OKLAHOMA CITY — Less than four hours before his scheduled execution, Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday commuted the death sentence of condemned inmate Julius Jones to life without the possibility of parole. 

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said in a statement. 

He also ordered that Jones never be eligible to apply for or be considered for a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life. 

Stitt did not say what led him to commute Jones’ sentence or whether he believed the claims among Jones’ supporters that he was innocent in the murder of 45-year-old insurance executive Paul Howell. 

Jones had been scheduled to die at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary for the 1999 death of Howell, who was shot in the head during a carjacking in the driveway of his parents’ home in Edmond.

Cheers filled the halls of the Capitol as news spread among Jones supporters who had gathered for a fourth day outside the Governor’s Office, urging Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence.  On Thursday morning, nearly 100 supporters had gathered outside the Governor’s Office at state Capitol, urging Stitt to grant clemency. Supporters also had been gathering at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

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