Update June 3rd 2011: Jerome Ersland unjustly convicted of first-degree murder, petition campaign launched to free him. Updated post HERE.
Jerome Ersland, charged with first-degree murder for defending himself against two armed robbers, has been released on $100,000 bail on condition he have no access to firearms. But the prosecutor who charged him, David Prater, may be having second thoughts about charging him in the first place.
District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure (pictured at left) set bail at $100,000 and barred Ersland from any access to guns, knives or other weapons while out on bail. Most defendants charged with first-degree murder in Oklahoma County are denied bail, but prosecutors did not object to Ersland being freed. Ersland was then released after a supporter who Ersland had never met arranged for the bail.
The judge ordered the weapons restriction after she watched a video of the pharmacist shooting 16-year-old robbery suspect Antwun Parker on May 19th at Reliable Discount Pharmacy in Oklahoma City. Additional coverage from KOCO Channel 5.
But in a twist to the already unusual case, District Attorney David Prater asked the judge to allow Ersland to have access to a gun at work in case the pharmacy is robbed again. The prosecutor said his position sounds crazy but he insisted that under the law Ersland has the right to defend himself and others at the pharmacy. At one point, spectators in the courtroom clapped in support of his statements. Prater is concerned that crooks now will know it is "open season” at the pharmacy if Ersland is there. He also said Ersland could be fired, and further explained that the pharmacist wouldn't even be in court if the two robbers had not come into the drugstore.
In response, the judge asked, "Then, why did you charge him, Mr. Prater?” The district attorney replied that Ersland went too far. In my previous post, I explained that Prater decided Ersland had crossed the line when he fired the five shots into Antwun Parker after he was down and without a weapon. Prater had also said that had Ersland killed Parker with the first shot to the head, no charges would have been filed.
But the judge was not swayed by Prater's arguments. She refused to change the restriction, saying Ersland could get another job. "I am going to limit his access to guns,” the judge said. "If someone wants to be around him, they are not going to have access to guns.” In response, Prater told her, "That’s wrong.” But in a separate story, pharmacy owner Douglas Sizemore said that Ersland's job was in no danger.
And get this. After the hearing, the district attorney said to Ersland, "I want you to be treated fairly.” Fairly? Excuse me, but what was so fair about charging him with first-degree murder in the first place. Perhaps he should have thought of that before he charged Ersland. This is why I'm wondering if Prater is beginning to have second thoughts about this case.
Here's what he's beginning to see. Black victim. Black judge. White gun-owning defendant. Mixed-race gun-grabber in the White House, who just nominated a La Raza judge to the Supreme Court. He's connecting the dots, and doesn't like the picture forming. He's beginning to sense that the system wants to make an example of Erland, and feed him to the American Gulag to tell Middle America, "Hey, Joe and Jane Sixpack, this isn't your country any more".
And all because David Prater decided to be cute and split hairs out of belief in the fairness of a system which has actually been rigged against Joe and Jane Sixpack for years now.
An expert opinion was sought, and Charles Smith of the Oklahoma Rifle Association, which lobbied hard for the state's Stand Your Ground law, stepped forward to weigh in. After watching the surveillance video, Smith agreed that the first shot at Parker was fully justified. But when Ersland walked back into the store, grabbed another gun, and fired five shots to the stomach of the teen, Smith said he'd have to draw the line there. So he agrees with the district attorney's decision, although he concedes he doesn't know what was going through Ersland's mind at the time of the shooting.
In a separate development, Antwun Parker's two playmates have now been arrested. Jevontia Ingram, who is 14 years old, has been identified as the second person who robbed the pharmacy and who was the actual shooter. He was arrested about 1 p.m. on Thursday at an apartment complex at 706 NE 26 by Oklahoma County sheriff’s deputies. However, he is likely headed for juvenile court. Ingram's mother claims the robbery wasn't Ingram's idea, but he was put up to it by Emanuel Mitchell, who likely promised the teenagers a share of the proceeds.
Oklahoma City police also arrested 31-year-old Emanuel Dewayne Mitchell (pictured at left) after a witness followed the robber’s getaway car to the 1400 block of SE 58. Mitchell, who was released from prison last summer after serving nearly 13 years for robbery and kidnapping, was taken into custody on a complaint of possessing a stolen car. The silver Honda he had been driving was reported stolen May 17th from the Old Paris Flea Market. There also may be one more adult involved, who has yet been identified.