On Tuesday, July 14, 20/20 is airing a special called The Last Defense: Julius Jones, which details the murder of businessman Paul Howell in Oklahoma City in 1999. Star high school basketball and football player Julius Jones — not to be confused with former NFL running back Julius Jones — was arrested for the crime and sits on death row, vehemently denying that he had any involvement with the murder.
Ahead of the 20/20 special report, here’s what you need to know about the case, Jones’ Change.org petition for clemency, and why Jones says he was set up by a man named Christopher Jordan.
Jones’ Petition Details His Solitary Confinement and Problems With the Case
Jones was found guilty of Paul Howell’s murder in 2002. He has been in prison appealing the conviction ever since. According to his Change.org petition, Jones “has lived on death row for almost 20 years, and is held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. He is allowed one hour of sunlight a day, and three showers a week. Every minute we wait to take action, Julius is suffering. Every second that goes by brings Julius closer to being executed for a crime he didn’t commit.”
The petition goes on to state that in the original trial, eyewitnesses said Jones was at his parents’ home at the time Howell was shot during a carjacking. It further states that Jones’ co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, admitted to being involved in the crime and set Jones up for it by testifying against him.
The petition currently has almost 6 million signatures. But according to a recent New York Times article, it does not appear to have had any effect so far. Jones has exhausted his appeals and Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is prepared to resume lethal injections in the state.
Hunter Also Says Trial Transcripts Confirm Jones’ Guilt
According to the New York Times, AG Hunter released trial transcripts that refute what Jones is claiming about his innocence. The trial transcripts show that witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and that the murder weapon and bandanna with Jones’ DNA were recovered from an attic space above his bedroom.
“[The Howells] are the victims in this case, make no mistake about it,” Hunter said, according to the OU Daily. “And the pain of their loss is revisited with each misguided public appeal on Mr. Jones’ behalf. … Julius Jones murdered Paul Howell in cold blood in front of his sister and daughters. No … profusion of misinformation will change that.”
However, Dale Baich, Jones’ attorney, told OU Daily that “[Howell’s sister] described [the shooter] as a black man wearing a stocking cap and a red bandana across his face, She said that half an inch of hair was hanging out from the stocking cap. Julius, his hair was short. It was almost shaved to his skin … The police, rather than conducting a thorough investigation, let tunnel vision set in and did not follow the facts and evidence. Instead, they focused on Julius.”
What Happened to Jones’ Co-Defendant?
Christopher Jordan was the co-defendant in the case. He was a high school basketball teammate of Jones’. According to Baich, there were two initial suspects in the case — Kermit Lottie, a convicted felon and Oklahoma City Police informant, and Ladell King, a habitual offender facing a minimum of 20 years for check fraud.
Those two suspects led the police to Jordan, who in turn led the police to Jones. Baich said Jordan’s story kept changing, but police only focused on Jones because Jordan told officers where they could find the murder weapon — inside a crawlspace upstairs in the Jones house.
“On Thursday evening, the night before Julius was taken into custody, Chris Jordan spent the night at Julius’ parents’ home,” Baich told OU Daily. “Julius (slept) in the living room on the couch … Chris Jordan went to the upstairs room where the gun was found … He spent the night in that room.”
Jordan was given life in prison with all but 30 years suspended; he ended up only serving 15 years and was released from prison in 2014. Jones is still incarcerated and faces execution.
20/20 normally airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.