A convicted murderer attacked Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater inside the courtroom Monday at the close of trial, and the two men fell fighting to the floor at the feet of the victim's mother.
Prater, a former police officer, was punched in the face. He then pushed Emanuel D. “E Man” Mitchell toward a wooden rail that splits the courtroom in two. They fell through a swinging gate, their upper bodies landing inside the spectators' section.
Sheriff's deputies rushed over to subdue and handcuff Mitchell. Horrified jurors and spectators rushed out courtroom doors.
Jurors earlier Monday found Mitchell, 33, and Anthony D. “Black” Morrison, 44, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a 16-year-old accomplice during a 2009 robbery at Reliable Discount Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City.
Jurors decided the cousins should spend life in prison for murder.
Jurors also found Morrison and Mitchell guilty of conspiracy to commit an armed robbery. Jurors found Mitchell guilty of driving a stolen car.
Jurors were back in court to hear more evidence when Prater was attacked. The district attorney had just finished his closing argument about what punishment to give the men on the conspiracy conviction and what to give Mitchell on the stolen car conviction.
He was walking back to his seat when Mitchell rushed him from about six feet away.
Prater bled from a cut on his nose. He also suffered a scratch on his cheek and an abrasion on his jaw. Mitchell on Monday night was taken from jail to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder.
“I got blindsided by Emanuel Mitchell,” Prater told reporters later. “I just saw a fist coming out of the ... left corner of my eye. And he nailed me in the side of the face. … I pushed him over backwards into the rail. ... All I knew was I needed to get him on his back. ... He just nailed me the one time, the cheap shot.
“That's just the kind of a guy he is. Obviously, if you're willing to send two kids into a pharmacy to do your dirty work ... he doesn't matter. He's a coward,” Prater said.
Morrison stayed seated at a defense table. He later apologized to Prater for his cousin's actions.
Jay Trenary, Mitchell's court-appointed attorney, grabbed a widescreen TV during the disturbance and kept it from falling on top of the prosecutor.
Mitchell and Morrison both have been convicted before of robbery and other crimes and have spent years in prison. They were living in Oklahoma City at the time of the May 19, 2009, robbery.
Jurors were allowed to deliberate punishment on the conspiracy conviction and stolen car conviction even though they saw the assault. They gave Morrison 30 years in prison and Mitchell 35 years for the conspiracy. Jurors gave Mitchell 10 years for the stolen car.
Prosecutors Monday told jurors the men were cowardly and predators for sending two boys in to rob the pharmacy.
The cousins were charged with first-degree murder after the pharmacist fatally shot one boy, Antwun “Speedy” Parker, 16. Morrison told police he was at his mother's house at the time. Mitchell testified Friday he just happened to be in the area at the time of the robbery because he was visiting an aunt who lives a few blocks away.
The key witness against them was the other robber, Jevontai Ingram, then 14.
Ingram already has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Ingram testified last week the two men sent him and his friend into the pharmacy to get drugs to sell in Tulsa. He said Morrison gave him a gun, and Mitchell drove him and Parker to the pharmacy and had clothes and masks for disguises. He said he ran outside when the pharmacist began firing.
Morrison knew Ingram because the boy's mother had been a girlfriend, according to testimony.
The pharmacist, Jerome Jay Ersland, 59, faces his own murder trial in two weeks. Prosecutors allege he went too far when he shot Parker five more times after knocking him out and to the floor with a shot to the head. Ersland has said he was defending himself and two female co-workers.
Felony murder law
Morrison and Mitchell were charged under Oklahoma's felony murder law, which allows a robber to be convicted of murder if an accomplice dies during the robbery. The judge instructed jurors that escape is considered part of the crime.
Defense attorneys argued the felony murder law did not apply to this case. They told jurors that the attempt to rob the pharmacy was over when the pharmacist went back inside and shot Parker five more times.
Prater argued to jurors that the robbers still were fleeing. The prosecutor pointed out that only one minute and two seconds elapsed from the time the two boys came into the drugstore to when the pharmacist fired the last shot.
Prosecutors know the exact time because the robbery attempt and shooting was recorded by security cameras. Jurors saw the recordings Thursday.
Prater told jurors the crime is typical of what happens in neighborhoods — no matter what the racial makeup — where children who don't have fathers run wild in the streets and fall under the negative influence of predators.
“No surprise,” he told jurors. “Tragic, but no surprise.”
Parker's mother, Cleta Jennings, wept after jurors returned their guilty verdict. She said her son maybe now can rest in peace. “I'm so excited. I just thank God,” she said. “I miss him so much. I miss him so much. I think about him every day. … The Lord did it for us. And I'm so thankful.”
Mitchell had caused trouble before. District Judge Kenneth Watson warned him at the start of the trial to behave after deputies reported he threatened to assault his attorney. Mitchell also allegedly assaulted a cellmate last September.