Death Row Exonerees to Hold Capitol Press Conference, Faith Event, in Support of Julius Jones
Published: September 1st, 2021
Special to CapitolBeatOK.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – Several people who have been exonerated and released from death row, now represented by Witness to Innocence, will speak at a press conference on Wednesday, September 1, to advocate on behalf of Julius Jones’ commutation application as well as his release from prison.
Jones is on death row in Oklahoma, despite maintaining his innocence and compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted.
The press conference is scheduled for today at 11 a.m. in the Capitol Press Conference Room, G5 at the State Capitol Building in Oklahoma City.
Witness to Innocence is a non-profit advocacy organization created by and for death row exonerees.
Representatives from Witness to Innocence will talk about their wrongful murder convictions, how the system got it wrong, and why they support Julius Jones’ commutation application.
Immediately following the press conference, WTI representatives will deliver a letter of support for Julius Jones to Governor Kevin Stitt’s office on the second floor of the Capitol.
Witness to Innocence speakers include Nancy Vollertsen, Juan Melendez, Gary Drinkard, and Herman Lindsay .
Nancy Vollertsen will speak on behalf of her brother, Greg Wilhoit (1954-2014), who spent 5 years on Oklahoma’s death row after being wrongfully convicted for the 1985 murder of his wife, Kathy. The case against Greg was based on the testimony of inexperienced “dental experts.” Greg’s lawyer appeared in court drunk, vomited in the judge’s chambers, and presented no defense. Later the nation’s top forensic odonatologists examined the bite mark evidence and testified that it couldn’t have possibly come from Greg and finally, in 1993, he was cleared of all charges.
Greg passed away in 2014 without ever having received an apology or one penny in compensation, despite the Oklahoma Legislature voting overwhelmingly in 2003 to award exonerated inmates $200,000 for their time served in prison.
Juan Melendez (https://www.witnesstoinnocence.org/single-post/juan-melendez) was exonerated in 2002 after spending 17 years, eight months, and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Juan could not afford an attorney and was convicted and sentenced to death within a week, despite the complete lack of physical evidence in his case. He almost certainly would have been executed had it not been for the fortuitous discovery of a transcript of the taped confession of the real killer, 16 years after Juan’s conviction. It was eventually discovered that the prosecutor had systematically withheld exculpatory evidence.
Gary Drinkard (https://www.witnesstoinnocence.org/single-post/gary-drinkard) spent
nearly six years on Alabama’s death row for a crime he did not commit. After enduring a violent arrest, Gary and his wife insisted on Gary’s innocence, citing that he had been home at the time of the murder due to a debilitating back injury. Gary’s appointed lawyers had no experience trying criminal cases, did the bare minimum to defend his case, and failed to mention witnesses who corroborated his alibi. Gary’s conviction was primarily dependent on the testimony of his half-sister and her common law husband which was given in exchange for other charges against them being dropped. Despite everything, Gary did not give up trying to prove his innocence and, with the help of the Southern Center for Human Rights, he was acquitted in 2001.
Herman Lindsey (https://www.witnesstoinnocence.org/single-post/herman-lindsey) spent
pent three years on Florida’s death row after a wrongful conviction in 2006 for a crime which had happened in 1994. In 2009, Herman was exonerated after the Florida supreme court ruled unanimously that he had not received a fair trial and there wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty of anything, much less sentence him to death. The chief justice also stated that the prosecutor asked questions during the penalty phase of the trial “that were not only improper but were also prejudicial and made with the apparent goal of inflaming the jury.”
This evening, a faith event supporting Julius will be held at the Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, 4400 NW Expressway at 6:30 p.m.
Witness to Innocence representatives will share their stories of wrongful conviction with Oklahomans and be led in prayers of support for Julius Jones. This event is open to the public and will also be live-streamed here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvjyTYXVfbY).
Through public speaking, testifying in state legislatures, and media interviews, Witness to Innocence members raise awareness of the reality that innocent people are sentenced to death. WTI also provides an essential network of peer support for the exonerated, most of whom received no compensation or access to reentry services when released from death row.
For more information, visit witnesstoinnocence.org.
Other events to be held during Julius Jones’ Week can be found here (https://www.city-sentinel.com/2021/08/julius-jones-week-8-30-9-4-to-feature-events-ahead-of-9-13-commutation-hearing/).