(Before we build more jails, maybe Oklahoma leaders should have an extended and honest discussion about the cost and effectiveness of the war on drugs. Read DocHoc's commentary this week in the Oklahoma Gazette.)
Has The Oklahoman issued an apology for a “knee jerk” reaction over the Jerome Ersland shooting case?
Ersland, as most of you know, is the pharmacist charged with murder in a case that has stirred local scrutiny. Ersland, 57, was charged with the crime after he shot 16-year-old Atwun Parker to death on May 19, according to media reports. Parker and a 14-year-old boy, who displayed a gun, entered Reliable Discount Pharmacy in an apparent attempt to rob it, reports state. A surveillance video shows Ersland shot Parker, and then chased after the 14-year-old, who had the gun and ran out of the store. When Ersland came back to the store, he shot Parker several more times, the video apparently shows.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater charged Ersland with murder after a medical examiner’s report showed it was the second volley of bullets that killed Parker, according to media reports. Since the shooting, Ersland ‘s explanation about the shooting has varied, according to a news report by Nolan Clay on Newsok.com.
When Prater first pressed charges, The Oklahoman ran a poll on Newsok.com and allowed readers to respond to the case. Many people posted vitriolic comments throughout the Internet that lauded Ersland and criticized Prater.
Now that the story has become more complicated, The Oklahoman has published an editorial, “Knee Socks: We punch it in before we think,” (August 5, 2009), that argues:
Thus we’ve had wrong-headed reactions to the Oklahoma City pharmacy shooting and the ugly arrest in Cambridge, Mass., among other incidents. Keyboard cowboys rode into the Not OK Corral in reaction to each of these before knowing all the facts — which assumes that all the facts are knowable.
What exactly does the “we’ve” mean? Certainly, The Oklahoman is criticizing President Barack Obama for what it, in its typical right-wing rhetoric, called his “thoughtless response” to the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest case, but does it also mean that the newspaper itself had a “wrong-headed” reaction to the Ersland case? Also, it’s simply wrong, if not nonsense, to compare these two disparate cases.
Then there’s this at the end of the editorial:
Perhaps we all need to think more before we speak or type.
Okay, that’s a solid argument to make as long as the newspaper includes its own staffers in the equation about this case and other issues. The Oklahoman, one can argue, actually helped fuel the rhetorical flames about the case when the charges were first announced. The newspaper should have been consistently urging people to withhold judgment until all the facts were sorted through.
For the record, I posted a piece (”In Defense of Prater,” May 31, 2009 ) on Okie Funk shortly after the charges were filed that argued for calm in the Oklahoma City community:
Now is a time for calm in the OKC community as the facts of the case get sorted out. It may well be, as Ersland’s attorney Irven Box predicts, that no jury will convict him. That seems like a good bet to make in Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean Prater should or could have ignored the law.
I still believe it will be difficult to convict Ersland of any crime, and everyone has the right to act in self-defense. Who knows what will happen with the case or what new facts may come up? But there’s one person who has acted with integrity in the case. As I wrote:
But Prater had no choice, with what appears to be obvious and public evidence, to bring charges given what has been made known about the case at this point. He deserves credit for standing with the law, knowing the case would generate massive publicity and he would draw heat. That’s real integrity.
If only The Oklahoman editorial writers had as much integrity as Prater. In an editorial in which the vague “we” is used to concede people—even, my gosh, its own great journalists?—should think before they act, the newspaper can’t even back off the right-wing rhetoric about the president they relentlessly attack.