Dak joins movement to save man on death row

NFL

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has joined a movement in petitioning the governor of Oklahoma to overturn the conviction and release Julius Jones, a Black man on death row for murder.

In a letter sent Thursday to the office of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state’s parole board, a copy of which was obtained by Time magazine, Prescott advocates on Jones’ behalf, writing that this is an opportunity to correct a “miscarriage of justice.”

“Current events are shining a much-needed light on deep-seated prejudices and systemic mistreatment of black people, and it is my sincere hope that the cultural movements of today will lead to significant social changes that will create a better tomorrow,” Prescott wrote. “To that end, you all are in the unique position of being able to make a direct impact by addressing a specific miscarriage of justice.”

Prescott has joined Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and the NBA’s Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Trae Young and Buddy Hield in urging the governor to spare Jones’ life. In his letter, Prescott addressed his experience with racial injustice.

“As a black man in this country right now, I experience injustices firsthand day in and day out, even as an athlete with ‘celebrity status,'” Prescott wrote.

In 2002, Jones was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of Paul Howell. The 45-year-old businessman was shot in the head on July 28, 1999, while sitting in a vehicle in his parents’ driveway in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Jones has maintained his innocence, with he and his family saying he was at home at the time of the crime. Advocates have pointed to issues such as racial bias, a flawed investigation and an ill-equipped defense in explaining why they believe Jones’ conviction should be overturned. Oklahoma City’s Black Lives Matter chapter has included a commutation for Jones in a list of demands that was presented to Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt on June 1.

“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,” Prescott wrote. “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.”

Last month, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter released a summary of trial transcripts in the case that he says refute what he described as “misinformation” being provided to the public about Jones’ conviction.

“The fact is, Julius Jones murdered Paul Howell in cold blood in front of his sister and daughters,” Hunter said. “No celebrity imploration or profusion of misinformation will change that.”

An execution date for Jones has not been set, but he has exhausted all of his appeals. Hunter announced earlier this year that the state is prepared to resume lethal injections.

“The treatment of Julius Jones is the kind of miscarriage of justice African American men like myself live in fear of, and that is why I feel compelled to use the influence that God has blessed me with to speak up for what I believe is right and to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves,” Prescott wrote. “Julius Jones’ case is a clear example of what can happen to a person who cannot afford legal representation, and what can happen to a black person at any time in this country — which is exactly why so many are protesting for the changes we so desperately need.”

In June, Prescott pledged $1 million “to improve police training and address systematic racism through education and advocacy in our country.” His pledge was made following the May death of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Information from ESPN’s Royce Young and Todd Archer and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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