The murder trial of Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Ersland, who shot a masked robber six times in May 2009 inside the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City, has been delayed until Dec. 6 and won't be televised.
The trial had previously been set to start Sept. 13.
Judge Ray C. Elliott, who took over as the trial judge yesterday after Tammy Bass-LeSure recused herself, made the decisions after meeting with prosecutors and defense attorneys today.
"I want everyone that appears before me to get a fair trial," Bass-LeSure told reporters after making her decision. "I think both the state of Oklahoma as well as Mr. Ersland deserve that. And I don't want anyone, anyone — rich, poor, black, white, green, Hispanic — to ever think that they can come into my courtroom and not receive a fair trial."
The last-minute prosecution effort to remove Bass-LeSure came as a surprise. Defense attorneys wanted her to stay even though she had ruled against them on key issues.
Lead defense attorney Irven Box said prosecutors moved against the judge because they "have got a really bad case."
"It's getting worse by the day and, for some reason, they're trying madly to try to convict Jerome Ersland... including, we believe, (by) intimidating a judge to get her off the case," Box said.
The defense attorney said it is the second time prosecutors this year have intimidated a judge to get the judge to recuse from criminal cases.
"Both of them have been African-American judges. We're upset about that," Box said.
Box was referring to District Judge Kenneth Watson, who this year agreed to step down from several criminal cases because of prosecutors' concerns.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Box's remarks were "pretty reckless words."
Asked if he is trying to intimidate anyone, the district attorney said, "No, that's not the way we operate.