Practical Advice: Don’t Let Your Client Pay You in Guns

Wow.   A pharmacist accused of murder decided to pay his lawyer with his firearm collection.  When the Judge presiding over his case inquired as to how many guns, exactly, that collection entailed, a constitutional fight ensued.  Quick: which amendment gets play?  (Hint: it’s not the 2nd!)

“I gave every weapon of mine to my attorney. I swear to the Lord,” Jerome Jay Ersland said.

Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure last week allowed Ersland, 57, of Chickasha to be released on $100,000 bail but she banned him from any access to weapons. The hearing today was to see if he had complied with her order.

Ersland told the judge he no longer owns the weapons. Defense attorney Irven Box said he took the weapons and other personal property from Ersland as payment of part of the attorney fees in the case.

Box told the judge he has accepted other unusual payments in the past, including comic books.

The case arises out of Ersland’s shooting – in purported self-defense – of an individual robbing his store.  You can see the video here.  And as for the constitutional right to withhold information about Ersland’s gun collection?  That would be the right against self-incrimination:

District Attorney David Prater also said prosecutors could use the answer to that question against Ersland at trial.

The judge at one point said she would put Ersland back in jail if he didn’t answer her question but eventually she decided not to revoke his bail. She said she had learned a lesson and will not in the future let a defense attorney collect a defendant’s weapons.

This advice is generalizable. Take cash over credit, and credit over barter.  And never, ever, take the instruments of the crime.

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5 Responses

  1. Wait a minute – “take the instruments of the crime”? Wouldn’t that particular gun have been in police custody already, as evidence? I don’t think the alleged murder weapon would have been included in the transaction.

  2. Dave Hoffman says:

    That’s true!

    Doubly good reason not to accept it as payment.

  3. Bridget Crawford says:

    Seems to me there’s a great tax issue here, too. Did the attorney who received the guns as compensation report their value as income? If not, hello IRS and hello state ethics board!

  4. countertop says:

    Of course, who is to judge the value of the guns (and in fact, did he actually PAY his lawyer with his gun collection or simply give it to him for safe keeping??).

    Frankly, I’d love for a client to pay me in firearms. These days, their value – provided they are in decent shape – is probably more secure than even cold hard cash. Plus, they are as easy to move and convert to cash as any other commodity (much easier than land, or art).

    And, a halfway decent gun collection put together over the course of a lifetime of gun show shopping can easily top 100 – 200k in value if not more.