The story of Oklahoma death row-inmate Julius Jones is the perfect study of the greatest contributors to wrongful convictions. It features prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, informant testimony (the leading cause of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases), and a racially charged prosecution that included the use of racial epithets by law enforcement and at least one juror. That is precisely why we chose his case to be featured in ABC’s The Last Defense. I am deeply humbled and overjoyed that the Oklahoma Parole Board recommended commutation and that Governor Stitt spared Jones’s life today (within three hours of his scheduled execution). Still, the experience of waiting was pure torture. His mother said goodbye to him yesterday through plexiglass and wasn’t permitted to hug him. Jones’s pastor remarked that Jones could not wipe the tears off his face because his hands were chained to his legs. God bless all the residents of Oklahoma that maintained their relentless faith, supported the Jones family, and demanded their voices be heard. Thank God for lawyers like Amanda Bass and Dale Baich. The fight isn’t over—Jones’s exoneration and release from prison remains the goal. But today, we rest and celebrate life.
-Aida Leisenring, Partner at Barket Epstein, LLP and Executive Producer of The Last Defense.