By TIM TALLEY, Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Prosecutors can seek the death penalty against a former Marine charged with killing four people, including a prostitute featured on HBO's "Cathouse" series, an Oklahoma judge ruled Thursday.
District Judge Glenn Jones rejected a request from David "Hooligan" Tyner, 30, to prevent prosecutors from seeking the death penalty when his case goes to trial next month.
Tyner is charged in the Nov. 9, 2009, shooting deaths of Brooke Phillips, 22, who worked at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch near Carson City, Nev., Milagrous Barrera, 22, Jennifer Ermey, 25, and Mark Barrientos, 32. The victims were found inside a burning home in southwest Oklahoma City that witnesses at Tyner's preliminary hearing last year testified was the center of a drug distribution and prostitution ring operated by Barrientos.
Among other things, defense attorneys argued the death penalty is unconstitutional because it has no deterrent value and is merely retribution.
"It's not a deterrent and we can prove it," defense attorney Tim Wilson said.
In allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty, Jones said the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that the state statute is constitutional. He also denied other defense motions that attacked the death penalty, including one that alleged it is applied arbitrarily in the state.
Tyner, a mixed martial arts fighter, showed no emotion as the judge handed down his rulings. Tyner, who prosecutors said is affiliated with the Indian Brotherhood prison gang, was shackled by the wrists and ankles and wore a bulletproof vest as he sat at the defense table. Armed sheriff's deputies sat nearby.
Because Phillips and Barrera were pregnant when they were killed, Tyner faces a total of six counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Jury selection is scheduled to begin May 21.
Witnesses at Tyner's preliminary hearing testified that he and a second man, Denny Phillips, 34, planned to kill Barrientos because they were not happy with the amount of money they received from his drug and prostitution operation. Tyner worked as a bodyguard for Barrientos and Phillips participated in drug deals with him, according to testimony.
"It was just a big stupid situation over money," testified Karine Sanders, Phillips' girlfriend at the time. She said Tyner at one point said they could leave no living witnesses to identify them.
Assistant District Attorney Gayland Geiger said the case is still under investigation. Phillips has not been charged, and prosecutors have no evidence that he was there for the shootings.
Phillips is serving a seven-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institute at Terre Haute, Ind., on charges related to a shootout in Tulsa in April 2010 in which he was shot three times after allegedly pointing a gun at officers who found him at a motel, Geiger said.