Although I am a proponent of our judicial system (got anything better to offer?) I am also of a mind that people that sit on juries are usually too stupid to get out of jury duty. A promise of a jury of one’s peers is an easy order, but to assume they will find anything resembling justice to always a crap shoot. One of the themes that was popular at the other site I wrote for was ,”What say you, jury?”, where we take an actual court case where the jury rendered a verdict, and dissect it a bit, either giving them accolades or raspberries. Sometimes we can’t be spot on, different laws in different states (what constitutes first degree murder may vary) and we are never privy to the jury instructions, the mutually agreed upon guidelines given to the jury by the judge as to what they are to consider, what definitions are important, and what hurdles must be jumped in order for a guilty verdict.
Today we examine a pharmacist who was robbed at gunpoint, but shot back, and was found guilty of first degree murder:
Over at livelink I found all 3 video feeds of the shooting, we can see much better from here exactly what happened.
Some things to consider, Oklahoma is one of a number of states that adhere to and recognize Castle Laws:
A Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine arising from English Common Law that designates one’s place of residence (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as one’s car or place of work) as a place in which one enjoys protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. It then goes on to give a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend that place (his “castle“), and any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack. In a legal context, therefore, use of deadly force which actually results in death may be defended as justifiable homicide under the Castle Doctrine.
Ersland’s defense was simple, he was protecting himself and his several female employees within his castle from a violent robbery where a gun was pointed at him. After downing one of the assailants (the one without the gun) and chasing the other out of the store, he returned but saw the downed robber (face down) still moving. He retrieved another (loaded) gun and felt still threatened by the downed man, either by movements or words ( he could not see the guy’s hands so was unsure if he had a weapon), he then shot the robber 5 more times until he stopped moving. Notice that we can not see the downed robber during the second shooting spree, we don’t know what he was doing, we don’t know if words were exchanged (no audio). Ersland contends that the robber was trying to get up and was still a danger to him and his employees.
The main question before this jury (and you, the rightthinking jury) is whether the downed robber represented a sufficient threat to Ersland, was it reasonable to assume that he should still feel threatened? Under the law, the right to use deadly force ends at that instant that the menace has passed, the right to self defense does not include killing anyone who was rendered defenseless.
In most states, first-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or “lying in wait” for the victim.
The jury deliberated for just over 3 hours, doesn’t seem very long to me, to come back with a first degree murder conviction so quickly, without being able to see the actions of the victim (was he a threat or not).
So there you are, was this a fair verdict, would you have voted for a lesser crime, or even vote to acquit ?
One last thing before I send you all to the jury room for deliberations, drinkingwithbob has an opinion on the matter.