DNA fails to exclude convicted Oklahoma killer from crime

This Feb. 5, 2018, photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Julius D. Jones. A DNA test funded by attorneys for Jones, an Oklahoma death row inmate who was featured on the ABC-TV documentary series "The Last Defense," found his DNA matches that found on key evidence. Jones was sentenced to die for the July 1999 slaying of Paul Howell. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Testing funded by attorneys for an Oklahoma death row inmate who was featured on the ABC television documentary series “The Last Defense” found his DNA matches that recovered on key evidence in the case.

An attorney for Julius Jones said the test results do not mean his client was rightfully convicted in the 1999 slaying of Paul Howell, 45, and that investigators need to investigate other DNA profiles found on a red bandanna believed to have been worn by the killer.

The bandanna — wrapped around the handgun used to kill the Edmond insurance executive in front of his of his 7- and 9-year-old daughters following a back-to-school shopping trip — was found in the attic of the home of Jones’ parents.

“We have always known that Mr. Jones’ DNA could be on the bandanna because his DNA was present in his parents’ home where the red bandanna was planted,” federal public defender Dale Baich said in a statement.

“However, there are numerous profiles on the bandanna and the experts need to take a close and careful look at these results,” Baich said. “There is much more to do moving forward and we are confident that in the end Mr. Jones will be vindicated.”

The report notes the DNA from the bandanna “is consistent with a mixture of three or more individuals including a major contributor,” which it said excludes co-defendant Christopher Jordan as the major contributor.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater issued a statement saying the results validate the verdict.

“The testing by the murderer’s own DNA lab corroborates the jury’s verdict and exonerates the investigators, prosecutors and jurors who the murderer’s defenders have slandered,” Prater said.

Jones’ defense has alleged a juror referred to Jones, who is black, by a racial epithet, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in September rejected an appeal on that basis.

Howell was white. Jones, 38, has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court based on a study that found from 1990 to 2012, a black male in Oklahoma was nearly three times more likely to be sentenced to death when convicted of killing a white male than if the victim were not white.

After “The Last Defense” featured the case in July, about 100 protesters gathered at the Oklahoma Capitol asking for his release and the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin urging her to “take a close and careful look at his case, and use your authority to correct this wrongful conviction.”

Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt said Wednesday there is nothing the governor can do at this stage.

“In Oklahoma the governor can’t act independently,” McNutt said. “First, the inmate has to make an application to the Pardon and Parole Board, then the Pardon and Parole Board makes a recommendation and the governor can act on that.”

Jones has filed no application with the board.

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