Julius Jones is fighting for his life, and he is not alone. Convicted in the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, Jones maintained his innocence from the time he was arrested, during his trial, and for the past 20 years that he has served on death row at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Jones’s case has generated high-profile interest from public figures ranging from Kim Kardashian to Bishop T.D. Jakes to Oklahoma City rapper Jabee, whose three-day, 131-mile walk through sleet and snow to raise awareness about Jones’ case is now captured in the documentary New Year, New Justice.
Music and filmby Brett Fieldcamp
Sponsored by True Sky Credit Union
The film, directed by Jabee’s cousin James Ridley, a.k.a. VideoHero, will screen at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 5, at Tower Theatre, 425 NW 23rd St.
“So whenever we decided to walk to McAllister, a lot of people wanted to walk with us, but we knew we couldn’t just let people walk with us,” said Jabee, citing the miserable weather conditions they faced on the December 31-January 3 walk. “So we were trying to figure out you know what are some ways that we could, you know, be able to share with people, even when they can’t walk.”
Jabee’s initial plan was for the group to chronicle the pilgrimage on their phones, but he said it made more sense to enlist Ridley, whose film Bigger Than Me: My Fight With ALS won Best Documentary at the 2018 Black Film Festival in New Orleans.
Jones is currently seeking clemency from the state as new and possibly exculpatory evidence comes to light. On July 15, 2020, an Arkansas inmate named Roderick Wesley sent a letter to Jones’ attorneys, Rebecca Postyeni and Dale Baich, saying that Jones’ co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, told Wesley a decade ago that he killed Howell and that Jones is innocent.
Despite this recent revelation and Jones’ status as a model prisoner, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has argued against clemency for the inmate.
Jabee said the first day of the walk was the most miserable.
The group left Oklahoma City the morning of New Year’s Eve and quickly got soaked by rain and snow, their hands and feet becoming numb from the cold. But the group had support along the way, especially from Jones.
“Of course, you’ll see the entire journey,” Jabee said. “You’ll get to see some of the stuff that we went through — going to bed late, waking up early — and you’ll see our interaction with Julius the entire time. He called every single day. And there were people who pulled up to help us, check on us, and bring us coffee and stuff like that. It would have been hard to share that just through social media and stuff.”
The difficult journey culminated in a cathartic meeting with Jones at the prison.
“Emotionally, it took a toll on all of us, and I think it took a toll on Julius too,” Jabee said. “Whenever we got to McAllister and they let him speak to the crowd that had gathered, I could tell he was emotional. He spoke in a way I had never heard him speak before,”
Jabee said he spoke with Jones this week.
“I talk to him all the time, at least as much as I can,” he said. “His spirits are high. He feels like we’re in the home stretch.”
Tickets are $10. Visit towertheatreokc.com.
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Last Updated March 4, 2021, 7:41 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor