TULSA (AP) – An Oklahoma man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder charges in an April shooting rampage that killed three black people and wounded two others in Tulsa.
Tulsa Judge James Caputo entered the plea on behalf of 20-year-old Jake England, who’s charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill.
A second man charged in the deaths, Alvin Watts, 33, did not enter a plea, and his attorneys say they will enter one for him after filing several motions, including one seeking that their client be tried separately from England.
The pair also face hate crimes charges as a result of the deaths of William Allen, Bobby Clark and Dannaer Fields, who were killed over Easter weekend as they walked near their homes in a predominantly black section of Tulsa.
Prosecutors announced last week they would seek the death penalty against both men.
Dressed in black and white-striped jail fatigues, England and Watts did not speak during the hearing and both looked directly ahead and showed no emotion as prosecutors read into the court record the crimes they are accused of committing.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys said Wednesday after the hearing that they want the case to go to trial sometime this year. Caputo set a Feb. 25 hearing on several trial motions and indicated the court would schedule future hearings after then.
Rob Nigh, one of England’s attorneys, said he will challenge the prosecution’s decision to seek the death penalty, saying the evidence used to support the request is “legally insufficient.” First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond defended the decision.
At a preliminary hearing in July, England’s uncle testified that England and Watts treated the mass shootings as a contest. Timothy Hoey testified Watts told him a day after the killings that Watts and England each shot two people and England shot the fifth victim “that would break the tie,” Hoey said.
Hoey also testified that the day after the shootings, England used racial slurs to describe the people who were shot.