The new attorney for former pharmacist Jerome Jay Ersland said Wednesday he took on the murder case for free to try to right an injustice.
“It needs to be done,” the attorney, gun-rights expert Doug Friesen, said Wednesday at a news conference at his Oklahoma City law office.
Ersland is serving a life term in prison for killing a wounded robber inside a south Oklahoma City drugstore in 2009. His murder conviction last year renewed a public debate about his actions.
“This man should not be in jail for the rest of his life. He thought he was defending his life and the lives of his co-employees. This is a situation that needs to be addressed,” Friesen said. “If not me, who is going to do it?”
Ersland, 60, is being held at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington. His first parole hearing is scheduled for June 2049.
Ersland on Friday signed a letter firing Irven Box, his longtime attorney. Box was Ersland's lead attorney at last year's murder trial. Box already had begun an appeal.
Friesen said his job now is to review the case “and, if there were any errors made in the first trial, to bring them out — whoever made them.”
He pointed out, for instance, that jurors did not get to hear defense experts who would have testified how dynamic a shooting situation is “and what kind of mind-state Jerome would have been in at the time.”
He said he hopes to file a new legal brief in Ersland's case at the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals as soon as possible.
“I get the feeling I'm not going to get a lot of sleep in the upcoming weeks,” he said.
Friesen said other attorneys have agreed to help him for free.
Friesen teaches self-defense classes and has represented police officers and others involved in shootings. He said in most cases he has been successful in keeping charges from being filed.
He said Ersland hired him Tuesday. He said the two visited in prison. He described Ersland as upbeat but a little resigned.
Recruited by legislator
The new attorney was recruited to represent Ersland by state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City.
Shortey, who has visited Ersland in prison a few times, contends Ersland should never have been charged. He called Ersland the victim in the case.
The legislator told reporters a law-abiding citizen who is threatened should never have to check the pulse of an attacker to see whether the attacker is dead or not.
“That's too much burden to put on a citizen who has been attacked,” Shortey said. “What happened is he was put in a situation he should never have been put into. He was attacked, and he responded the best way that he felt he should.”