Oklahoma City attorneys are seeking the dismissal of the first degree murder charge against pharmacist Jerome Ersland who shot and killed an attempted robber at an Oklahoma City pharmacy. The defense asserts that a new opinion by an Oklahoma state pathologist provides evidence that Ersland's killing of the robber was in self-defense.
The case began on May 19, 2009, when Ersland shot a masked robber inside a south Oklahoma City pharmacy. Ersland shot the intruder in the head and then fired five more times into the assailants body. The robber was 16 years old.
Prosecutors filed the first degree murder charge in Oklahoma County after surveillance video showed that the first shot hit the would-be robber, Antwun Parker, in the head. They allege that the first shot incapacitated Parker, and that Ersland was wrong to continue to fire the lethal shots.
Oklahoma's Stand Your Ground Laws
“Stand Your Ground” laws say that a person has no duty to retreat if confronted by someone engaged in criminal activity, and that they can protect themselves with lethal force if they believe that their own lives are in jeopardy. Read more about the stand your ground laws here.
According to Dr. Collie M. Trant, the chief medical examiner at the time of the killing, the first shot was non-fatal. However, Trant was fired earlier this year, and Dr. Chai Choi was asked to review the case in order to testify.
According to Ersland's Oklahoma criminal defense team, Dr. Choi's medical opinion conflicts with Dr. Trant's, meaning that the first shot was indeed fatal, and that the killing of Antwun Parker by Jerome Ersland was justifiable homicide. Ersland's defense lawyers met with Dr. Choi and told the judge that "she believes Dr. Trant was incorrect in his finding that the first shot was nonfatal and that she would have never classified the first wound as a nonfatal gunshot wound.
Dr. Choi also said that she had consulted with some of her colleagues at the medical examiner's office and their opinion was also that the first gunshot was not nonfatal." While the defense argues that a fatal first shot means that Ersland cannot be found guilty of murder for the remaining five shots, the prosecution maintains that the case is still valid.
The Oklahoma District Attorney contends, "Ultimately, Antwun Parker's heart was beating, he was breathing and he was alive when Jerome Ersland pumped the five additional rounds in his chest." Prosecutors argue that the defense's motion to dismiss is based on semantics rather than a truly new medical opinion. An Oklahoma County judge is expected to consider the request for dismissal of the murder charge at a hearing later this month.