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Oklahoma AG Hunter Says Death Row Inmates Can Apply For Commutation

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Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says the state Pardon and Parole Board has the authority to hold commutation hearings for death row prisoners. The AG made the announcement in response to a question from the Pardon and Parole Board.

The opinion should clear up confusion created after death row prisoner Julius Jones applied to be considered for commutation last year. Jones was convicted of murdering Edmond man Paul Howell in 1999.

Hunter also released a 12-page summary outlining what he says is Jones' "overwhelming" evidence of guilt. Jones' case has attracted the attention of criminal justice advocates and celebrities who want to see him released from death row.

The state Pardon and Parole Board wasn't sure death row prisoners could be recommended for commutation. Hunter says they can and Governor Kevin Stitt has the power to grant a commutation.

The indecision led to conflict inside the Pardon and Parole Board.

Board member Allen McCall accused the board’s director, Steve Bickley, of inappropriately handling the issue because of an aversion to the death penalty. McCall threatened to accuse Bickley of criminal activity if the board didn’t vote to leave Jones’ eligibility for commutation up to the Attorney General’s Office.

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