Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott wrote a letter to Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board asking for the release of Black death row inmate Julius Jones, according to Time.
In the letter, Prescott, 27, says he believes “the wrong person is being punished for this terrible crime.”
After reviewing the facts of the Julius Jones case, I firmly believe the wrong person is being punished for this terrible crime; furthermore, an evaluation of the process that led to Mr. Jones’ conviction raises serious legal and ethical concerns. I implore you to right this wrong. Please don’t let another innocent black man die from the systemic mistreatment that has plagued our nation for far too long.
Jones was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell — a white businessman — during a carjacking.
Dak Prescott points out issues with Julius Jones case
Jones’ case has received attention in a number of places, including a 2018 docu-series titled “The Last Defense,” which was produced by Viola Davis. The reason Jones’ case has received so much attention is due to issues and inconsistencies with how his case was handled.
Prescott lays out some of those issues in his letter:
It is my firm belief that Julius Jones’ conviction and death sentence is an egregious injustice. Mr. Jones has been on death row for 20 years, despite written affidavits from his trial lawyers describing the ways they failed him in court. Mr. Jones’ attorneys never presented the photo taken 9 days prior to the crime that could have provided clarity about the shooter’s description. They were appointed without having any experience in death penalty cases, and did not even present Mr. Jones’ alibi at trial. In addition, a member of the jury (comprised of 11 white members out of 12) has confirmed that the jury acted with racial animus – admitting that inappropriate and biased statements were made by other jurors during the trial, including the use of racial slurs.
Jones’ family insists Jones was at home on the night of the murder, playing games with his family. They were not called by Jones’ attorney to provide Jones’ alibi. Jones’ original trial lawyer admitted he was inexperienced and overwhelmed by the case.
The photo Prescott references in the letter is a picture of Jones just a few days prior to the shooting. An eye witness testified the shooter had an inch of hair sticking out under their stocking cap. The picture — which was not presented at Jones’ trial — reportedly shows Jones with close cropped hair just days before the crime.
Prescott also mentions racial animus on the jury. In a sworn affidavit, one juror on Jones’ trail claims she heard another juror refer to Jones as a racial slur. The juror who allegedly used the slur was allowed to remain on the jury.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter released a document in July which addresses those arguments, including the question of an alibi.
“Jones claims his lawyers failed to present his family as alibi witnesses,” Hunter argues. “However, this alibi was thoroughly investigated, and discredited.”
A number of athletes have asked for Julius Jones to be freed
Prescott is far from the first professional athlete to write for Jones’ freedom. Blake Griffin, Buddy Hield, Baker Mayfield, Russell Westbrook and Trae Young have all written letters on Jones’ behalf. On top of that, a Change.org petition asking for Jones to be freed has received over 6 million signatures.
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