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Former Oklahoma pharmacist wants murder conviction overturned

Former pharmacist Jerome Ersland complained to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals he did not get a fair murder trial because of mistakes by his lead trial attorney, Irven Box. He wants the appeals court to overturn his 2011 murder conviction.
by Nolan Clay Modified: October 1, 2012 at 10:32 pm •  Published: October 1, 2012

A former pharmacist convicted of murder complained Monday in an appeal that he did not get a fair trial because his lead attorney botched his defense.

Jerome Jay Ersland, 60, is serving a life term in prison.

“There is no doubt that this was ineffective assistance of counsel, probably the most egregious example of it that we have ever seen,” said a major Ersland supporter, state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City.

The former lead attorney, Irven Box, said he and the three other attorneys involved in the 2011 trial did their best with a difficult client.

“There's not one thing we would have done different in defending him,” Box said.

An Oklahoma County jury found Ersland guilty of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a wounded robber inside an Oklahoma City pharmacy in 2009. Jurors rejected his claim that he was defending himself and two female employees.

His new attorney filed a 26-page brief Monday asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn that murder conviction.

The new attorney, Doug Friesen, accuses Box of a series of failures in the handing of the case.

“I am simply saying, under these sets of facts, I do not believe Jerome got a fair trial,” Friesen said at a news conference.

Friesen wrote in the brief, “Here, trial counsel's ineffectiveness began as a belief that he could not lose this case and devolved into his failure to thoroughly investigate the facts and circumstances underlying” Ersland's criminal charge.

A key issue in the appeal is whether Box told his client District Attorney David Prater had been willing to possibly work out something along the lines of a manslaughter plea deal.

In an affidavit signed last week, Ersland wrote: “Irven Box never conveyed to me there was a possibility of anything other than trial.”

Box disputed that Monday, saying he twice told his client prosecutors had talked of negotiating to a sentence of “double-digit” years. Box said Ersland wasn't interested in a plea that included a felony conviction because he wanted to keep his pharmacy license.

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