Facing execution, Julius Jones seeks clemency — with help from an unlikely ally

For 22 years, Connie Ellison has sought answers to the questions that sprang from the night her boyfriend was murdered in the driveway of his parents’ home. Her questions lingered even after a man was convicted and sentenced to death row for the crime. They have led her to an unexpected place: advocating for the man, Julius Jones, as his case reaches an urgent new phase.

Last week, Oklahoma’s attorney general requested an Oct. 28 execution date for Jones, who was 19 at the time he was arrested for the murder of Paul Howell, Ellison’s boyfriend. Jones, now 41, has spent half his life in prison and maintained his innocence.

After a nearly two-year wait to plead to Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board for a commutation, Jones has arrived at his last real chance to walk free. The board meets Sept. 13 to determine whether it will recommend that Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) grant his commutation. A favorable outcome would commute his death sentence to life and spare him from another execution date; his team hopes he will not only be freed from death row but released on time served.

In vastly different ways, both Ellison’s and Jones’s lives were altered the night of July 28, 1999, when Howell, a 45-year-old father of two and beloved community figure, was shot in front of his parents’ Edmond, Okla., home in a carjacking gone wrong.

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