Dak Prescott is using his stature to pull at the levers of power overseeing Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, filling a growing demand for Black NFL quarterbacks to use their platform to speak out against systemic racism in American institutions.
In a letter to the Oklahoma’s governor’s office and parole board on Aug. 6, Prescott advocates for the release of Julius Jones, a Black death row inmate who was convicted for the 1990 murder of Paul Howell in Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City.
In the letter obtained by Time Magazine, Prescott writes:
“As a black man in this country right now. I experience injustices firsthand day in and day out, even as an athlete with ‘celebrity status.’
Current events are shining a much-needed light on deep-seated prejudices and systemic mistreatment of black people, and it is my sincere hope that the cultural movements of today will lead to significant social changes that will create a better tomorrow. To that end, you all are in the unique position of being able to make a direct impact by addressing a specific miscarriage of justice.”
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. I implore you to right this wrong. Please don’t let another innocent black man die from the systematic mistreatment that has plagued our nation for far too long.”
Jones’ case has received much attention since a national racial reckoning began in May in light of the police killing George Floyd. Well-known athletes with ties to Oklahoma in recent months have flashed a light on the case like Blake Griffin, Trae Young, Russell Westbrook, and Baker Mayfield.
In the case, the only physical evidence was allegedly a red bandana worn over the face of the perpetrator which has drawn much speculation and challenge by Jones’ defense. The bandana was tested for DNA evidence and Jones wasn’t an exact match, but a few weeks ago Oklahoma State Attorney General Mike Hunter said that it doesn’t have to be an exact match — all that is needed is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury Jones did it.
“The standard for someone convicted in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. And a DNA test is all about probability,” Hunter said.
Jones’ DNA was never outright tested on the bandana, and his attorneys are questioning if the bandana was planted evidence.
A juror in the case came forward in an affidavit to attest that she feels Jones didn’t receive a fair trial, and that there was racist among the jury who who said, “they should just take the n****r out and shoot him behind the jail.” However, she still feels Jones is guilty.
All appeals have been exhausted by Jones counsel and the case likely won’t return back to court. The only hope for Jones at this time is the Board of Parole recommending his sentence be commuted and Oklahoma Gov. Kelvin Stitt signing off on it.
In June, Prescott pledged to give $1 million to police training, education, and advocacy, “As a Black Multiracial American, I am disgusted and unsettled!” Prescott writes. “To be humble and to see every man and woman as the same takes humility and accountability.” (Of note, his philanthropy in this case was not entirely well-received by many in the #defundthepolice movement.)
“AS OUR COMMUNITIES TAKE ACTION, PROTESTING AND FIGHTING FOR THE JUSTICE OF GEORGE FLOYD AND EVERY BLACK LIFE, I AM WITH YOU!”