An execution date has been set for a Black man whose has served half his life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to commute Jones' death sentence to life with the possibility of parole. Now, the eyes of the nation are on Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt's desk, who would be the one to grant the commuted sentence to Jones.
"The governor takes his role in this process seriously and will carefully consider the Pardon and Parole Board's recommendation as he does in all cases," Stitt spokesperson Charlie Hannema said, per Tulsa World.com. "We will not have further comment until the governor has made a decision."
Jones is scheduled to be executed November 18 of this year. Six other people on death row have been been scheduled for execution, bringing the state's total to 7 executions to be carried out in the next six months.
According to The Innocence Project, Jones was at home eating dinner with his family at the time of the Howell's murder. Court documents show that Jones did not fit the description the sole eyewitness, who described the murder suspect as having one to two inches of hair. Jones had a shaved head at the time.
The organization also noted the impact of racial bias in the case, from the nearly all-white jury, to the arresting officers allegedly calling Jones the n-word while arresting the then 19-year-old. A juror is also said to have referred to Jones as the n-word and called for him to be brought behind the courthouse and shot.
Media coverage of the murder, the Innocence Project argues, perpetuated racial stereotypes about Black men and criminality.
Additionally, the organization noted that at least 10 people sentenced to death in cases under the local district attorney have had their sentences overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct. Many of the people who have had their sentences vacated are Black.
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