Self-defense is just that: defense. The concept is a non-issue. Enter Jerome Ersland, the Oklahoma City pharmacist who shot Antwun Parker in the head during a botched robbery attempt and, after chasing the second robber out of the pharmacy, returned, retrieved a second gun, then shot the unconscious Parker five more times. [Click here for more.] Ersland was accused of first-degree murder of Parker. And the jury verdict is . . .
Guilty. From NewsOK.com:
Jurors chose life in prison as punishment.
Two female co-workers at Reliable Discount Pharmacy told jurors Ersland was a hero who saved their lives on May 19, 2009. But prosecutors called him an executioner who shot a wounded, unarmed robber five more times after the robber fell to the floor unconscious and was no longer a threat.
Based on the verdict, it’s safe to assume that the court established that Parker was not dead as a result of the first shot to the head. Of course a head-shot brings with it a substantially higher chance of being fatal, if not instantly. But we also know that head-shots are not always fatal, as proven by Representative Giffords, who survived a head-shot at the hands of Jared Lee Loughner.
The Model Penal Code justifies force in self-protection when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force (like armed robbery) and is not required to retreat from his place of work. Usually states have their own take on the Model Penal Code as defined in their individual statutes, but typically work about the same. As for Ersland’s first shot, it was surely justifiable.
For murder, the Model Penal Code defines it as when someone causes the death of another human being purposely or knowingly.
In a way, Ersland’s situation is pretty straight-forward; he defended himself and others against an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm. But once Parker was down and unconscious, and the other perp was gone, the pharmacy was all quiet. Parker was no longer an immediate threat and when Ersland turned his back on Parker, retrieved another gun, then shot Parker five more times (regardless of whether Parker was dead or alive at the time).
Ersland at least showed purpose to cause the death of Parker by his conduct. Conduct that was distinctlydifferent from defending against the robbers’ felonious attempted robbery.
Prosecutors told jurors in closing arguments Thursday that the evidence proves Parker never moved again after a shot to the head knocked him to the pharmacy floor. They said Ersland’s own actions prove he didn’t consider the wounded robber a threat when he shot him again
“Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, an execution,” District Attorney David Prater said.
During the closing arguments, Prater played for jurors again the security camera recordings of the shooting. He stopped it at points, telling jurors the pharmacist turned his back to the downed robber to get a second gun to shoot the robber again.
“It’s a human trait. You don’t turn your back on something you’re afraid of,” Prater said.
No one would want to be sent to prison for murder after using justified force to neutralize a threat. The Ersland case goes to show that anything more than defense only will land you in the Big House.
Don’t let emotions get in the way of making decisions about when, or when not to pull the trigger. If the situation requires, neutralize the threat and that’s all. Remember to be cognizant of immediacy. Don’t turn your back on what could again become a threat, but don’t be an executioner either, as Ersland was found to be.