'Tainted' Jury Pool Postpones Trial For Pharmacy Murder Suspects

Monday, March 7th 2011, 9:31 am
By: News 9

Ed Murray, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A judge has delayed jury selection in the murder trial of two men accused of planning the pharmacy robbery that led to a teenager's death.

The trial was scheduled to begin Monday morning for 44-year-old Anthony Morrison and 33-year-old Emanuel Mitchell. Prosecutors said they planned the attempted robbery at Reliable Discount Pharmacy in May 2009.  Antwun Parker, 16, was shot to death by pharmacist Jerome Ersland, but Morrison and Mitchell are charged under a law that allows a suspect to be charged with murder if an accomplice is killed during a crime.

The defense argued the jury pool was tainted Monday because many potential jurists arrived with copies of The Oklahoman, which had a story on the front page about the trial.

"We had six lawyers preparing for this case, we had a judge who had the whole week scheduled for this case, and it was all derailed because of the press," said Jay Trenary, Mitchell's attorney

Trenary admitted everyone has the right to read the newspaper, but he said the newspaper only presented one side and that was a problem in the jury room when it will take at least 100 jurors to find 12 that had not already made up their mind about this case.

"When you're already skating that close to the line when you arrive at the courthouse and the banner of the paper is all the details of the case, that's just highly inappropriate," Trenary said.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater agreed. 

"There was some information in the article that probably did or potentially could taint the jury pool," Prater said. "I'm not faulting anyone in the media. I'm not faulting the newspaper. I'm not faulting the reporter at all. These things happen sometimes. It's just out of an abundance of caution, we have to make sure these defendants get a fair trial."

The judge continued the trial until April 18 when a new jury pool could be selected.