Convicted Oklahoma murderer Julius Jones, one of four condemned killers being slated for lethal injection this month, was granted clemency Friday by Governor Mary Fallin.
Jones was sentenced to death for the May 1997 murder of William Bean, his wife Margaret and their 11-year-old son Demario near Jones’ home in Oklahoma City. Bean also died in the attack, which took place while Jones was trying to kidnap his girlfriend, who is Jones’ wife, according to the governor’s office.
Jones was never taken into custody and claims that he did not commit the crime, citing that Bean was involved in a love triangle. Bean’s family, however, maintains that Jones is guilty.
Fallin’s decision came on the heels of increased public scrutiny into the death penalty in Oklahoma and across the nation. Beane’s family went on a month-long hunger strike last fall in support of Jones, hoping that his execution would not go forward.
“We thank Governor Fallin for her clemency, which means Mr. Jones can now be released from prison and resume the life that he has been denied for 22 years,” the family said in a statement.
Fallin’s decision comes a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a death penalty opponent, called for the use of the death penalty to be suspended for child rape and sexual abuse cases and for inmates with intellectual disabilities, according to The New York Times.
Death penalty opponents have long accused Oklahoma of executing inmates with mental disabilities that go undetected by the state.
“I have reviewed all available testimony and received extensive summaries of expert opinions, and I have concluded that while the state’s process has shortcomings, it cannot be said that Oklahoma’s death penalty system routinely results in the wrong person being executed,” Fallin said.
Fallin also compared the Jones case to other recent cases where innocent men have been exonerated, including that of Frederick Williams, who was exonerated by DNA evidence in December.
“When the people of a state decide that the death penalty is appropriate, we have an obligation to follow through and respect their decision, even when we may disagree,” Fallin said.
In Arkansas, condemned murderer Jack Greene also received clemency from the governor this week. Greene had been set to be executed next week.
“I believe that the death penalty is a scar on our state’s soul,” Fallin said in a statement. “The reality is that it is ineffective, costly, prone to error, and morally wrong. At a time when the death penalty is more divisive and more politically charged than ever, we should send a strong message that we are a place where people of good conscience can peacefully and civilly disagree about the ultimate punishment. I have decided to make that difference.”
Paula Starling is a writer for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter: @StarlingFox