Tonight’s episode of ABC’s 20/20 will examine the case of Julius Jones, a former high school basketball star and football player who was convicted for the murder of Paul Howell. Jones is currently on death row and claims he is innocent.
The episode of 20/20 will feature reports on celebrities including Kim Kardashian West and NBA players Russell Westbrook, Trae Young and Blake Griffin, who support Jones’ quest for clemency.
The program will also feature an interview with Jones from death row. In the interview, he tells his version of events and says he is innocent. He also discusses his lawyers’ claims that systemic racism influenced his conviction.
Here’s what you should know about the Julius Jones and Paul Howell Case:
1. Julius Jones Was Convicted for the Murder of Paul Howell
Today is National Julius Jones Petition Day. If you haven't heard of Julius Jones, watch @violadavis @JuVeeProds "The Last Defense" at https://t.co/b5ZXl6UpvX and sign the https://t.co/frE6aRFnSo petition. https://t.co/ggIDAXHCEG #justice4julius pic.twitter.com/7yvqSZh3ma
— John Legend (@johnlegend) December 11, 2019
On July 28, 1999, Paul Scott Howell was shot and killed in a carjacking gone wrong. The insurance executive was a well-known member of the community and, according to meaww, his murder came as a shock to the city.
Howell’s sister witnessed the crime and told police that the shooter was an African-American man with a red bandana and half-an-inch of hair sticking out from his hat.
Two days after the murder, Jones’ parents received a phone call telling them that he was the prime suspect in the murder, and they showed up to arrest Jones.
2. The Murder Weapon Was Found at Jones’ Parents Home
A 20/20 special features the former high school basketball state champion and star football player seeking clemency while on death row for murder. | “The Last Defense: Julius Jones – A Special Edition of 20/20” starts tonight at 8/7c on ABC. https://t.co/Y1U8whVo4k pic.twitter.com/6YcxphDkxZ
— 20/20 (@ABC2020) July 14, 2020
According to the Oklahoman, police found the murder weapon wrapped in a red bandanna in the attic above a bedroom at Julius Jones’ parents’ homes.
Jones’ attorneys suggest that it’s possible one of Jones’ acquaintances shot Howell and placed the gun in Jones’ parents’ home, and Jones said on ABC that he knew the gun being there looked bad.
“I understand how it looks that they found this gun in my parents’ house, but I had nothing whatsoever to do with this robbery or this man’s life being taken,” he said.
3. The Red Bandanna Was Tested For DNA and Came Back as a Match for Jones
#JusticeforJulius simply asks @GovStitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to watch tonight's 20/20 Special on Julius Jones's case at 7pm (CST). They hold this man's life in their hands. We pray they watch the documentary to learn ALL of the facts. pic.twitter.com/DStAjEMOa0
— Justice for Julius (@justice4julius) July 14, 2020
Jones’ attorneys decided to have the red bandanna tested for DNA to show that it would not match Jones, but when it came back as a match, the attorney said the testing could not tell when the DNA had been deposited on that bandana.
Jones, however, also said he was with his family at the time of the murder and could not have committed the crime.
As reported by The Oklahoman, however, Jones’ trial attorneys said that he had discussed the alibis more than once and Jones had said he was not home that night multiple times.
4. An Oklahoma Attorney General Says that The Clemency Petition Relies on “Manipulated” Information
— Justice for Julius (@justice4julius) July 7, 2020
Attorney General Mike Hunter said that advocates for the clemency of Jones have manipulated evidence and facts in the case, leading to the public’s desire to get Jones taken off of death row.
He said he was speaking out on behalf of Howell and his family.
“The pain of their loss is revisited with each misguided public appeal on Mr. Jones’ behalf,” he said of the family. “Julius Jones had his day in court, numerous times.”
Evidence against Jones includes video evidence putting Jones at the supermarket where Howell’s car was recovered, the bandanna and murder weapon being found in his parents’ home, a shirt matching the description of that worn by the killer as described by eyewitnesses, and witnesses placing Jones with the car after the crime.
5. Over 5 Million People Have Signed a Petition for Julius Jones
Today AG Hunter reiterated the state’s flimsy case against Julius, which includes misleading conclusions about DNA analysis and a notable omission of key facts. Watch what Madeline Davis-Jones, Julius’ mom, had to say in response. #JusticeforJulius pic.twitter.com/S8k0GfxRhC
— Justice for Julius (@justice4julius) July 7, 2020
At the time of writing, nearly 6 million people have signed the change.org petition to get Julius Jones off death row where he has lived for almost 20 years.
According to the petition, Jones is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and is allowed only one hour of sunlight per day and three showers a week.
The petition argues that Jones’ lawyers did not adequately defend him and that racial bias played a significant role in the process, as Bob Macy, the Oklahoma County District Attorney, was later forced into retirement after investigators found prosecutorial misconduct in one-third of his death penalty cases.
Macy was forced to retire in 2001 in after a forensic scientist was accused of falsifying evidence for one of his cases.