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On Wednesday, at the end of his weekly press conference with Cleveland media, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield became extremely emotional when asked about the planned execution of Julius Jones. Jones was convicted of first-degree murder in 2002 for the 1999 killing of Paul Howell. Jones has maintained his innocence all along, stating that an acquaintance planted the murder weapon in his home after it happened.
Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 this week to commute Jones’ death sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and that recommendation was given to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has said that only a clemency decision would move him to commute the sentence. Jones is scheduled to be executed on Thursday.
Baker Mayfield teared up talking about Julius Jones, who will be executed in Oklahoma tomorrow on a murder conviction unless Gov. Kevin Stitt steps in to stop it. Baker has been a longtime advocate of Jones’ innocence. “Hopefully God can intervene…” pic.twitter.com/WCWO70hSo1
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 17, 2021
“It’s pretty rough, to be honest with you,” Mayfield said per Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “That’s not something that’s easy to talk about. Been trying to get the facts stated and the truth to be told for a while, but it’s tough to think about. Tried and tried. It’s a shame it’s gotten this far. We’re 24 hours away. It’s tough. You know, hopefully God can intervene and handle it correctly and do the things He needs to do.”
In May, 2020, Mayfield, who went to college at Oklahoma, wrote an open letter asking that Jones’ sentence be reviewed for multiple errors and inconsistencies.
“Oklahoma has been a home to myself, my former teammates and coaches, and a place of incredible support for many years. I care deeply for the people of Oklahoma, and that is why I am eagerly writing in support of Julius Jones, a young man I believe has been wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
“Based on my personal review, the errors and shortcomings in Julius’ trial have been well-documented and are too numerous to be listed in this letter. The inconsistent (and unchallenged) testimony of Julius’ co-defendant, the obviously inexperienced and unmotivated defense team, and the eye-witness description of a shooter that clearly did not match Julius are by themselves enough to cast doubt on his guilt.
“Beyond the obvious shortcomings of the trial, another issue that continues to weigh on me is the obvious racial bias that permeated Julius’ arrest, prosecution, and conviction. Every American is supposed to be guaranteed a fair and impartial trial. But when your arresting officer calls you the “n-word,” when a juror calls you the “n-word” and when all of this unfolds in the context of decades of death penalty convictions slanted against black men, it is impossible to conclude that Julius received fair and impartial treatment.
“The Oklahomans I met are not racist; they are not mean-spirited, and they do not wish to participate in injustice in this day and age. That is why I am confident that when Oklahomans become aware of the facts surrounding Julius Jones and his conviction, they will demand that his sentence be commuted.
“I am honored to use my voice to speak up for Julius Jones. I ask respectfully that you review his commutation application with fairness and compassion.”
NBA players Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young and Buddy Hield have also written letters to Gov. Stitt and the Pardon and Parole Board. Mayfield was also one of more than 1,400 current and former NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball players and coaches who added his name to a June 10, 2020 letter to Congress from the Players Coalition asking for the end of qualified immunity, a defense that law enforcement and other government officials can raise in response to lawsuits seeking monetary damages for alleged civil rights violations.
Mayfield, 35 other Browns players, head coach Kevin Stefanski, general manager Andrew Berry, and several other Browns coaches signed the letter.
Per the Innocence Project, one-third of District Attorney Bob Macy’s death penalty convictions have been overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct. Many of those whose convictions were vacated are Black people. To date, 10 people sentenced to death in murder cases in Oklahoma have been exonerated.