Oklahoma City pharmacist convicted of murder faked back injury, examination finds

BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com ©2011 The Oklahoman Published: July 10, 2011

A pharmacist convicted of murder has been faking a broken back, an examination of jail X-rays found.

Jerome Jay Ersland, 59, of Chickasha, has worn a back brace for years and has been prescribed powerful medication for pain. He told the police and news media he suffers from an inoperable back injury.

X-rays of his back were taken after he was incarcerated at Oklahoma County jail May 26. A radiologist who examined the X-rays reported none of his vertebrae were fractured, sources told The Oklahoman.

The doctor concluded Ersland has modest osteoarthritis of the spine, The Oklahoman learned. That is a condition men about his age often endure.

Also, medical workers at the jail reported seeing Ersland walking a hall there, at times, without his back brace. A nurse reported seeing Ersland, while without his brace, pick something up off the floor without problem.

A jury convicted Ersland on May 26 of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a robber inside a south Oklahoma City drugstore two years ago. Jurors chose a life term as punishment. Ersland's formal sentencing is Monday.

Prosecutors contended at trial that he was in the wrong when he shot an unarmed, unconscious robber five more times after knocking the robber to the floor with a shot to the head. Jurors said afterward they agreed the prosecution evidence proved the robber, Antwun Parker, 16, was not moving on the floor.

Ersland has said he was defending himself and two female co-workers from the robber who was still a threat. He has claimed the robber was getting back up. A second robber, who did have a gun, had fled.

Sheriff John Whetsel, who operates the jail, and District Attorney David Prater declined to comment on the examination of Ersland's back. Lead defense attorney Irven Box said, “I know he's seen other medical experts other than jail medical people.”

At Monday's formal sentencing, defense attorneys may ask District Judge Ray Elliott to suspend part or all of the pharmacist's life term. The judge is not expected to cut any time off.

Many contradictions

The medical evidence about Ersland's back is the latest instance in the highly publicized case where the pharmacist has been caught in an apparent lie.

His first account to police about the shooting was contradicted by recordings from drugstore security cameras. He later changed his account and said he had been confused by stress and adrenaline.

Ongoing Coverage: Jerome Ersland

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