SOME jurors in the Jerome Ersland murder trial seem surprised by the vitriolic reaction to the guilty verdict. We weren't at all surprised. But we were disappointed.
Ersland was convicted of first-degree murder for the May 19, 2009, shooting of a young man in the act of robbing the pharmacy where Ersland worked. Rather than removing any threat from the robber by shooting him, which Ersland had every right to do, he took the time to find another weapon and pump five additional bullets into Antwun “Speedy” Parker.
The case had racial overtones — Ersland is white and Parker was black — but these were somewhat subdued because Ersland was not only a perpetrator but a victim. His life and that of his co-workers were under threat.
Nevertheless, Ersland overreached and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater correctly and courageously charged Ersland with first-degree murder. The jury could have acquitted him or convicted him of manslaughter. Instead, these 12 men and women weighed the evidence and agreed that Ersland had committed an act of premeditated murder.
The verdict was surprising given Ersland's victim status and the crime-intolerant atmosphere of this state. Reaction to the guilty verdict wasn't surprising. Demands for a pardon began immediately and Ersland partisans launched a petition drive in his support. Ersland himself began complaining of his treatment at the Oklahoma County jail.
Partly through Prater's intervention, Ersland had spent little time in jail before his conviction. He prepared for the trial as a man free on bail. There were no serious attempts by his defense team to make a deal with Prater. Ersland and his defense lawyers apparently presumed that no jury here would convict him of murder.
“There are laws and they're set,” one juror told The Oklahoman's Nolan Clay. “And we had to follow the laws.”