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An Oklahoma pharmacist has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for first-degree murder in the shooting death of a teenager who tried to rob the south Oklahoma City pharmacy where he worked.
Fifty-nine-year-old Jerome Ersland was sentenced Monday after Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott rejected a defense motion to suspend the sentence.
Ersland had no reaction and said nothing as the sentence was handed down. As he left the courtroom, he responded to a reporter's shouted question by calling the sentence "an injustice of a monumental proportion."
A jury convicted Ersland and recommended the life with the possibility of parole sentence for the May 2009 shooting of 16-year-old Antwun Parker. Defense attorney Irven Box said the conviction and sentence will be appealed.
Confronted by two holdup men, 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 Parker as he lay on the floor unconscious.
At the trial, prosecutors argued that Ersland crossed into the wrong when he shot the unarmed and unconscious Parker five more times.
Ersland contended that he was defending himself and two co-workers from a robber who still posed a threat.
'Please don't give up hope'
Thousands of Ersland's supporters have reportedly signed petitions pushing Gov. Mary Fallin to pardon the pharmacist, or ease his sentence.
"Please people, don't give up hope. We got 17,000 signatures in a month," Ersland's friend and activist Karen Monahan told KOCO.
Monahan told the station she is selling T-shirts and collecting signatures to help save the life of her good friend.
"The last time I talked to him (Ersland), he was over-excited. He's getting letters (of support) from people he doesn't even know," Monahan reportedly said.