OKLAHOMA CITY — Supporters of Julius Jones said Tuesday, after meeting with members of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s staff, that they’ve been told the governor is “deep in prayer” about the state’s impending execution of Jones, and whether or not he should commute Jones’ sentence.

Around 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, the Rev. John Reed of Oklahoma City’s Fairview Baptist Church and the Rev. Derrick Scobey of OKC’s Ebenezer Baptist Church said they met with Stitt’s General Counsel Trevor Pemberton and later — around 12:35 p.m. — met with Chief of Communications Charlie Hannema to talk about Jones’ case.

Both Scobey and Reed have been vocal advocates for Jones, urging the governor to accept the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation and commute Jones’ death sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

In 2002, Jones, a former University of Oklahoma engineering freshman, was convicted of the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell and sentenced to death. He has maintained his innocence since his conviction.

Jones’ execution is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Stitt can accept, modify or reject the Pardon and Parole Board’s commutation recommendation.

“We have received a word from our governor that at this particular time, he's not meeting publicly with anyone, but is spending much of his time in prayer and meditation so that he receives spiritual guidance from the Lord our God to make the right decision,” Reed said. “We're going to ask our city, our community, the state, even our nation to spend the next day or so in much prayer that the Lord will lead our governor in the right direction.”

The two pastors said hearing from the governor's office gave them some peace after they learned Stitt declined to meet with Jones’ mother on Monday, and them earlier in the day. Since Nov. 1, Stitt has spent his time meeting with Jones’ attorneys, the prosecution team and the Howell family.

“I can understand that if he needs time alone,” Reed said. “As a believer, I can relate to that, because I've done it so many times as a pastor.”

According to Reed, Hannema told the pastors Stitt is taking the decision seriously and it is not one he wants to make without God’s guidance.

Reached for comment, Hannema said he would not share the details of his conversation with the pastors and wouldn’t confirm that Stitt is “secluded in prayer.”

“ Dr. Reed and Pastor Scobey are my friends,” Hannema said. “...I consider it to be a spontaneous personal conversation between friends, so I'm not going to elaborate on the details.”

Both pastors said senior staffers assured them Stitt has yet to reach a decision regarding Jones.

Scobey said if Stitt is relying on God for guidance, there is no outcome other than commutation, adding: “God knows that Jones deserves clemency."

“I’m asking (Stitt) to make the right decision after all of his praying,” Reed said. “Because you've been praying the Lord might lead you in the right direction, but you still choose the wrong one — it is possible. So, my concern is what he’s going to do after praying.” 

The board first recommended Stitt commute Jones’ sentence to life with the possibility of parole on Sept. 13, but the governor said he wasn’t going to accept that recommendation and would instead wait for Jones’ clemency hearing, which took place Nov. 1.

Members of the board voted 3-1 on Nov. 1 to recommend Stitt grant Jones clemency. After the recommendation, Stitt’s office released a statement saying he will not comment on the matter until a decision is made.

“It's very frustrating in the fact that our Pardon and Parole Board voted twice in Julius’ favor, and they continue to say that there is reasonable doubt within the case and that he should be given life with the possibility of parole,” said Antoinette Jones, Julius’ sister. “When we have a Pardon and Parole Board, and they vote two times (in Jones’ favor), what is the point of having a Pardon and Parole Board if you're not going to adopt the recommendation of the board that you appointed?”

The pastors encouraged the approximately 75 supporters in attendance Tuesday to remain optimistic about the decision Stitt has to make.

Scobey urged everyone to spend the next two days in prayer not just for Jones, but for the governor.

“This is one of probably the most difficult decisions that he will ever make during his tenure as governor,” Scobey said. “So my thing is just for all of us to be in prayer with him and our prayer to the Lord is that the governor will make the right decision. And the right decision, we believe, is to give clemency to Julius Jones.”

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