. The state had argued for unilateral communication, but the judge ruled both parties should be involved in any discussions.

Julius Jones was 19 years old, and a student at the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship in 1999 when he and Christopher Jordan, a suspected gang member, were arrested for the carjacking murder of 45-year-old Paul Howell. Howell was shot in the head, his sister and two children who were with him weren’t injured.

After their arrest, Jordan pointed to Jones as the shooter. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and released after serving 15. Jones was sentenced to death.

But the evidence against Jones was problematic. The victim’s sister, the only eyewitness, testified that the shooter had on a ski cap, with about half an inch of hair sticking out the sides. Jones had extremely short hair, Jordan’s was long.  And the red bandana, which the sister said the shooter was wearing over his face, was among the evidence never tested for DNA at the time of Jones’ arrest. It was not until six months ago that the state agreed to test certain items, including the bandana. 

“What we’re trying to determine is if there is DNA in that bandana that can clear Mr. Jones,” attorney Dale Baich told KFOR-TV. “The state has had the ability to test this for the last 19 years and for whatever reason, they chose not to, so last year we asked to do that testing.”

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