A Tale of Two Cases
The week of November 15, 2021 was a milestone in American criminal justice and another example of how polarized our country is.
In one case, a man approached an unsuspecting victim, shot him in the head in front of his family while stealing his car, then added insult to injury by shooting at the man’s fleeing family and running over the dying man. This perpetrator was sentenced to death, while asserting his innocence and picking up some leftist celebrities as supporters. To them, “Justice for Julius” meant commuting his sentence and releasing him from prison.
In another case, a man went to a city where leftist riots were taking place over a police shooting that turned out to be justified. Intending solely to help, but equipped to defend himself, this man shot two fatally and wounded a third. While it was clearly self-defense and those involved were all white, the Left tried to paint Kyle Rittenhouse as a cold-blooded white supremacist mass shooter and demanded he be incarcerated for the rest of his life.
In America at large and Colorado in particular, crime is escalating and getting worse, and nowhere is this clearer than in those states and localities that have the misfortune to be governed by Democrats.
When it comes to criminals and crime, the “progressive” Democrats are exactly wrong.
On the night of July 28, 1999 Edmond, OK businessman Paul Howell returned home from back-to-school shopping with his two daughters, ages 9 and 7, and his sister Megan in his GMC Suburban. Without any warning, 19-year-old Julius Jones walked up to the car and shot Paul Howell in the head. As his family fled into the house, Jones fired a shot at them, then got in the Suburban and drove it away, running over Howell’s legs in the process.
Three days later, police arrested Jones and an accomplice named Christopher Jordan and charged them with the murder of Howell.
Jones claims that he was innocent, a successful student at the University of Oklahoma and a basketball player. However, court and other legal proceedings show that Jones and Jordan had been engaging in progressively more aggressive criminal activity including armed robbery and other armed car jackings in the weeks leading up to the murder of Howell.
During Jones’ trial, his accomplice and putative friend Jordan testified for the State that Jones pulled the trigger. Some news reports state that there was a plea deal with the State, but Howell’s family states that there was no secret plea deal. Jordan was subsequently sentenced to life in prison but served only 15 years and has been released.
Jones was sentenced to death in 2002 and incarcerated at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, OK on death row.
As is routine in these cases, Jones’ trial and conviction have been reviewed multiple times by various courts. According to www.justiceforpaulhowell.com, “…a total of 13 appellate judges have reviewed Jones’s conviction and sentence – this includes 9 OCCA [Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals] judges, [U.S.] District Judge Timothy DiGuisti, and 3 Tenth Circuit Judges. The [United States] Supreme Court has turned down 4 opportunities to review Jones’s case.”
Jones has maintained his innocence from the outset, insisting that Jordan was the triggerman, and that he was at home with his family on the night the murder occurred.
Over the years, Jones found himself some celebrity supporters, including Kim Kardashian, who insists that he’s an innocent man. The Innocence Project, an organization that works to “exonerate the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system…” took up the Jones case. Ironically, though the Innocence Project uses DNA testing to obtain exonerations for those legitimately falsely imprisoned, in the Jones case, DNA testing (requested by the defense) of the red bandanna in which the murder weapon was found in Jones’s home revealed DNA consistent with Jones. No DNA related to Jordan was found.
At trial, Jones’s defense did not introduce the “at his parent’s home” alibi because they knew it to be false. Subsequent hearings and investigations by the OCCA found that Jones himself had told others he was not at his parents’ home that evening.
In 2018, actress Viola Davis produced a documentary entitled The Last Defense which told Jones’s side of the story, including placing the blame on Jordan and the false alibi. Almost 7 million people have signed a petition on change.org supporting Jones’s claims of innocence.
A large part of the claim of Jones’s innocence hinges on the fact that he is black and that racism played a part in his supposedly false conviction. His victim, Paul Howell, was white.
In September 2021, against the backdrop of intense celebrity and media pressure, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board held a commutation hearing for Julius Jones. After hours of testimony, the 5-person board voted 3-1 in favor of commuting Jones’ sentence to life in prison with possibility of parole, which given his time already served would have opened the door for him to walk free. (One board member recused himself due to his business ties with a prominent Jones supporter.)
In November 2021 the Oklahoma Parole and Pardon Board held a clemency hearing. I listened to the entire proceeding, wherein Jones’s defenders made his case, the District Attorney and the State made their case, and the family told their stories. After listening to the proceedings and other reading and research I have done, I believe Jones to be guilty as charged.
Again, after hours of testimony the Board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency. Based on the evidence presented, I can only conclude that they cravenly bowed to the intense pressure and did a significant disservice to Paul Howell’s family and the citizens of Oklahoma.
After his final appeals failed, Jones was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on November 18. That morning, a few hours before the execution was to have taken place, Governor Kevin Stitt (R) issued a statement that he had commuted the sentence of Julius Jones to life in prison without the possibility of parole. From what I’ve read, this means there is no chance he will ever leave prison.
I think the Governor made the right decision here. If Jones is innocent (which I do not believe), then he avoided being wrongly put to death. In any event, I think life in prison without parole is a harsher punishment and a more just sentence.
In my view the leftist celebrities and media, in this case, were exactly wrong. There is no way that Julius Jones should have been granted clemency and allowed to walk out of prison.
In the summer of 2020, against the backdrop of racial unrest and violent riots in many American cities, a white police officer shot a black man in Kenosha, WI, severely wounding him. Two nights later the city of Kenosha was engulfed in a second night of civil unrest and rioting. Then 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was in Kenosha to help. He spent the day of August 25 helping to clear graffiti off a school. That evening, Kyle and a friend, armed with rifles, went to help guard a business called Car Source which had sustained over $1 million worth of damage the previous evening.
Around 10:00 pm that evening, police were driving rioters out of Civic Center Park. Kyle was alternating between guarding the Car Source location and walking around looking for people needing medical assistance. At some point, he was confronted with a group of rioters including Joseph Rosenbaum. During this initial engagement, Rosenbaum threatened to kill Kyle. Kyle tried to evade Rosenbaum but was pursued by a group of people.
After Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse, a bystander fired a shot into the air. Rosenbaum then engaged Rittenhouse and tried to take the rifle from him. Rittenhouse fired four shots at Rosenbaum, fatally wounding him. After watching a bystander start first aid, he fled toward the police lines.
However, he was being pursued by a small group of people including a man (identified in the trial as “jump-kick man”) who jump-kicked Kyle. Kyle shot at him but missed. Another pursuer, Anthony Huber, hit Kyle in the shoulder, neck and head with his skateboard. Rittenhouse fired one fatal shot at Huber, hitting him in the chest.
A third man, Gaige Grosskreutz, armed with a pistol, approached Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse fired a shot at this individual, hitting him in the right bicep and ending the threat. Picking himself up off the ground, he continued his approach to the police, who waved him through their lines.
Kyle turned himself in to police in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois after the shooting. He was held in a juvenile facility in Illinois before being extradited to Wisconsin in October. In November 2020 he posted bail and was released until his trial.
Wisconsin prosecutors charged Kyle with several crimes including first-degree intentional homicide, reckless endangerment, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under age 18 (which was dismissed).
Kyle went to trial on November 1, 2021. Rittenhouse used the “affirmative defense” of self-defense, asserting that his actions were taken in defense of his own life, which he felt to be threatened. On November 19, after 4 days of deliberations the jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges.
Public sentiment about the Kyle Rittenhouse case was divided along ideological lines. To the Right, he was a champion of the right to self-defense, which the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects, but does not grant. To the Left, he was a dangerous gun-toting white supremacist. Of course, all involved were white, but that doesn’t matter.
In this case, again, the Left was exactly wrong. An objective look at the facts show that his actions were clearly in defense of his own life. The jury came to the right verdict and justice was served.
Naturally, after the verdict leftists responded with more riots and protests. In Portland, the city that symbolizes the lawlessness of the radical Left, hundreds of rioters gathered in downtown breaking windows and attacking the police.
Wrong on Crime
As the result of electing Democrats in many cities and states (see Unfit to Govern and Still Unfit to Govern) crime, particularly violent crime, is spiraling out of control.
In Colorado, the crime problem is starting to generate headlines. On December 8, the Common Sense Institute published a study authored by former District Attorneys George Brauchler (R), Mitch Morrissey (D) along with CSI’s Chris Brown and Alexa Eastburg. The findings are stunning:
- The total cost of crime in Colorado exceeded $27,000,000,000 in 2020. These costs are borne primarily by victims, and will get worse, as the violent crime rate is “…on pace to be the highest since 1994, a 10% annual increase.”
- The average monthly crime rate in 2021 is 28% higher than it was in 2011, and 15% higher than 2019.
- While the national violent crime rate increased by 3% from 2011 to 2021, in Colorado it grew by 35%.
- Organized retail crime and motor vehicle thefts contribute billions in total costs, and Colorado had the highest motor vehicle theft rate among all 50 states in 2020.
The reasons behind this astronomical increase in crime are largely due to criminal-friendly policies put in place by Colorado’s leaders including the governor, attorney general, legislature, district attorneys in the large cities and others – all Democrats or run by Democrats.
We have clear empirical evidence that being “soft” on crime results in more crime. Excusing bad behavior as “the results of income inequality”, racism, or other excuses just gives cover for individuals to make bad choices. In many cases, structural factors put in place by government policies contribute to incentives for criminal behavior.
And it’s not just in Colorado. The United States as a whole experienced its “largest-ever single year homicide spike in 2020, and crime now polls as one of the top voter concerns”, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. The article goes on: “This has many criminal-justice-reform advocates and their media allies scrambling to convince Americans that things aren’t really so bad…”
Further, “Second, the claim that crime isn’t as bad as it was in the 1990s is no longer true for a long list of American cities, many of which have either surpassed or are currently flirting with that decade’s homicide tallies. Philadelphia just shattered its all-time annual homicide record with a full month remaining in 2021, as have Louisville, Ky.; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; Austin, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; St. Paul, Minn.; Portland, Ore.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Fayetteville, N.C. Other cities, like Cincinnati; Trenton, N.J.; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee; Kansas City, Mo.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Denver; Cleveland; Jackson, Miss.; Wichita, Kan.; Greensboro, N.C.; Lansing, Mich.; and Colorado Springs, Colo., saw their highest homicide tallies since 1990 last year.”
Of note, and consistent with what I’ve discussed elsewhere, most of these cities are governed by Democrats and have been for decades. This is real world, unequivocal evidence that Democrats are simply unfit to govern.
When it comes to crime and criminal justice, there are no easy answers. People must be held accountable for their actions. Governments must enforce just laws that protect life, liberty and property. Society must support those who would do good, rather than glorify those who only wish to harm. Punishing and deterring violent crime should be more important than trying to excuse its perpetrators. Justice must be blind and impartial, making no exceptions for race, economic power, celebrity or any other factor.
There are those who assert that Julius Jones’s conviction was based on race. But when it comes to racial exceptions, he is the one who was granted life. Another Oklahoma death row inmate, Bigler Stouffer, 79, who also maintained his innocence but didn’t have any celebrity support, was put to death by the state without much fanfare just three weeks later on December 9th. He was white.
By Richard D. Turnquist
December 16, 2021
An excellent piece! Thoroughly researched and impartially presented, you highlight the end result, no doubt, of many occult attempts by Soros and company to undermine our society by helping to place liberal DAs wherever possible.
As part of the Gramscian strategy to manipulate the media narrative, liberal celebrities are only too happy to pile on any message contrary to “America is evil incarnate!” when nothing could be farther from the truth.