Television star and prison reform advocate Kim Kardashian West traveled to Oklahoma this week to visit death row inmate Julius Jones, stepping up her role in the growing movement to halt his execution for a 1999 murder.
On Monday, Kardashian West visited the 40-year-old inmate at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. Afterward, she met with his family at a church in Oklahoma City.
“Julius has been incarcerated for over 21 years for a crime he did not commit,” Kardashian West wrote to her over 192 million followers in an Instagram story on Tuesday. “The affects [sic] that this has had on his family is really unimaginable and I pray the parole board recommends his commutation because this man needs to be able to hug his parents again.”
Jones has been on Oklahoma’s death row for decades after being convicted of killing a prominent businessman in the suburbs of Oklahoma City in 1999. He has always maintained his innocence. Recently, a push led by community activists, celebrities, and NBA stars to re-examine the case has thrust his conviction back into the spotlight.
Now, Jones also has one of the biggest celebrities in the world on his side.
Supporters of Jones, who has already exhausted his appeals, point to what they believe was racial bias, a flawed investigation, and a defense that was severely lacking during his trial.
A star high school athlete and student at the University of Oklahoma, Jones had just turned 19 when he was awakened, dragged out of bed, and arrested in the summer of 1999 for the murder of 45-year-old businessman Paul Howell.
Howell had been shot in the head while sitting in his GMC Suburban outside his parent’s house on July 28, 1999. His sister, Megan Tobey, witnessed the shooting and described her brother’s killer as a young Black man wearing a stocking cap and a red bandana over his face.
Jones' family says that he was at home with them that evening, eating spaghetti.
Jones’ codefendant in the case, Chris Jordan, would later testify against him in exchange for the state dropping the death penalty in his own case.
It’s been over a year since attorneys representing Jones filed a commutation application with the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board; they have yet to hear back, according to the New York Daily News.
Kardashian West, who has worked in recent years on behalf of criminal justice reform, first weighed in on Jones’ case in a May episode of the podcast "Wrongful Convictions with Jason Flom." She urged Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to grant Jones clemency before his execution can be set.
Meanwhile, NBA stars such as Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young and Buddy Hield have all penned letters to Stitt on Jones’ behalf—along with NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield, ESPN reported.
In addition to her legal advocacy, Kardashian West is the host of the Oxygen series "Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project," in which she features inmates she says have paid their debt to society, but are still in prison. In 2018, she pushed President Donald Trump for clemency for prisoner Alice Johnson, a nonviolent offender who was later released after the TV star’s meeting at the White House. Kardashian West also pushed for the successful release of Cyntoia Brown, a sex trafficking victim who killed a man when she was a teenager.
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