Oklahoma high court to hear prosecutor’s death row request

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear a prosecutor’s request that two members of the state’s Pardon and Parole Board be prevented from voting on a high-profile death row inmate’s commutation hearing.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater wants the high court to prevent board members Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle from deciding the fate of death row inmate Julius Jones. Prater alleges Luck and Doyle, both appointees of Gov. Kevin Stitt, have a conflict of interest because of their work with released inmates.

”Allowing either Adam Luck or Kelly Doyle to participate in or take any action in matters related to Julius Jones is a violation of the essential meaning of avoiding an appearance of impropriety, or conflict of interest, or actual or implied bias on the part of the decision maker,” Prater wrote in a motion filed this week.

A telephone message left with Luck and Doyle seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The five-member Pardon and Parole Board is scheduled to meet Monday to consider whether to recommend commuting Jones’ death sentence to life or life without parole. If the board recommends commutation, the final decision would be made by Stitt.

The murder conviction of Jones, 41, for the 1999 shooting death of Edmond businessman Paul Howell was profiled in ”The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary on ABC in 2018. Since then, it has drawn the attention of reality television star Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, who have urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life.

Jones has maintained his innocence and alleges he was framed by the actual killer. Jones’ attorney, Dale Baich, declined to comment on Prater’s efforts to remove the two board members.

In a statement, Prater said the Howell family deserves a fair and impartial hearing before the board.

”It is patently unfair to the Howell family and the citizens of Oklahoma to allow Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle to serve on this very important board,” Prater said. ”They clearly are not, and can not be objective in their evaluation of matters coming before them for consideration.”

A hearing before a Supreme Court referee on Prater’s motion is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

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