Pharmacist vigilante convicted of teen's murder
Oklahoma's 'Make my day law' no defence for shooter
A jury Thursday convicted an Oklahoma City pharmacist of first-degree murder, saying he went too far when he pumped six bullets into a teenager who tried to rob his drug store, and suggested he spend the rest of his life in prison.
Jerome Ersland, 59, had been hailed as a hero for protecting two co-workers during the May 19, 2009, robbery attempt at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in a crime-ridden neighbourhood in south Oklahoma City.
A prosecutor, however, said that after Ersland shot Antwun Parker in the head, knocking the 16-year-old to the ground, Ersland made himself "judge, jury, executioner" by getting a second handgun and shooting the boy five times in the abdomen. A coroner's report said the latter shots killed Parker.
"This defendant was absolutely not defending himself or anyone else," assistant District Attorney Jennifer Chance told jurors during closing arguments Thursday.
Defence attorney Irven Box asked jurors what they would do in the same situation, and told them Ersland had to take action to end a threat.
"He eliminated the armed robber," Box said.
Police said, however, that Parker wasn't armed, and since the shooting have disputed Ersland's claim that he had been wounded during the robbery attempt. Ersland did not testify at the trial.
Jurors recommended a life sentence. Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott scheduled sentencing for July 11.
Talk show hero
Ersland, a former air force lieutenant colonel, worked at a pharmacy that had been robbed before. Immediately after the shooting, anti-crime advocates and many listeners and viewers of talk shows called Ersland's actions heroic.
A video from the store showed Ersland firing a pistol at two men after they burst into the store, one of them armed. Ersland hit Parker with one shot and chased the other suspect out the door. After returning to the pharmacy, he retrieved a second gun and shot Parker five times.
Jurors visited the pharmacy during the trial.
Box had said Ersland was protected by provisions of Oklahoma's "Make my day law," named after a Clint Eastwood line in Dirty Harry. Legislators in the 1980s initially gave residents the right to use deadly force when they feel threatened inside their homes, then in 2006 extended that to their automobiles or workplaces.
The second teen who entered the pharmacy with Parker, Jevontai Ingram, was sentenced to a state juvenile facility after pleading guilty to first-degree murder under Oklahoma's felony murder law, which allows a murder charge against someone when an accomplice is killed during the commission of a crime.
Two other men, Anthony D. Morrison, 44, and Emanuel Mitchell, 33, were accused of recruiting the teens and helping plan the robbery. They were convicted of first-degree murder in early May and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Near the end of the trial, Mitchell slugged District Attorney David Prater in the face at the end of Prater's closing statement in the penalty phase. Deputies jumped on Mitchell to subdue him and took him from the courtroom.