Oklahomans involved in a self-defense shooting death should not have to talk with law officers for 48 hours, said a state lawmaker who maintains an Oklahoma City pharmacist was wrongfully prosecuted for fatally shooting an unarmed robber.
“Any effort that we can do as legislators to provide an extra layer of protection for the normal, everyday citizen who is attacked, we need to do that,” Sen. Ralph Shortey said Tuesday.
Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, made the comments after helping deliver more petitions to the governor's office showing support for Jerome Jay Ersland, who was sentenced in July to life in prison for slaying an unarmed robber inside a south Oklahoma City pharmacy.
Shortey said he chose the 48-hour protection for people involved in self-defense shootings based on policies of several police departments that prohibit officers from interviewing a fellow officer involved in deaths for at least 48 hours, other than a brief interview at the scene.
“That's a buffer time for them to collect their thoughts, get the emotional issues behind them as best as possible and to give them some protections there,” he said. “If we afford those to police officers, we should afford the same protection to our citizens.
“In this situation, Jerome would have had another layer of protection that would have protected him from misspeaking.”
In the hours after the shooting, Ersland told police an account that did not match videotape recordings. Prosecutors said Ersland changed his story after the recording became public.
The petition drive organizer, Karen Monahan, along with Shortey, delivered about 2,500 signatures to the governor's staff. Ersland, who turned 60 on Monday, is serving a life sentence after being convicted of first-
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.
State's pardon rules
The governor has the power to pardon a convict or commute a prison sentence. Gov. Mary 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.
“In order to protect the integrity of that process, Governor Fallin's policy is not to comment on individual requests for commutation until both the board and her office have completed their own reviews and the governor has made her final decision,” said Alex Weintz, the governor's communications spokesman.
Others helping deliver petitions were Cindy Jones, a friend of Ersland's who has formed a group called Citizens Against Armed Robbers, and Ersland's son, Jeff.
Jeff Ersland said his father is hopeful his appeal will be successful. If so, he could be out of prison in about 14 months.
“My dad keeps hope and keeps faith,” he said. “He's really hopeful to get out.”
Monahan said she visited Ersland in September and that he appeared to be doing well.
“He's gaining his weight back,” she said. “He's completely snow-white headed. ... It's completely gray in the back and it wasn't when he left.”
Shortey said he wanted to file the petitions Tuesday to also bring attention to a new law that is intended to allow business owners, managers and employees to defend themselves when they have a reasonable fear they face death or great bodily harm.
House Bill 1439, which expands the right to use deadly force, takes effect Tuesday.
The measure was filed partly because of what happened to Ersland. It is patterned after Oklahoma's Make My Day Law, which allows use of deadly force against someone who has unlawfully entered a dwelling.