By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times –
HOUSTON — The two suspects in the deadly Good Friday shootings in Tulsa, Okla., entered not-guilty pleas Monday to murder and other charges associated with the shootings.
Susan Witt, a spokeswoman for the Tulsa district attorney’s office, told the Los Angeles Times that Jacob “Jake” England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33, appeared in Tulsa County District Court via closed-circuit television from Tulsa Jail, where they have been held since their arrest on Easter Sunday.
Police have said the pair, who were roommates, confessed to the shootings shortly after their arrest.
On Monday, Judge William Hiddle assigned Watts a lawyer and entered not guilty pleas for both men to charges of first-degree murder, shooting with the intent to kill and malicious harassment — the Oklahoma version of hate-crime charges — in the April 6 attacks.
Three people were killed and two wounded in the shootings, all African-American residents of Tulsa’s mostly black North Side. The dead were William Allen, 31, Bobby Clark, 54, and Dannaer Fields, 49.
England is represented by Tulsa lawyer Clark Brewster, who over the weekend released a video of his client recorded at the jail in which England said he wasn’t racist or prejudiced against African-Americans.
Some investigators have said the pair, who describe themselves as white, were racially motivated to avenge England’s father’s fatal shooting by a black man two years ago.
A day before the shootings, England apparently wrote on Facebook that it was the second anniversary of his father’s death, using a racial slur and saying “it’s hard not to go off.”
If convicted on the first-degree murder charges, the suspects could be sentenced to death. Prosecutors had not decided Monday whether to seek the death penalty, Witt said.
The men are scheduled to appear in court again for a preliminary hearing on May 30, Witt said.