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Oklahoma pharmacist's trial postponed until next year

Prosecutors say defense efforts to remove Oklahoma County judge are making a mockery of the judicial system.
BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: November 16, 2010 at 6:48 am •  Published: November 16, 2010

The murder trial for the pharmacist who fatally shot a robber was postponed Monday until next year.

The jury trial for Jerome Jay Ersland was to begin Dec. 6. Instead, the trial judge has scheduled a hearing for that day on a defense motion for him to step down from the case. Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott did not reschedule the trial.

Defense attorneys want Elliott off the case because they allege he cannot be fair.

On Friday, they alleged he has made repeated racial slurs against Hispanics. They contend that calls into question his overall impartiality.

The pharmacist is not Hispanic.

They also contend Elliott gets legal research from his wife, an assistant district attorney.

Prosecutors on Monday in effect called lead attorney Irven Box a liar.

They pointed out Box on Nov. 1 agreed to let the judge decide the punishment for a Hispanic client, a drug trafficker.

They contended, “The inescapable conclusion is ... despite his claims to the contrary, he himself does not believe this court to be prejudiced against Hispanic defendants.”

“No competent lawyer would throw his Hispanic client upon the mercy of a judge whom he believes to be so racially biased against Hispanics as to warrant his recusal,” prosecutors wrote in a legal response.

Prosecutors further noted the pharmacist's four attorneys have not asked the judge to step down in any of the other 30 cases they have pending before Elliott.

Box said he and Ersland's other attorneys will be asking the judge to step down from all of their cases, including the drug trafficker who already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Box said they didn't earlier because “we didn't have all our ducks in a row.”

DA calls claims ‘a joke'

District Attorney David Prater said defense attorneys are making up accusations only to get the trial delayed.

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