A judge is not expected to give a pharmacist convicted of murder any time off his life term.
“Why should a judge put himself in the position of being a 13th juror when we have entrusted 12 citizens of the community to make that decision?” the judge said last month at a sentencing in another murder case.
“Why should a judge usurp the jury's authority by placing him or herself in the position of being the 13th juror?” Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott said.
Jurors in May chose the life term as the punishment for pharmacist Jerome Jay Ersland, 59, of Chickasha. Their only other option was a life term without the possibility of parole.
Jurors found Ersland guilty of first-degree murder for shooting a wounded, unarmed robber five more times inside a south Oklahoma City pharmacy in 2009. They rejected Ersland's self-defense claim.
Under the law, the judge has the discretion to suspend all or part of Ersland's life term. Formal sentencing for Ersland is set for July 11.
In the other murder case, Elliott indicated his philosophy is not to show leniency on punishment when a defendant chooses to have a jury trial.
The judge said he was quoting what “a brilliant trial lawyer,” the late Barry Albert, said to him years ago. He said Albert was writing a law review article titled, “The 13th Juror.”
The judge pointed out that a defendant can have the judge alone determine punishment by pleading guilty or by asking for a nonjury trial.
The judge rejected a defense attorney's request to suspend part of a 71-year-old convicted murderer's life term.
“I choose not to be the 13th juror,” the judge said at the sentencing in June.
In a telephone interview June 3 from jail, Ersland told The Oklahoman he does not expect the judge to show him leniency.