When he was 19 years old, Julius Jones was arrested and convicted for a murder he has always said he didn’t commit. Now, almost 20 years later, he sits on death row in Oklahoma, and could be facing execution as early as this fall if he’s not granted clemency. But, despite the fact that Jones is held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, he is not alone. In addition to Jones’ family, victim advocates — including the large number of people behind a Change.org petition — are fighting for clemency; plus, celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Viola Davis have also spoken out about Jones’ case. And now, there will be a new way for people to understand his plight as Jones fights for his life.
On Wednesday 20th May, the 10th season of the podcast Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom will premiere, and the first episode is all about Jones’ case. Kardashian West will appear on the 20th May episode of Flom’s podcast and Refinery29 has an exclusive clip of her interview.
Jones was a college basketball player who was attending the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship in 1999, when an Edmond, OK insurance executive named Paul Howell was murdered during a carjacking.
From the beginning of the investigation into Howell's murder, racial bias and shoddy investigation played a role in Jones' arrest, as they later would during his trial and conviction. Jones was tried for the crime along with a co-defendant, Chris Jordan, who fit eyewitness descriptions of the shooter. But, Jordan accepted a plea deal and became the state’s key witness against Jones — he also later admitted to being involved in the crime and was heard saying he set Jones up. Jordan is now free after having served 15 years in prison.
But there was more that was suspicious about Jones' conviction than Jordan's testimony: Not only did a police officer use a racial slur during Jones’ arrest, but also the state removed all prospective Black jurors except one, and a juror told the judge that another juror had used the n-word to describe Jones during the sentencing phase of the trial and the judge never removed him. Also, Jones’ lawyer never even mounted a defence: When called upon, he simply said, “the defence rests” and didn’t call any of the witnesses who were in the courtroom that day to testify on Jones’ behalf.
“With Julius’ case, he just didn't get a fair trial, bottom line," Kardashian West told Flom on the podcast, continuing that she thinks there should be a retrial "if there is even a chance that someone is innocent and their life would be taken. We’ve just seen it happen too many times."
Kardashian West has recently made it her mission to advocate for prison reform and to take up cases of people she believes have been wrongfully convicted or are deserving of clemency. She went to the White House in March to meet with women who had had their sentences commuted by President Trump and who she helped free. She is also working towards a law degree.
I have been following the case of Julius Jones for little while now. Julius Jones is on death row in Oklahoma, despite maintaining his innocence and compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted. His case has also been strained with so much racial discrimination.— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 1, 2019
“Kim has been an absolute godsend in terms of her not just her using her platform to bring broad attention to the overall issues plaguing our criminal legal system, but also to focus attention on individual cases as few other people possibly could, as she is this iconic and wildly popular person,” Flom told Refinery29 in a recent interview. “I have found her, from the first time we met, to be hyper-focused, prompt, attentive, and basically she wants to learn everything she can from everyone.”
And Kardashian West has learned a lot over the course of her studies, and it's making a huge impact on her. “It infuriates me to hear when there is ineffective council. It just makes me so mad, especially if it's an appointed attorney,” Kardashian West said on the podcast. “I don’t know if I could live with myself if I was an attorney like that.”
On Flom’s podcast, Kardashian West also came out against the death penalty. “I’m just not for the death penalty no matter what,” she said. “Obviously there are people who have done really horrific things and definitely deserve to be behind bars, but I don't believe in taking a life.”
Flom’s podcast has resulted in tangible victories. Last fall, Flom highlighted the case of Rodney Reed and the episode added to a growing mountain of public outrage about the case (Kardashian West also spoke out about Reed’s case). Just days before Reed was set to be executed, he received a stay. Flom says that’s the hope with Jones’ case: to have him granted a stay of execution so his case can be re-examined.
“When I set out to do this podcast, I wanted it to help shift the popular opinion about things like the death penalty, about mass incarceration, about wrongful convictions in general,” Flom said. “And I wanted to help influence the outcome of future court proceedings by educating the public as to how these things happen and why they happen so frequently so that everyone could be better jurors if they find themselves on a criminal trial. And we have seen real life results that have actually borne that out.”
The 10th season of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom premieres on 20th May. For more information on Julius Jones’ case, visit JusticeForJuliusJones.com, and you can listen to exclusive audio of Kardashian West on the podcast, below.