A jury left the courtroom at 12:40 p.m. Thursday to begin deliberating whether an Oklahoma City pharmacist murdered a wounded robber two years ago or acted in self-defense.
Jerome Jay Ersland, 59, faces life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder.
Jurors were instructed they could find Ersland guilty of first-degree manslaughter instead. The punishment for that offense is four years to life in prison.
Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott told jurors they probably will begin deliberations around noon Thursday after hearing closing arguments. “Come prepared to stay until we're finished,” the judge said Wednesday.
Prosecutors put on 17 witnesses over four days. Defense attorneys put on one witness, a pharmacy employee, and read a statement from another, a deputy chief medical examiner. Ersland did not testify.
Jurors also visited the south Oklahoma City pharmacy, saw security camera recordings of the shooting and watched Ersland's interview with a police detective.
Prosecutors say Ersland went too far when he shot a robber five more times inside Reliable Discount Pharmacy May 19, 2009. Prosecutors contend the robber, Antwun “Speedy” Parker, 16, was unconscious from a shot to the head. They contend Parker fell flat on his back and never moved after the first shot.
The pharmacist's defense attorneys contend he bravely defended himself and two female co-workers when two robbers came in the store.
Ersland chased away one robber, who was pointing a gun, according to the security camera recordings.
The final two prosecution witnesses, an Oklahoma City police sergeant who is a crime-scene reconstruction expert and a hired blood-spatter expert, concluded Parker was not moving when the pharmacist shot him five more times in the chest and abdomen.
Ersland, who lives in Chickasha, has insisted in media interviews that Parker was getting back up. The blood-spatter expert, Tom Bevel, testified Wednesday the blood pool on the floor underneath the robber's head showed no evidence of that or any other movement.
Jurors also heard testimony Wednesday that Ersland sought medical treatment on July 2, 2009, for what he said was an infected gunshot wound suffered during a shoot-out inside the pharmacy. Prosecutors say he faked the injury in an effort to support his defense.
A Chickasha physician, Laura Black-Wicks, testified an X-ray showed Ersland had two small metal fragments in his left wrist. She said Ersland removed the fragments himself while she was away from the examination room.
“I was a little shocked,” she said of his action. She said Ersland asked her not to document in his medical records that he took out the fragments. “I explained to him I could not do that,” she testified.
The doctor said Ersland asked her in January 2010 for a prescription for an anti-inflammatory gel. She said he wanted the prescription label to say it was for a gunshot wound.
Police witnesses have said there is no evidence the robber with the gun fired it before fleeing. The second robber, Jevontai Ingram, now 16, has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for his role in Parker's death. Also, a paramedic testified earlier Ersland had a small abrasion on his left wrist the night of the robbery but the superficial injury was not a gunshot wound.
The defense witness, Jeanne Read, testified she and another pharmacy worker, her daughter, fled to a backroom when the robbers came in. She said she heard one, using an expletive, say, “You … bitches get back here.”
“Do you believe Jerome Ersland saved you and your daughter's lives?” defense attorney Irven Box asked.
“Yes, I do,” she said.
“Is it safe to say you were in fear for your life?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Scared to death, weren't you?” Box asked.
“Yes, I was,” she said.
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