It sounds like a bad case for the prosecution when you read about it:
Confronted by two holdup men, pharmacist Jerome Ersland pulled a gun, shot one of them in the head and chased the other away. Then, in a scene recorded by the drugstore’s security camera, he went behind the counter, got another gun, and pumped five more bullets into the wounded teenager as he lay on the floor.
Now Ersland has been charged with first-degree murder in a case that has stirred a furious debate over vigilante justice and self-defense and turned the pharmacist into something of a folk hero.
Ersland, 57, is free on $100,000 bail, courtesy of an anonymous donor. He has won praise from the pharmacy’s owner, received an outpouring of cards, letters and checks from supporters, and become the darling of conservative talk radio.
When I read about someone like that, I really want to be on his side. How do we know he wasn’t worried about the guy pulling a gun on him and killing him?
But then you see the video, and you realize that the guy didn’t seem very concerned at all:
Now, granted: we can’t see what the guy on the floor is doing. And even if he’s not moving, I feel some sympathy for the pharmacist. He didn’t ask to be robbed at gunpoint. If he had killed one of these guys with the first shot, the other robber could have been prosecuted for murder.
But the pharmacist just doesn’t look concerned to me. And he apparently lied to the police about what he did. It looks to me like he just decided to execute this kid. Based on this tape, he looks guilty — if not of first-degree murder (and it may well be that), then at least of voluntary manslaughter. (He could likely raise a defense of heat of passion under California law and have a decent shot at selling that to a jury.)
What do you think?
UPDATE: Corrected “store owner” to “pharmacist” in one sentence.