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.
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.
Convicted sex offenders in the California community of Simi Valley have sued to overturn limits on their participation in Halloween activities. Local ordinances prohibit registered sex offenders from displaying Halloween decorations, answering the door to trick-or-treaters or having outside lighting after dark on Oct. 31. They are also required to post signs on their front doors reading, in 1-inch letters, “No candy or treats at this residence.” The lawsuit alleges the regulations violate the sex offenders' First Amendment rights. The group's attorney, Janice Bellucci, told a local NBC affiliate, “It's similar to Jews in Nazi Germany who had to wear the yellow star on their clothing.” Baloney. What the Nazis did to Jews was a crime against humanity. The only thing comparable in this scenario is not the limitations on sex offenders on Halloween, but what those criminals did to their victims, including children.
Where's the hope?
Barack Obama promised “hope and change” four years ago. The latest U.S. birthrate statistics indicate that hope continues to be lacking. There were fewer than 4 million births in this country in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a decrease of 1 percent over 2010 and the fourth straight year of decline. It's easy to read too much into any set of statistics, but our sense is that couples, particularly younger couples, are having a tough time seeing the upside of having children during this extended period of slow economic growth and high unemployment. The birth of a child is the ultimate sign of hope for the future. The continued slide in U.S. births reflects the opposite.
Nothing to sneeze at
A report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranks Oklahoma City the seventh most difficult place to live with allergies; Tulsa ranks 19th. Those rankings are based on an analysis of pollen sores, the number of allergy medications used per patient and the number of allergy specialists per patient. The AAFA estimates 366,000 Oklahomans have asthma and over 479,000 have nasal allergies. The AAFA notes legislation filed this year could have negatively impacted those allergy sufferers by requiring them to get a prescription for all medicines containing pseudoephedrine as part of an anti-meth effort. That bill failed. We were among those concerned the proposed law would increase cost and inconvenience for honest citizens without an offsetting long-term improvement to public safety. The meth epidemic is one reason so many pseudoephedrine products sell in Oklahoma, but that isn't the only cause. Oklahoma has a lot of allergy sufferers as well.
Looking good in Utah
The resilient spirit of Brigham Young is evident today in Utah. While many states are hurting in this economy, Utah is doing well. The city of Provo, home to Brigham Young University, is helping the cause by growing three times faster than the national average and keeping its unemployment rate below 6 percent. The city has half a billion dollars in construction projects under way. As a state, Utah has done such things as cut the individual tax rate, lower corporate taxes and eliminate some burdensome business regulations. It also replaced its fixed-benefit public pension system with a different plan. “I don't think there's any great secret weapon to what we've done,” Republican Gov. Gary Herbert tells stateline.org. Other states would be wise to take note.