Our partner, Aida Leisenring, was an executive producer for the ABC docuseries, The Last Defense, which elevated the case of Julius Jones to the national stage. The show created an avalanche of support for Julius and educated a nation on common but grave failures of the criminal justice system.
Julius Jones is on death row in Oklahoma for a crime we do not believe he committed. His case was a travesty of justice—cooperators were offered deals and the deals were not disclosed to the defense, he did not fit the description of the perpetrator, his alibi was not presented by his attorney, his codefendant admitted to three other inmates during his 13 years in prison that he, not Julius, was the shooter, and at least one juror used racially charged language against Julius Jones before deliberations. He has been on death row for 22 years.
Few had heard of his case until ABC aired his story via The Last Defense docuseries, co-executive produced by Viola Davis & Julius Tennon. After the show aired, big names took note. Momentum grew to over 6 million votes of support for his application for commutation, including those of Kim Kardashian, John Legend, Dak Prescott, Tea Leoni, Common, Blake Griffin, Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Men Walking fame), Bryan Stevenson, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, and the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, ministers, teachers, professors….the list goes on.
It is rare for the parole board to hear cases involving death row inmates in Oklahoma, and here it was rather controversial. The prosecutor tried to remove one parole board member from the case, and the District Attorney’s Association sought to get private emails and texts messages of two board members they suspected were pro-criminal justice reform. Threats were alleged to have been made. The DA still refuses to disclose his case file.
Yesterday, 3 out of 4 board members voted YES to advance Julius's case to Stage 2 for commutation. This means that Julius actually has a shot at commutation and can make his case before the Board.
The war isn’t over, but today paved a path toward possible freedom. We are overjoyed.
To learn more about the case, please click here.