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.
Box, who was fired in April, said Friesen obviously based the appeal on Ersland's lies.
“The four of us together had 80 years-plus experience,” Box said of the trial team. “Our strategy was that the videotape of the shooting and the robbery and the two women testifying he was their hero should have caused a jury to acquit him.”
Ersland can be seen on surveillance recordings fatally shooting the robber, Antwun Parker, 16, inside the Reliable Discount Pharmacy.
Parker and a friend, Jevontai Ingram, then 14, went into the drugstore 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 once in the head as the boy pulled on a mask inside the store, surveillance recordings show. 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.
At the time of the shooting, Ersland was a pharmacist employed at the store. His license expired last year after he went to prison.
Since his conviction in May 2011, his supporters have gathered 33,628 signatures on petitions that call the verdict an outrage. Supporters delivered the latest batch of petitions to Gov. Mary Fallin's office Monday.