The new attorney for former pharmacist Jerome Jay Ersland said Wednesday he took on the murder case for free to try to right an injustice.
“It needs to be done,” the attorney, gun-rights expert Doug Friesen, said Wednesday at a news conference at his Oklahoma City law office.
Ersland is serving a life term in prison for killing a wounded robber inside a south Oklahoma City drugstore in 2009. His murder conviction last year renewed a public debate about his actions.
“This man should not be in jail for the rest of his life. He thought he was defending his life and the lives of his co-employees. This is a situation that needs to be addressed,” Friesen said. “If not me, who is going to do it?”
Ersland, 60, is being held at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington. His first parole hearing is scheduled for June 2049.
Ersland on Friday signed a letter firing Irven Box, his longtime attorney. Box was Ersland's lead attorney at last year's murder trial. Box already had begun an appeal.
Friesen said his job now is to review the case “and, if there were any errors made in the first trial, to bring them out — whoever made them.”
He pointed out, for instance, that jurors did not get to hear defense experts who would have testified how dynamic a shooting situation is “and what kind of mind-state Jerome would have been in at the time.”
He said he hopes to file a new legal brief in Ersland's case at the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals as soon as possible.
“I get the feeling I'm not going to get a lot of sleep in the upcoming weeks,” he said.
Friesen said other attorneys have agreed to help him for free.
Friesen teaches self-
He said Ersland hired him Tuesday. He said the two visited in prison. He described Ersland as upbeat but a little resigned.
Recruited by legislator
The new attorney was recruited to represent Ersland by state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City.
Shortey, who has visited Ersland in prison a few times, contends Ersland should never have been charged. He called Ersland the victim in the case.
The legislator told reporters a law-abiding citizen who is threatened should never have to check the pulse of an attacker to see whether the attacker is dead or not.
“That's too much burden to put on a citizen who has been attacked,” Shortey said. “What happened is he was put in a situation he should never have been put into. He was attacked, and he responded the best way that he felt he should.”
Shortey and another supporter, Karen Monahan, last visited Ersland in prison Friday. Ersland told them then he was ready to switch attorneys.
“He's lost all the color out of his hair because of the stress of the situation, but he's not given up,” the senator said. “His resolve is stronger now than it has ever been.”
About the case
An Oklahoma County jury last May found Ers
Parker and a friend, Jevontai Ingram, then 14, went into the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City near closing time May 19, 2009, at the urging of two men.
The men gave Ingram a gun, according to testimony in the criminal case. Parker was unarmed.
Ersland shot Parker in the head as the boy pulled on a mask inside the store, according to surveillance recordings. He then chased after Ingram, who ran outside. He then came back inside the store, got a second gun and shot Parker five more times.
Ersland admitted to the shooting but gave statements about what happened that did not match what can be seen on the surveillance recordings.
Prosecutors at his trial contended he went too far when he shot Parker again because the unarmed robber by then was unconscious from the head wound and not moving on the floor.
Ersland's attorneys at trial said he was a hero who defended two female co-workers and himself.
Jurors afterward said the recordings from the security cameras proved Ers
Ersland “never even glanced at him,” one juror said.
Ersland did not testify at his trial. His pharmacy license expired after he went to prison.
At the news conference Wednesday, Friesen said, “I have represented numerous police officers in reference to shootings, and I can tell you the one universal fact that I always see in these instances is that people go into shock.”
The attorney said it was not unusual that Ersland described things about the shooting that didn't actually happen.
“When the masked robbers came through the door, all rational thought stopped at that point and did not start again until much later,” he said. “Your mind rewrites those situations in your head.”
Ersland told The