Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the latest celebrity to lobby on behalf of Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones, who was convicted of murdering insurance executive Paul Scott Howell during a 1999 carjacking gone wrong. TIME reported on Prescott’s call for his release from prison after obtaining a copy of a letter sent by the NFL star to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
“After reviewing the facts of the Julius Jones case, I firmly believe the wrong person is being punished for this terrible crime; furthermore, an evaluation of the process that led to Mr. Jones’ conviction raises serious legal and ethical concerns,” Prescott wrote. “I implore you to right this wrong. Please don’t let another innocent black man die from the systemic mistreatment that has plagued our nation for far too long.”
Jones has been incarcerated and awaiting execution for the better part of two decades following his conviction. However, eyewitnesses placed him at his parents’ home at the time of the murder. Additionally, his co-defendant — Christopher Jordan — admitted to being involved in the killing and was freed in 2014 following a 15-year stint in prison after testifying against Jones. Jordan matched the only eyewitness description of the shooter.
There are also issues of race in play with the case, as Jones was convicted by a nearly all-white jury. He also claimed to be the target of racial slurs and threats by law enforcement officers.
However, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter believes him to be guilty, having opined as much in a statement released last month. Hunter’s statement included a summary of the trial transcript, which he felt shows “the overwhelming evidence of guilt.”
For his part, the 27-year-old Prescott became involved in the movement to see Jones freed thanks to Hollywood producer Scott Budnick — who executive produced 2019’s Just Mercy, which chronicled Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson’s efforts to free Black pulpwood worker Walter McMillian after he was wrongly convicted of the 1986 murder of Ronda Morrison in Alabama.
Budnick was made aware of the case by Kim Kardashian West and later brought it to the attention of Prescott, who had impressed him with his philanthropic work away from the football field, according to TIME.
Prescott is just the latest in a long line of athletes to write on behalf of Jones. Many well-known athletes with Oklahoma ties — including NBA stars Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Buddy Hield and Trae Young — as well as Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield have also written to the governor to lobby for Jones’ release. Meanwhile, a Change.org petition calling for an end to Jones’ stay on death row has received more than 6 million virtual signatures.
As shared previously by The Inquisitr, Prescott nearly signed a lucrative, long-term extension with the Cowboys earlier this year.