Oklahoma Murder Defendant Seeks Disqualification of DA

The case of Jerome Ersland, the Oklahoma City pharmacist accused of murder after killing an armed robber, continues to face legal complications. 

Details of the Case

First, the medical examiner was dismissed, and subsequent M.E. reports appeared to conflict with the original findings.  Next, Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure excused herself from the case and was replaced by Judge Ray Elliott.  Now, Ersland's defense attorneys are asking the judge to disqualify Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and his assistants.  

According to defense lawyers, Prater has displayed unethical actions as his desire for a conviction has become personal.  Ersland's lawyers claim that the District Attorney has placed his "animosity" against Ersland and his appearance in the public eye above the pursuit of justice. Ersland's lawyers filed a motion asking for the D.A.'s disqualification, saying that Prater is driven not by justice, but "by a desire to have a conviction at any cost." 

Ersland and his attorneys question Prater's motives and assert that the defendant has a right to a prosecutor whose primary motive is justice, not public opinion. Furthermore, Ersland's defense team claims that the Oklahoma County DA acted unethically when he released surveillance video of the shooting.  

The defense stated, "There was no legitimate purpose for the release of the video other than to stir public sentiment against Mr. Ersland. The release of the video did nothing to further the administration of justice."  Prater, however, says that the release of the video was justified, demonstrating to the public that, while they do have a right to defend themselves, there is a limit to the actions they should take. Under Oklahoma law, citizens have a right to defend themselves against attackers

Self Defense or Murder

Ersland claims that he was protecting himself and two female employees from the armed robbers.  He was charged with murder after prosecutors deemed that he continued to shoot the robber and fired the fatal shots after disabling one robber, removing the imminent danger.

Ersland's trial is scheduled to begin December 6, but if Judge Elliott rules in favor of the defense's motion and disqualifies Prater and his assistants, the trial will likely be delayed.