Self-Defence or Murder? Outrage as Pharmacist Who Shot 16-Year-Old Trying to Rob His Shop Gets Life Sentence
Daily Mail (London), May 31, 2011
A controversial decision to send a pharmacist to jail for life for shooting dead a young man who tried to rob his store has caused a storm of protest.
Jerome Ersland was given a life sentence for the first-degree murder of 16-year-old Antwun Parker at an Oklahoma court last week.
The 59-year-old pharmacist shot the youngster six times during an attempted armed robbery in 2009, leading jurors to decide he had acted beyond the limits of self defence.
Thousands in the area have, however, reacted furiously to the decision, insisting Mr Ersland had simply acted to protect himself, his store and his customers.
The debate has now moved online, with many joining groups in his support and ones that argue his punishment is deserved on Facebook.
The argument is similarly divided on social networking site Twitter, with thousands sending out messages of support for either Ersland or the justice system.
One group on Facebook, titled ‘Jerome Ersland should not have been found guilty’ has more than 2,500 members.
Others, such as the ‘Jerome Ersland got what he deserved’ group have also attracted much attention.
There have also been petition sites started which hope to send more than 5,000 signatories to the government following the controversial court case.
Support has also come from notable public figures, including Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey.
‘I’m gonna spend the rest of my career, however long it may be, trying to right this wrong,’ he told ABC News.
Dramatic CCTV footage from May 19 2009 shows Antwun Parker and an accomplice running into the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City and pointing a gun directly at Mr Ersland.
The pharmacist, who was once an Air Force lieutenant colonel, can then be seen reaching for a pistol of his own before firing at the two young men, with one of the shots hitting Parker to the ground.
After chasing the accomplice from the store, Ersland then gets a second gun before shooting Parker another five times, almost a minute after he fired the first gunshot.
In court, Mr Ersland’s attorneys insisted their client had acted in self-defence.
Defence lawyer Irven Box asked jurors to close their eyes and imagine what they would do if they were confronted with the same situation.
‘He eliminated the armed robber,’ Box said.
Box added to ABC News that the pharmacist had shot repeatedly because he saw Parker was still moving after the first hit so deemed him still to be a threat.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Chance, however, argued that: ‘This defendant was absolutely not defending himself or anyone else.’
The jury responded after three and a half hours of deliberation by recommending a life sentence.
Ersland must now be sentenced by Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott on July 11.
If he upholds the jury’s decision, Ersland will not be eligible for parole for at least 38 years.
Ersland’s lawyers said they would appeal the murder conviction.