10-28-2016  3:10 am      •     

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A Tulsa County judge on Tuesday ordered two men accused of gunning down three black people and wounding two more in April to stand trial on first-degree murder counts.

Tulsa County Special Judge David Youll ruled that prosecutors had presented enough evidence against Jake England, 20, and Alvin Watts, 33, to bind them over for trial. Arraignment was set for Aug. 20.

Watts and England didn't respond to questions from reporters as they were led out of the courtroom in wrist and leg shackles.

The two also face hate crimes charges stemming from the April 6 shootings of William Allen, Bobby Clark and Dannaer Fields as they walked near their homes. Two others who were shot survived. The shootings happened in a predominantly black section of Tulsa, and all five victims were black.

Pete Silva, one of Watts' public defenders, said he would continue to argue that Tulsa police officers lacked probable cause when they arrested his client. Clark Brewster, England's attorney, pledged to renew his motion to suppress England's statement given to police, alleging that police violated his constitutional rights.

``If those statements are suppressed, there just isn't a whole lot of evidence in the case,'' Brewster said outside the courtroom.

First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said he was pleased with the outcome and added that he would be prepared to re-argue the defense motions to throw out statements by Watts and England. He also said the district attorney's office will now meet and determine whether or not they will seek the death penalty against one or both suspects.

``There's a long road ahead,'' he said. ``It's like a marathon, not a sprint.''

Youll ruled from the bench late Tuesday afternoon after the separate legal teams for England and Watts questioned Det. Vic Regalado, who conducted the recorded interviews with both suspects. He was among two witnesses who testified Tuesday in the state's case. The preliminary hearing had been continued from July 18.

Brewster implied in his questions about the interview that Regalado took advantage of England's youth and inexperience to secure a confession, which the detective denied.

``You have a 19-year-old kid with an eighth-grade education at 3:50 in the morning, and he's being confronted by a person ...,'' Brewster argued before the judge.

Shena Burgess, another of Watts' public defenders, argued that Watts' name never turned up in the anonymous tips that poured in immediately after the shootings and was left out of a warrant that a judge signed off on.

Regalado confirmed her statements, but said investigators were able to build a case using footage from a videotape at a gas station that placed Watts and England together on the night of the shootings and testimony from a witness who saw the shooters, among other sources.

The second witness called by the state was Nicole Bynum, a nurse at the Tulsa jail who overheard statements made by Watts and England during the phone calls they were allowed to make when they were booked. Because the case was so high-profile, she said, the pair made the calls in her office.

She testified that she overheard Watts tell his mother, ``Mom, this is your son. Have you seen the news? That was me. I killed two people.''

``He told her he'd be going away for a long time,'' Bynum added.

Bynum also overheard England say that ``Alvin sang like a bird.''

Defense attorneys made an issue of the fact that phone calls wouldn't be recorded in her office as they would be if the calls were made elsewhere in the jail.

Authorities say England may have targeted black people because he wanted to avenge his father's shooting death by a black man two years ago. However, England, who describes himself as Cherokee Indian, has said he has no ill-will toward black people.

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