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Pharmacist's jurors stunned by public criticism of verdict
Nolan Clay, firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2011 © The Oklahoman | Published: June 12, 2011
WARNING: THE ABOVE VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND DESCRIPTIONS OF GRAPHIC SCENES OF VIOLENCE.
Three of the jurors who convicted a pharmacist of murder say they followed the law and are upset and surprised at the public outcry against the verdict.
“I've had some family members that have basically stated they thought I was stupid and it was the wrong decision,” one juror said.
“I hate even watching the news for fear that I might see something about the case,” she said. “We didn't volunteer for it. We were asked to do this job and we took it very seriously.”
Jerome Jay Ersland, 59, was found guilty May 26 of first-degree murder for shooting a wounded robber five more times inside a south Oklahoma City pharmacy. Jurors rejected the Chickasha man's claim that he was defending himself and two female co-workers.
Thousands have criticized the verdict, signing petitions that state “our Justice System has let us down” or making their opinions known on Facebook and media websites.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated three hours and 30 minutes. They included a nurse, a radiation therapist and a top executive of an energy company.
During deliberations, the jury reviewed over and over security camera video recordings of the robbery and shooting, one juror said.
The recordings show two robbers burst into Reliable Discount Pharmacy about 15 minutes before closing time May 19, 2009. One pointed a gun. The other tried to pull on a mask. The two female employees fled to a back room.
Ersland shot one robber, Antwun “Speedy” Parker, 16, in the head. Parker can be seen dropping to the floor. The robber with the gun fled. Ersland chased the fleeing robber outside. Within a minute, Ersland came back into the drugstore, walked by the fallen robber and got a second gun. He then walked back to the fallen robber and shot five more times.
A key issue is whether Parker was moving when he was shot again. He cannot be seen on the video recordings after he falls. Prosecutors said the evidence proves Parker was unarmed, unconscious and not moving. Defense attorneys contended he could have moved even while unconscious.
Most jurors declined to comment to the media. The three female jurors who spoke to The Oklahoman last week did so upon the condition they not be identified.
The first juror interviewed — the one criticized by relatives — said the scrutiny of the verdict has been “very upsetting.”
“It wasn't an easy decision because you're talking about a man's life but also you got to consider the laws,” she said.
She said the physical evidence was clear the robber was unconscious and not moving after hitting the floor. She specifically mentioned how a pool of blood beneath the robber's head was undisturbed. “Once I saw the evidence, it was a no-brainer,” she said.
The second juror interviewed said she is trying to ignore the criticism.
“I stand by my verdict,” she said. “You just see it in the media, on Facebook, everywhere. Everybody has a comment and everybody knows about it.”
She said she wants critics to know that jurors had to go by what the law said.
She said, “There are laws and they're set. And we had to follow the laws. As a jury we had to follow the laws. … I think it was a good decision. It was the law.”
Of the critics, she said, “People don't know what they're talking about. … They don't know the laws. They weren't there.”
She also said: “It was hard to do that to someone because it's someone's life. It was extremely emotional for me. … He messed up is all I can say. He messed up bad.”
She said she has been around conversations criticizing the verdict. “I never said I was on the jury. I would just sit there, keep my mouth closed and feel like I was turning red in the face. It was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! Here they are talking bad about me and they don't even know it.' It was very odd,” she said.
The third juror interviewed said she also has been surprised at the outcry.
“I keep expecting it to die down and it's not,” she said.
The juror stressed that all 12 jurors took their jobs seriously and were respectful of each other in their discussions.
“None of us took this lightly,” she said. ‘I don't question that we made the right decision.”
She said the security videos showed the pharmacist was not in fear of the fallen robber when he came back inside the drugstore and got the second gun. Ersland “never even glanced at him,” she said.
She also stressed jurors followed the law in reaching their verdict. “You can't just do what you want. You have to do what's right,” she said. “You can't just make your own law.”
She said she wishes critics of the verdict could look at all the evidence the jury saw. She said then the critics could have informed opinions instead of gut reactions based on emotion rather than reality.
As punishment, jurors chose a life term. Their only other option was a life term without the possibility of parole. At the formal sentencing July 11, the trial judge could suspend part or all of the life term.
Ersland did not testify at his trial. He told The Oklahoman he is innocent but had expected to be convicted of first-degree manslaughter. He has said he was shocked when he was convicted of murder instead.