Oklahoma defense lawyers for Jerome Jay Ersland are preparing for appeal after the pharmacist was convicted last week of first degree murder in the shooting death of 16-year-old Antwun "Speedy" Parker. Ersland's case has grabbed media headlines since the robbery and subsequent shooting two years ago, on May 19, 2009.
Parker's death occurred after he and an accomplice, Jevontai Ingram, then 14, attempted to rob the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in Oklahoma City. Ingram was armed; police determined Parker was not. Ersland sent two female employees to the back of the pharmacy and shot Parker in the head. Ingram fled and Ersland followed him out the door before returning, getting a second gun, and shooting the unconscious, unarmed Parker five more times. Prosecutors painted Ersland as an executioner.
Ersland's defense lawyer says he was a hero who saved two women by shooting at two masked intruders during an armed robbery. Ersland's case was complicated by lies the pharmacist initially told police, one judge's recusal from the case, defense attorneys' calls for a second judge to step down, and attempts to have District Attorney David Prater removed from the case.
The guilty verdict has launched not only an appeal by Ersland's criminal defense team, but also an outpouring of support through Facebook groups and letters to Governor Mary Fallin. Oklahoma's "Make My Day" laws make it permissible to shoot an intruder or armed robber in self defense, but prosecutors say Ersland overstepped the intent of the law when he returned to the pharmacy to shoot the robber who was no longer a threat.
Though formal sentencing in the case is not scheduled until July 11, jurors chose a sentence of life in prison. Oklahoma District Court Judge Ray C. Elliott has the option of suspending all or part of the life sentence. If he does not, Ersland will not be eligible for parole for 38 years.
Ersland's lead defense attorney says that his client is in poor health and that he will request that Judge Elliot reschedule the formal sentencing as soon as possible. Also convicted of first degree murder in Antwun Parker's death are his accomplice Jevontai Ingram, who pleaded guilty and will be released from a juvenile facility prior to his 19th birthday, contingent upon successful completion of a treatment program; and Emanuel D. Mitchel, 33, and Anthony D. Morrison, 45, who convinced the teenagers to rob the pharmacy and waited outside the pharmacy as getaway drivers.
Both Mitchell and Morrison are sentenced to life in prison. More information on Oklahoma criminal cases.