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Amid criticism, Oklahoma County DA says judge caused her own problems

Black leaders and pastors urged the community to support District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure, who was accused of misconduct and asked to step down from an Oklahoma City pharmacist's murder case.
BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: September 4, 2010 at 12:43 am •  Published: September 4, 2010

The district attorney also said Friday he will ask Bass-LeSure to step down from handling all criminal cases involving the three attorneys — Michael S. Johnson, Joe Brett Reynolds and Kendra Gill.

Bass-LeSure, 43, did not attend the news conference in her support. She has declined to comment since making a brief statement Tuesday about her decision to step down. She has been a district judge almost 12 years.

Her husband, Karlos LeSure, was at the news conference. He identified himself as her husband and an associate minister at the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church. He did not make any other statements.

Reed accused the district attorney of misusing his power this year to slander and to try to intimidate the only two elected black judges at the Oklahoma County Courthouse.

"There are other judges in that courthouse who have gone through far worse situations without any threat of investigation or threats of judicial complaint," Reed said.

Reed said the district attorney should remember that the black community helped him get elected to the position four years ago. "And you also need to know that we are watching, and we will remember," Reed said.

Anthony R. Douglas, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, "We need the DA office investigated.... We will no longer stand by."

Douglas also said he plans to lead a rally to the courthouse to demand that the pharmacist's trial be televised.

The pharmacist, Jerome Jay Ersland, is charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of a masked robber. The pharmacist said he was defending himself and two female employees, but prosecutors allege he went too far.

The jury trial was delayed almost three months, to Dec. 6, after a new judge took over the case Tuesday.

Ersland, 58, is white. The robber, Antwun "Speedy" Parker, 16, was black.

"It's an incredible irony that I was being accused of pandering to the black community when I filed this charge. Now, I'm a racist because I asked the judge to get off of it? It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?" Prater said.

Prosecutors earlier this year asked District Judge Kenneth Watson, who is black, to step down from several criminal cases. The district attorney said he or his assistants have asked almost every judge handling criminal cases to step aside from some cases because of concerns.

"That's done fairly often in this courthouse.... It's handled privately, and normally the judge does the right thing," Prater said.