Among the crowd is Jones’ mother, Madeline Davis-Jones; his sister, Antoinette Jones; and his lifelong best friend, Jimmy Lawson.
“Unfortunately today the governor’s office rejected our request to meet with the governor, so now we have to sit on pins and needles," Lawson told VICE News on Monday, adding they plan to stay there “as long as it takes.”
It might not be very long. Jones, 41, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Earlier this month, the state’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended for a second time by a 3-1 majority that Jones’ execution be halted, and asked Gov. Stitt to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. The governor has yet to make a decision.
Stitt has met with all the involved parties except the Jones’ family, a move that led to Jones’ supporters demanding an audience with him on Monday, to no avail.
Jones’ supporters have held several vigils, protests, and rallies in the days and weeks leading up to this moment. In an eleventh-hour plea, Davis-Jones (known as Mama Jones) recorded a video for the governor since he would not meet with her in person.
“Please send my baby boy home,” she said. “He is innocent, and please send him home in Jesus’ name. I ask you. Thank you.”
Jones, a Black man, has spent nearly two decades on death row in Oklahoma for the 1999 murder of businessman Paul Howell in Edmond. He has always maintained his innocence, claiming he was framed by his co-suspect, who received a plea bargain in return for testimony that placed Jones as the perpetrator.
Jones testified that he was at home that night with his family and did not even witness the crime he was convicted of committing.
“Our family knows that Julius did not commit this murder, because Julius was at home with us at the time of the murder,” his mother said in the news release in 2020. “We were at home playing board games and eating spaghetti. The judge and jury that convicted and sentenced my son to die never heard that we were having a family game night.”
When Jones was charged with murder, he faced a 12-person jury with only one Black member. One juror used a racial slur and threatening language in the jury room. Jones’ arresting officer also allegedly used a racial slur when confronting him.
On top of the racial bias, Jones’ own state-appointed defense attorney says his legal team failed to defend him adequately. Advocates also say the evidence never stacked up; the case against Jones was largely based on informant testimony, but he didn’t match the description of the killer.
Two cellmates of Jones’ co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, have come forward claiming Jordan had admitted committing the crime to them. In one letter sent to Jones’ legal team, one cellmate of Jordan wrote that he said, “My co-defendant is on death row behind a murder I committed.”
In 2004, another former cellmate of Jordan stated in an affidavit: “He had wrapped the gun used to commit the murder in his case in a bandanna and hidden it in Julius Jones’ house[.] . . . Regarding the murder case, Jordan stated to me, ‘Julius didn’t do it,’ and ‘Julius wasn’t there.’”
Jones’ execution is set to go ahead despite the state’s October execution of John Marion Grant, which many considered to be botched. Grant convulsed about two-dozen times and vomited following the injection of midazolam before passing away 12 minutes later. His execution was the first carried out by Oklahoma after a six-year moratorium on capital punishment due to a series of flawed executions.
The state insists Grant’s execution was carried out correctly.
Several lawmakers from Oklahoma have joined calls for Jones to be granted clemency.
“The last thing the state should be doing is taking the life of someone who may be innocent,” said Oklahoma State Rep. Garry Mize, a Republican, in a press release sent to VICE News. “There is too much doubt here, especially given that Julius Jones’ co defendant has confessed to being the real murderer.”
Fellow Republican Rep. John Talley also spoke out against executing Jones.
“If we believe, as conservatives, in law and order and the criminal justice system, then we have to make sure the system is getting it right,” Talley said. “The Pardon and Parole Board spent several hours looking at the case, during two separate hearings, and determined that it may not have. We should not execute a man in that context.”