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ScissorTales: Imprisoned pharmacist Ersland making still more claims

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: October 6, 2012

JEROME Ersland says his former defense attorney did him wrong.

Ersland, serving a life sentence for killing a teenager who tried to rob Ersland's pharmacy in 2009, wants the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn the murder conviction. Among other things, he contends his legal counsel at the time never told him that Oklahoma County prosecutors were willing to entertain a plea deal to a lesser charge such as manslaughter.

The attorney, veteran defense counsel Irven Box, says Ersland has his facts wrong. Certainly it wouldn't be the first time that's happened. Ersland's version of what transpired during and after the shooting have changed repeatedly since the moment police arrived on the scene. Now the state's criminal appeals court should take him at his word?

Box is something of a character, has been for a long time. But there's a reason he's been hired to defend countless criminal defendants through the years — he's very good at his job. He points out that the legal team in Ersland's case had more than 80 years' experience and gave their best effort with a difficult client.

Among those in Ersland's camp is state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, who says there is “no doubt that this was ineffective assistance of counsel.” This from a man who, while running in 2010, listed his occupation as “full time candidate.” Shortey has no law experience that we're aware of, but he's got grandstanding down pat.

Et tu, Gus?

State Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, believes the state budget process involves too few lawmakers and is too secretive. Blackwell notes that the budget deal is typically negotiated by only a handful of officials, including the governor and legislative leaders, then presented to all lawmakers to approve in a last-minute frenzy before adjournment. Lawmakers have actually been surprised to learn budget details after they approve the budget. We agree with Blackwell that the budget process has major problems. His idea to require that the budget plan be submitted to lawmakers at least two weeks before the adjournment deadline makes sense. Blackwell also suggests budget reviews begin months before the start of session. However, we're disappointed that he's engaging in reform discussions with other lawmakers in non-publicized meetings. If secret budget negotiations create a problem, is holding secret meetings really the solution?

A twister of fate

Weather trends that set records are sometimes cited to advance political causes such as anti-climate change initiatives. The word “record” is relative because recorded weather data only go back so far. Thus, the 113-degree day in August was a record high for Oklahoma City but not necessarily the hottest it's ever been here and not necessarily an indication that people are making things hotter. Here's a “record” you may not be aware of: No tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma from June 1 through the end of September. That's happened only once before, in 2003. But the records date only to 1950. Before that, who knows? Amid all the bad news about the weather this year, we can at least be thankful that the tail end of the spring tornado season wasn't all that newsworthy.

Changing times

Oklahoma continues to be a Democratic state, as least in voter registration, but just barely. And the trend line isn't encouraging for the party of Barack Obama. Democrats still have the most registered voters in Oklahoma, but Republicans and independents are growing at a faster rate. Since January, there has been a net increase of 45,094 Republicans; Democrats have increased their numbers only 6,940. The Oklahoma electorate is now 47.1 percent Democrat and 41.4 percent Republican. Among active voters, the gap narrows to 45.6 percent Democrat and 44 percent Republican. That continues a long-term decline for the Democratic Party. In 1980, three out of four Oklahoma voters were registered Democrats, and over half of voters were still Democrats as recently as 2008. Oklahomans are changing their registration to match the way they vote: Democrats have carried Oklahoma in only one presidential election since 1948.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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