By Jay Croft, CNN
A sister and friend of an Oklahoma death row convict spared from execution say they now will work to get the man released from prison.
“We were overjoyed,” Antoinette Jones told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday morning. “We still have to get his freedom.”
She is the sister of Julius Jones, who was granted clemency Thursday by Gov. Kevin Stitt hours before his execution was scheduled to take place.
Jones was convicted for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell — a murder he says he did not commit.
Jones’ sentence will be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to an executive order filed Thursday.
“Yesterday was an amazing feeling,” said Jimmy Lawson, Julius Jones’ lifelong best friend. “When you think about how close we came to the finish line, it’s unbelievable.”
He said “overwhelming world support” for Jones might have helped sway Stitt’s decision. “The whole world was watching.”
The Republican governor came to the decision following “prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
Howell’s family, however, remains convinced of Jones’ guilt, saying in a statement Thursday the family took “comfort” because they said the governor’s decision “affirmed the guilt of Julius Jones.”
Antoinette Jones said she is unsure of what legal paths would help gain her brother’s freedom and will rely on the advice of attorneys.
“We gotta keep pressing forward to correct the different ways that have hindered Julius from true justice,” she said.
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CNN’s Dakin Andone and Amir Vera contributed to this report.