Centre County man loses appeal of life sentence earned in robbery over drugs

mdawson@centredaily.comNovember 25, 2013 

Tyler1

Tyler Marlatt is escorted into the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., for the first day of his trial November 5, 2012.

NABIL K. MARK — CDT file photo Buy Photo

A Pennsylvania court has struck down an appeal by a Centre County man convicted last year of murdering another man over $25 of marijuana.

Tyler Marlatt, 22, is serving a life sentence for the stabbing death of 20-year-old Tyler Struble in January 2012 in the backyard of a Lemont home. Police said Marlatt went to rob Struble after Struble stiffed Marlatt’s girlfriend during a drug deal earlier that night.

Marlatt appealed his November 2012 second- and third-degree murder convictions and other counts as well as the sentence handed down by President Judge Thomas King Kistler.

In the opinion last week, the Superior Court denied all of Marlatt’s arguments, namely his contention that there was no evidence that Marlatt committed a robbery.

The court upheld Kistler’s ruling that the defense lawyer for Marlatt could not enter into evidence written statements by a witness who could not testify because he died before the trial.

Marlatt had argued that District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller had violated a pretrial court order about referencing his and his girlfriend’s drug dealing. But the court sided with Kistler, saying the prosecutor’s comments were allowable because there would be no way to try the case without mentioning the drugs.

In addition, the court also ruled that Marlatt was not prejudiced when the prosecution issued a report during the middle of the trial. The prosecution asked for the report after a witness revealed new information, that Marlatt may have been hit with a bat, and the report was necessary for the prosecution to disprove the self-defense.

Parks Miller was pleased with the court’s affirmation of the conviction.

“While we never have to prove motive for murder, in this case it was as clear as it was pathetic,” Parks Miller said in a statement. “Marlatt took a life to violently protect his faltering drug operation and show off his prowess to his girlfriend over $25 worth of marijuana.”

Marlatt’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Fatima Ghoul, was not charged in the murder but took a plea deal on robbery and drug charges. She’s a year into a nine-year minimum sentence.

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