Executioner Julius Jones. (AP Yonhap News)
A death row inmate who has allegedly been framed for murder in the United States has been commuted to life in prison ahead of his execution.
The Associated Press reported on the 18th (local time) that the governor of Oklahoma, U.S. Governor Kevin Statt, commuted the sentence of Julius Jones, 41, who was scheduled to be executed this afternoon, to life in prison.
Jones was previously sentenced to death in 2002 for the abduction and murder of Paul Howell, a white man who served as an insurance company executive in 1999. At the time, Johnson pleaded not guilty, saying, “I was at home with my family at the time,” and pleaded that the fact that he was black influenced his conviction.
In particular, Johnson has consistently claimed that he framed him, pointing out his high school classmate as the killer of Howell.
Johnson’s story began to draw attention after a three-part documentary about his story aired in 2018. Since then, the Oklahoma community and celebrities, including American celebrity Kim Kardashian, have protested the execution, claiming his innocence.
On the 17th, one day before his execution, hundreds of Oklahoma City high school students protested to empty their classrooms to publicize their opposition to his execution.
▲ Supporters cheering after hearing the news of Julius Jones’ commute. (yunhap news)
News of Johnson’s commute came hours before his execution. “After reviewing all relevant documents, we have decided to commute the sentence of Jones’ sentence to life in prison without parole,” Governor Statt said in a statement.
Jones’ mother thanked Governor Statt, saying, “I will not stop fighting to release my son.” Johnson’s supporters gathered in front of the prison also cheered. Kim Kardashian also tweeted on social media: “Thanks to everyone who helped save Johnson’s life and spoke out.”
But not all were cheering. Howell’s bereaved family and investigative authorities could not hide their embarrassment and disappointment. The older sister, who had claimed to have witnessed Howell’s death, expressed bitterness, saying, “I take comfort in the fact that my parole will not be granted.”