Judge removal hearing continues in Ersland case

Defense attorneys want Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliot to take himself off pharmacist Jerome Jay Ersland's murder case, and they are making allegations of racism.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Modified: December 7, 2010 at 5:55 am •  Published: December 6, 2010

She said she had nightmares because of the things the judge said.

Prosecutors suggested during the hearing that Irven Box also is making allegations against the judge because the judge scolded Isla Box for mistakes at work. Testimony at times focused on how many times the attorney called his wife a day. She stopped working for the judge in September.

Prater called Elliott, 59, the fairest judge in the courthouse. “He's tough, but fair,” the prosecutor said.

The hearing, before a packed courtroom, often turned ugly. During breaks, some spectators said testimony reminded them of a soap opera or a reality show.

At one point, Box complained the district attorney said to him, “Bring it on.” At another point, defense attorney Joe Brett Reynolds told Prater, “Let's have it, buddy.”

Prosecutors put into evidence that Irven and Isla Box married May 15, a week after her divorce was finalized, and that he represented her in the divorce case.

Also coming out in testimony were their ages. Irven Box is 70. Isla Box is 31.

Prosecutors also put into evidence records showing that Irven Box made a $500 donation to Elliott's re-election campaign April 20.

The judge made some accusations of his own. The judge said Irven Box once revealed he had planned to ask the original trial judge to quit the case because she is black and the robber was black. The judge asked if Irven Box remembered saying as long as she had cameras in the courtroom, he would overlook that.

Irven Box said, “I did not say that.”

The judge replied, “With all due respect, I remember it clearly.”

The original trial judge, Tammy Bass-LeSure, quit the case Aug. 31 because prosecutors complained she couldn't be fair. Elliott on Sept. 1 ruled against televising the trial even though defense attorneys wanted it televised.

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 “Speedy” 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 who was no longer a threat.

The pharmacist watched the hearing from a chair in the corner of the courtroom.

During a break, he told The Oklahoman, “I didn't know this was going to about Irven and his wife. I thought this was going to be about my case.”

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