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Attorney's affidavit expands on claims of unfairness against judge in Ersland case

BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Modified: January 7, 2011 at 9:33 am •  Published: January 7, 2011
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photo - Judge Ray Elliott conducts a hearing on a request for him to step down from the trial of pharmacist Jerome Ersland at the Oklahoma County Courthouse in Oklahoma City, OK, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman
Judge Ray Elliott conducts a hearing on a request for him to step down from the trial of pharmacist Jerome Ersland at the Oklahoma County Courthouse in Oklahoma City, OK, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman

An Oklahoma County judge who was upset with his Mexican roofers called them “nothing but filthy animals,” an attorney said Thursday in a sworn statement.

Michael S. Johnson stated District Judge Ray C. Elliott said the roofers “deserve to all be taken south of the border with a shotgun to their heads” and “if they needed volunteers that he would be first in line.”

“He then stated that they needed people with .50-caliber rifles on the border to pick them off as they came back across,” Johnson said.

Johnson gave the affidavit to attorneys for a pharmacist charged with first-degree murder. The affidavit expands significantly on what other witnesses have testified about what the judge said Aug. 30 about his roofers.

The pharmacist, Jerome Jay Ersland, wants a different judge for his trial.

Ersland is white, but his attorneys contend Elliott is so prejudice against Hispanics that he cannot be trusted to be fair to anyone.

Elliott, 59, has twice refused to step down from the case. The pharmacist's attorneys are now asking Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves to disqualify Elliott.

Graves will hear arguments today but is not expected to rule until later.

Elliott denies he is racist. He admitted Dec. 7 that he regrettably referred to his roofers as “wetbacks.” He said he had a brief moment of anger at the courthouse Aug. 30 after enduring three to four weeks of the roofers damaging “my property, my landscaping and my home.”

He said his general contractor told him the workers were illegal immigrants.

A former deputy court clerk, Isla Box, testified on Dec. 6 the judge also said in August “if they needed somebody to hold a shotgun to their heads to get them back across the border, he'd be the first to volunteer.”

Isla Box is married to Irven Box, the pharmacist's lead attorney.

Elliott has denied making the shotgun remark, saying none of the other statements attributed to him “were said by this court, period.” He calls Isla Box a disgruntled ex-employee.

The pharmacist's attorneys say they got the affidavit from Johnson in an effort to show Elliott lied. Johnson did not testify during the hearing in December.

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