USA | Biden needs to act on growing anti-death penalty sentiments

The flattening of public discourse — political, social, moral and ethical — into a simplistic left-right binary is a disturbing trend that too few of us push back against. People are encouraged to live in their echo chambers through news outlets tailored to confirm their worldviews and social media feeds custom-designed to reinforce their biases. This polarized discourse has created a false narrative around the death penalty that relies on simplistic and overgeneralized notions of our country’s partisan divide. It is a narrative that, while easy to communicate, ignores the diversity of voices expressing serious concerns about how the death penalty operates in America. For instance, the authors of this op-ed belie that simplicity. One of us is a former Democratic U.S. senator from Wisconsin, a state that has not had the death penalty since 1853, and who has worked tirelessly throughout his public life to end the death penalty. The other is the former Republican-appointed United States a

USA | Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommends commutation of Julius Jones' death sentence

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board voted Monday in favor of recommending Gov. Kevin Stitt commute the death sentence of Julius Jones.

The board, on a vote of 3-1, recommended Jones' death sentence be commuted and changed to life with the possibility of parole. Parole board members Adam Luck, Larry Morris and Kelly Doyle voted in favor of recommending commutation, while Richard Smothermon voted against.

Stitt will have the final say on whether Jones' sentence will be commuted.

"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's office said Monday after the hearing.

"We will not have any further comment until the governor has made a decision."

Jones, 41, is facing execution for the 1999 fatal shooting of an Edmond insurance executive during a carjacking. Jurors chose the death penalty as punishment at a 2002 trial.

He claims he is innocent and was framed by the actual killer.

The victim, Paul Howell, was gunned down in his parents' driveway in Edmond after a back-to-school shopping trip with his daughters. 

Millions signed a petition in Jones' support after ABC in 2018 aired the documentary series, "The Last Defense," about his innocence claim. His supporters include celebrity Kim Kardashian, who visited him last year at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Jones was 19 at the time of his arrest.

"The truth is: I did not kill Mr. Howell," Jones wrote. "I did not participate in any way in his murder; and the first time I saw him was on television when his death was reported."

March and rally in support Julius Jones during the commutation hearing Monday, September 13, 2021.

His innocence claim has attracted support from celebrities and well-known athletes. 

Rachel Howell, one of Paul Howell's daughters, addressed the documentary during Monday's commutation hearing.

"Why does my trauma have to be entertainment for people?" Rachel Howell said. "How can I have love and compassion for Julius Jones?"

Parole board member Scott Williams recuses himself

Monday's proceedings started with one member of the parole board recusing himself from the hearing.

Scott Williams said he recused himself "out of an abundance of caution."

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prated had called for Williams to be disqualified from the vote because of his ties to a key Jones supporter.

Williams is listed online as on the "team" of KMM Sports, a company founded by Kelli Masters, a sports agent, attorney and former twirler at the University of Oklahoma.

Masters was scheduled to speak on behalf of Jones at the hearing. 

Williams, who initially refused to disqualify himself, said he has only an unpaid advisory position and has never discussed the Jones case with Masters.

"I am confident no conflict of interest is in place," Williams said Monday after his recusal.

Source: Oklahoman, Josh Dulaney, September 13, 2021

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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