• Clemency sought for Oklahoma death row inmate in man's death

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    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A clemency request by an Oklahoma death row inmate who claims a racist juror influenced the outcome of his trial has received support from faith and criminal justice reform leaders.

    Julius D. Jones, 39, has asked the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to commute the death sentence he received after he was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1999 shooting death of 45-year-old Paul Howell, the Oklahoman reported .

    Howell, who was white, was killed in the driveway of his parents' Edmond home. Jones, who is black, has argued that his case should be reviewed because a juror referred to him by a racial epithet. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case for racial bias and Jones' previous appeals were rejected by state and federal courts .

    "For over 20 years, (Jones) has been on Oklahoma's death row, though his conviction is marred by racial bias, an ineffective public defense and snitch testimony, which we know has led to 85% of wrongful convictions in the United States," Kris Steele and Susan Esco, of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, wrote to the board and Gov. Kevin Stitt, who reviews clemency recommendations by the board.

    "The evidence used to convict Julius was inconsistent and several eyewitnesses provided an alibi for Julius," Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert wrote in a letter to the board. "The jury that sentenced Julius to death only included one black man and at least one juror harbored racial prejudice that influenced his vote to convict and sentence Julius to death."

    In a statement, the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, said the death penalty "only contributes to the continued coarsening of society and to the spiral of violence."

    Kim Kardashian West, who also has been an outspoken criminal justice reform advocate, joined the chorus of voices calling for clemency. Kardashian West "tweeted about the case Wednesday " to her 62 million followers. In June, she took a trip to the White House to help President Donald Trump promote a ride-sharing partnership expected to give former prisoners gift cards to help them get to and from job interviews, work and family events.

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    Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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