On May 19, 2009, Antwun "Speedy" Parker, 16, and Jevontai Ingram, 14, donned ski masks and walked into the Reliable Discount Pharmacy with the intent to rob the place. Ingram was armed, Parker was not. The two teens did not count on pharmacist Jerome Ersland also being armed, and the altercation ended with Ersland shooting and killing Parker as Ingram fled.
After the incident, four people were convicted of murder as a result of Parker's death: Ersland, who returned to the store to fire several more shots at the already incapacitated teen; Ingram, who was Parker's accomplice; and two cousins--Anthony "Black" Mitchell and Emanuel "E Man" Mitchell--who recruited the two teens for the robbery.
In July 2011, a jury found Emanuel Mitchell guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. He was sentenced to life in prison. As his verdict was announced, Mitchell attacked District Attorney David Prater.
The convicted man subsequently appealed his conviction, arguing that he had been denied the right to represent himself at his original trial. Mitchell won the appeal, and was given a new trial in which he represented himself, despite frequent warnings and admonitions that defendants who represent themselves do not typically fare well at trial.
At the culmination of his second murder trial, a jury again found Mitchell guilty of first degree murder. This time, they handed down an even stronger sentence--life without parole.
Mitchell again appealed, this time saying that he did, in fact, want to be represented by counsel in his second trial, but the court deprived him of that opportunity and erred in allowing him to represent himself. He also argued that being forced to wear a shock sleeve on his ankle during trial (as a result of attacking the DA in the first trial) biased the jury against him.
On Friday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Mitchell's appeal, finding that he was given plenty of warning about the risk of representing himself, and that he was repeatedly given the opportunity for appointed counsel. Appellate Judge Clancy Smith noted in the court's opinion that not only did Mitchell receive adequate notification of the risk of proceeding without appointed counsel, he argued against the district court's warning, saying that he would be "at more of a disadvantage if he allowed someone else to take control of his life."
As for the issue of the shock sleeve, the OCCA rejected Mitchell's claim, saying he never brought up the issue at trial and agreed to wear it.
All five appellate judges unanimously rejected Mitchell's appeals and upheld his 2015 conviction.
Image credit: Paul L. McCord, Jr.