Commutation denied, life sentence upheld for pharmacist charged with teen’s murder

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The pharmacist serving a life sentence for killing a teen during the commission of a botched robbery was denied a commutation in a hearing Tuesday.

Jerome Ersland, 66, was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole after he was convicted of first degree murder. In 2009, Ersland shot unarmed 16-year-old Antwun Parker in the head after Parker and another tried to rob his pharmacy, Reliable Discount Pharmacy. Video shows Ersland left the store to chase after the second suspect, then came back and shot Parker five more times with another gun.

On Tuesday, Ersland made a plea to the Pardon and Parole Board for a commutation. His attorney and his pastor came to speak to his character. Attorney Kendall Sykes said it was too expensive for Oklahoma to keep a sick and elderly man who isn't a danger to anyone behind bars.

Ersland, via video conference, said he was sorry for killing Parker, but said he wasn't able to be any good to the community while he remains in jail. He also said he felt he had had an unfair trial with only one witness speaking for the defense, while the state had 18 witnesses. Finally, he again insisted the shooting was done in self-defense. He said when he came back into the pharmacy, he thought Parker had a gun.

"I went to dial 911 and as I did that I heard a noise, and I saw his arm knocked over two rows of men’s support hose on the bottom two rows," Ersland said. "And then I pulled a Kel-Tek gun out of my pocket and I fired, and that’s why I went ahead and had to shoot him. I thought he was reaching for a gun. He had a backpack on and I thought he was reaching for a gun."

At a hearing on Monday, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater described Ersland as an “executioner” in the 2009 shooting, not as a victim.

“He’s always said, ‘Hey, I was just being robbed, I was defending everyone,” Prater said. “The fact is he was a victim in the beginning. When the robbery began, he had the right to shoot Antwun Parker in the head but, when Antwun Parker went down… still alive and unconscious on his back, he was no threat to anyone at all.”

Two of the five members wanted to give him a shorter sentence of 15 years altogether, eight years added to the seven years he already served. But the other three members decided to uphold the jury's decision, that may keep Ersland in prison through the remainder of his life.

Ersland has the option to seek another commutation. Without one, he won't be eligible for parole until 2049.

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