An Oklahoma County judge said Tuesday he regretted describing his roofers as â€œwetbacksâ€ in a moment of anger at the courthouse, but he denied making other racial statements attributed to him.
District Judge Ray C. Elliott also denied giving advice to anyone on how to win a trial and he denied that he and his wife, a prosecutor, ever talk about his cases.
Elliott, 59, spoke at the end of a two-day public hearing on a defense request for him to let another judge take over a pharmacist's murder trial. Elliott said he will announce his decision at 9 a.m. Monday.
The judge already has refused to step aside once before, when defense attorneys complained to him Nov. 9 at a private hearing. Defense attorneys can appeal if he rules against them again.
The pharmacist, Jerome Jay Ersland, is white. Defense attorneys say the judge this year became almost obsessed against Hispanics â€” so much so that he can't be trusted to be fair to any defendant.
Defense attorneys also complain the judge, before taking over the case, advised lead defense attorney Irven Box on what to say at closing arguments to win the pharmacist's trial. And, they complain the judge improperly gets legal research from his wife.
Prosecutors counter that Irven Box, 70, is making the allegations to delay the trial and because the judge once criticized Box's wife, Isla, for mistakes at her job. Isla Box, 31, worked until September as a deputy court clerk in the judge's courtroom.
The judge suggested Tuesday that Irven Box really wants him to step aside because he refused to allow the trial to be
The judge Monday admitted describing his roofers as â€œwetbacks.â€ The judge said Tuesday he only used that word once, after dealing for three to four weeks with damage roofers caused to his property. He added that a general contractor told him the roofers were â€œillegal immigrants.â€
The judge used the word Aug. 30 during a conversation with his staff in his offices at the courthouse, according to testimony. He was loud enough that he was heard by a deputy court clerk in another judge's offices.
Elliott said Tuesday, â€œNone of the other statements attributed to me were said by this court, period.â€
His former clerk, Isla Box, testified Monday that the judge also said Aug. 30, â€œIf they needed somebody to hold a shotgun to their heads to get them back across the border, he'd be the first to volunteer.â€ She also testified the judge has made other derogatory statements about
Also, Irven Box testified Monday that he overheard the judge in the spring tell his female bailiff â€œto hurry up and have 10 white babies because the Mexicans are going to catch up with us.â€ The bailiff, Tarryn Henderson, said Monday, â€œI don't remember that.â€
The judge Tuesday said he did ask his wife Sept. 1 for a 2000 appellate opinion that prohibited a television broadcast of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols' state preliminary hearing.
He said he had left his own copy of the opinion at home and does not know how to use his courthouse computer.
His wife, Sandra Elliott, said Monday she thinks she got a copy of that legal opinion to him. She also said they don't talk about his cases. â€œHe knows what he's doing. He doesn't need my advice,â€ she said.
Testifying as a character witness for the judge Tuesday was a fellow district judge, Kenneth Watson, who is black. Watson said Elliott was always fair to defendants when Elliott was prosecutor and is fair now as a judge. Watson said he has never seen any signs of racism in Elliott.
â€œI value his opinion. ... I trust his judgment,â€ Watson said.
Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz also said Elliott is not biased against any racial group. Ravitz said it is ridiculous to focus on one regretted statement made in 30 years of legal service
â€œI don't think anybody in this courtroom would want to be judged that way,â€ Ravitz said.
Ersland, 59, was charged with first-degree murder after he shot a masked robber six times in May 2009 inside Reliable Discount Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City. Killed was Antwun â€œSpeedyâ€ Parker, 16, of Oklahoma City.
Ersland, who lives in Chickasha, has said he acted to defend himself and two female employees. Prosecutors say Ersland went too far when he fired the last five shots, in effect executing an unconscious, unarmed robber.
The trial has been delayed indefinitely.