A pharmacist sentenced last month to life in prison for slaying an unarmed robber inside a south Oklahoma City pharmacy seems to be adjusting to prison, his son and a friend said Thursday. They made the comments as they brought more petitions to the governor in hopes of getting a pardon someday.
Jerome Jay Ersland, 59, is serving a life sentence after being convicted last month of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a wounded, unarmed robber two years ago. Ersland maintained he was defending himself and two female co-workers when he shot the robber
The petition-drive organizer, Karen Monahan, gave petitions signed by 7,252 people to a staff person in Gov. Mary Fallin's office at the state Capitol. She delivered petitions with 17,066 signatures last month.
Ersland recently was transferred to the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, Monahan said.
His mood and spirits seem to be improving, based on a letter she received from him Wednesday, she said.
“This is the best I've heard him (sound) in years,” Monahan said, saying he had been depressed since the shooting.
His son, Jeff Ersland, agreed that his father seems to be doing better, especially since being transferred last month from the Oklahoma County jail.
“He's been sending me a few postcards each week and he seems a lot more optimistic and it seems like his quality of life has improved dramatically since he's been transferred,” he said. “He's actually got a cellmate now. He's got a TV, air conditioning. ... He gets to spend more time outside, gets more exercise.”
Visitors to be allowed
Jeff Ersland and Monahan said they hope to visit with him when he's allowed to have visitors, which should be within the month.
Monahan, a friend of the pharmacist, said petitions are available at businesses throughout the metro area. She said she goes to various gun shows with petitions and plans to be seeking petitions next month at the Oklahoma State Fair.
Jeff Ersland said his father is “very appreciative of what the people are trying to do as he waits his sentence time out in prison.” He said the signatures are from people in Oklahoma as well as from every state and from 26 countries.
“It is a remarkable moment in my life, to see this amount of support for this injustice on a worldwide level,” he said. “We hope the Governor Fallin will soon get a recommendation from the Pardon and Parole Board that will allow my dad ... to be pardoned from his conviction of first-degree murder with a life sentence.”
The governor has the power to pardon a convict or commute a prison sentence. Fallin has said the pharmacist's case will head to her if a majority of the Pardon and Parole Board members recommend clemency.
Under current law, Ersland will have to serve more than 38 years before he is eligible for parole, but parole board members could vote to take up his case sooner. Ersland has said he will appeal his conviction. He likely will die in prison unless he wins on appeal, the law is changed or a governor grants clemency.
Ersland was convicted in May of first-degree murder for fatally shooting an unarmed robber inside the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in May 2009.
Prosecutors said the fallen robber, Antwun “Speedy” Parker, 16, was unconscious from a shot to the head when Ersland got a second gun and shot him five more times. A second robber, Jevontai Ingram, then 14, did have a gun, but had already fled.