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OU's Kennedy Brooks runs with the ball during the Sooners' game against Baylor, Sarurday, Nov. 13, 2021, at McLane Stadium. 

During his media availability Wednesday, Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks wore a bracelet in support of the Justice for Julius movement.

It’s not the first time Brooks has been outspoken regarding his support for Julius Jones, an Oklahoma inmate who is set to be executed by the state on Thursday.

“At the end of the day, he should be free [based on the] facts and facts alone and just off the stuff we’ve seen and proven, so I’m praying he gets the decision that he needs,” Brooks said. “And I’m praying for his family.”

Jones has been on death row since 2002 after he was convicted of the 1999 shooting of Paul Howell, an Edmond businessman. Jones, a former OU student, and his supporters have maintained his innocence.

In September, the state’s Pardon and Parole board recommended that Jones’ sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has until 4 p.m. Thursday — the time set for Jones’ execution — to decide if he’ll accept, modify or reject the parole board’s recommendation.

It’s a case that has received national attention in recent years, and it’s caught the eye of several current and former OU athletes.

Last month, Brooks and OU H-back Jeremiah Hall wore “Justice for Julius” t-shirts during the Walk of Champions prior to the Sooners’ game against TCU. Hall and other team captains recently joined a Zoom call, led by Jones’ childhood best friend Irv Roland, to hear facts about the case and ultimately decided to help bring awareness to Jones’ case.

“We did our own research and realized that was something we should support,” Hall said last month. “Me and Kennedy just so happened to be the ones wearing a shirt that day, but the more I learned about the case, the more I felt like I had a platform that could bring attention to it.”

OU safety Pat Fields, also a team captain, spoke about the case during his media availability Wednesday.

“I think it’s just a difficult situation,” Fields said. “Definitely a situation outside of our control. But I think the biggest thing I’ve been just focusing on [is] praying for justice and I think God is always in control. Whatever comes to pass is his will. So that’s just been the thing I’ve been focusing on, praying that whatever and whenever happens is supposed to happen because it’s God’s will.

“That’s really all we can focus on.”

On Wednesday, OU defensive end Isaiah Thomas sent a tweet in support of Jones.

“Oklahoma cannot execute, Julius Jones please save the life of an innocent man @GovStitt (sic) and do what’s right for him and his family! Be the change that we need in this world! #JusticeforJulius,” Thomas’ tweet read.

The support has come from former OU athletes, too.

Baker Mayfield, former OU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, wrote an open letter in 2020 showing support for Jones and asking for the case to be reviewed. During a media availability with Cleveland reports Wednesday, Mayfield became emotional discussing Jones’ possible execution.

“It’s pretty rough, to be honest with you,” Mayfield told reporters. “That’s not something that’s easy to talk about. Been trying to get the facts stated and the truth to be told for awhile. It’s tough to think about. I’ve tried and tried. It’s a shame that it’s gotten this far. … It’s tough. Hopefully God can intervene and handle it correctly and do the things he needs to do.”

Former OU basketball players Blake Griffin, Trae Young and Buddy Hield, as well as former Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook have also been outspoken in their support of Jones.

Trae Young, former OU point guard, sent a tweet back in September asking for Stitt to “make the right decision.”

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580

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