OKLAHOMA CITY -- Judge Ray Elliott refused Monday to step down from the first-degree murder trial of an Oklahoma City pharmacist accused of shooting a would-be robber.
Judge Elliott denied a defense motion to recuse himself from the trial of Jerome Ersland. The judge said there was no credible evidence that he ever let personal matters affect his duties.
Defense attorney Irven Box said the judge should step down because the judge's wife, a prosecutor, provided him with a copy of an appellate court ruling he cited while denying requests to televise Ersland's trial. Box also said the judge used a derogatory term to describe illegal Hispanic immigrants.
Judge Elliott admitted making the derogatory comments, and apologized.
"I regret making the comment. I apologize for making the comment. I am not a racist," Elliott said.
Judge Elliott said his decision to deny the defense's motion would help prevent what he called "recusals by ambush," or defense attorneys' attempts to push for a switch in judge based on personal preferences.
District Attorney David Prater said he supported the judge's decision, calling Judge Elliott a "tough, but fair judge." Prater went on to say Box's motions were the defense's way of playing games with the court.
Box said he was not surprised by the ruling and he planned to appeal it. He said Judge Elliott is making a mockery of the hearing process.
"This isn't over. We're not playing games. All we want is a fair judge. We want a judge that's fair. If you listen to those two days of hearings, did we get a fair hearing in two days? Absolutely not," Box said.
Box has five days to enter a motion for a special judge to rehear the motion to recuse Judge Elliott.