“I got goosebumps right now. I come out of a basketball game, and you’re celebrating a win in the locker room, and then you’re like, what’s it like in his shoes right now.”
Steph Curry on Julius Darius Jones and the conversation they had. pic.twitter.com/mRPwZkezXJ
— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) October 27, 2021
Jones was sentenced to death in Oklahoma in 2002 for the 1999 murder and carjacking of a 45-year-old white man, Paul Howell, who was accosted by two men in his driveway and gunned down. Jones claims he has an alibi for the time of the crime, and he has maintained his innocence for decades.
As per The Innocence Project, Jones says he was at home having dinner with his parents and sister at the time of the murder, an alibi his defense team did not present at his original trial.
Jones’ advocates say his co-defendant fit an eyewitness’s description of the shooter, while Jones did not. His co-defendant, after pleading guilty to the crime and testifying, was released after only 15 years and is now a free man.
On Thursday, Oct. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a lower court’s stay of execution for Jones, and his clemency hearing will be held on Monday, Nov. 1. Jones’ execution is scheduled for Nov. 18.
Today, SCOTUS vacated the stay of executions for John Grant and Julius Jones. Mr. Grant was executed at 4pm CT. Our heart goes out to his family. Julius' November 18th execution date is back on and his clemency hearing will be held on Monday, November 1st at 9AM CT. pic.twitter.com/MitHlsUt9r
— Justice for Julius (@justice4julius) October 28, 2021
Curry and Kerr became aware of Jones’ case through Bay Area pastor Mike McBride, who organized rallies around the scheduled clemency hearing.
Many thanks to @warriors @SteveKerr taking time to meet with Julius’s sister Antoinette + @justice4julius campaign and lend his support to #FreeJuliusJones. Help us call @GovStitt and request he honor the ruling of the parole and pardon board and commute his sentence🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/jLcN4TWp0L
— Michael McBride (@impastormike_) October 26, 2021
McBride and other advocates believe Jones’ alibi and its omission in his initial defense, the fact that Jones does not fit the physical description of the suspect, and strong racial discrimination call the merits of the conviction into question.
Before Tuesday’s game against the Thunder the coach addressed Jones’ case.
“I was able to learn more about the case. … There’s definitely an awareness level of what’s happening. We’re supporting his family. It’s just something we feel strongly about and support.”
Curry wanted to offer support to Jones and his family during what has been a long fight for justice.
We appreciate the support, Steph! pic.twitter.com/J6eZQh6j4z
— Justice for Julius (@justice4julius) October 26, 2021
Jones’ friend Jimmy Lawson has been seeking the condemned man’s release since he was convicted. Lawson met Curry when the Warriors were in Oklahoma City and gave his phone to the Warriors guard. Jones was on the other end of the line.
Jones and Curry discussed his case, the NBA, and the idea that they could meet if the clemency hearing goes in Jones’ favor.
“You can tell how selfless he is in this whole situation,” Curry said. “I love the family, their love not just for Julius and their family member but what this case can potentially mean for reform in the legal system and incarceration system. … It was just the right thing to do. It’s an important opportunity to change somebody’s life that deserves an opportunity to be free.”
Jones’ sister Antoinette Jones said the call with Steph reinvigorated the family.
“Having him know who Julius is and saying that he’s going to stay on board and fight for him, that means so much,” said Antoinette Jones, Julius’ sister. “And then he got the opportunity to say a few words. He said that was crazy, that it was so awesome.”
Curry is a part of a new breed of NBA athlete that uses his power and privilege in service of others. Fans all remember Curry’s refusal to go to the White House to celebrate a Warriors title when Donald Trump was president.
Instead choosing not to engage with a leader who at best is divisive, and at worst is abhorrent.
“We’re envisioning a positive outcome in Julius’ favor. I’m talking 5-0 for the vote. But I’m OK with 4-1,” Antoinette said. “From the family’s perspective, it’s been one hell of a nightmare that we have not woken up from.”