Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday commuted the death sentence of Julius Jones to life without the possibility of parole for the 1999 shooting death of businessperson Paul Howell, KOKI-TV reported.
In a statement, Stitt said his decision came “after prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case.” Jones had been scheduled to be executed Thursday afternoon, according to KOKI.
Jones, now 41, was a 19-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma when he was arrested and charged with Howell’s murder, KOKI reported. Howell was shot to death in front of his young children outside a home in Edmond, according to the news station.
Jones has maintained his innocence.
Earlier Thursday, attorneys for Jones filed a last-minute emergency request seeking a temporary stop to his execution, The Associated Press reported. In the request, they said Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedures pose a “serious and substantial risk of severe suffering and pain to prisoners,” citing last month’s execution in which John Marion Grant convulsed and vomited as he was being put to death.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board had recommended clemency for Jones in a 3-1 vote, according to KOKI.
Jones alleges he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant who was a key witness against him. But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and the state’s former attorney general, Mike Hunter, have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming.
Grant’s death in October was the first execution carried out in the state since 2015, according to KOKI.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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