Jury in Lemont murder trial should not hear self-defense claims, prosecution argues

Centre County prosecutors want the defense attorney in an upcoming murder case to be barred from telling the jury his client acted in self-defense when he killed another man after a drug deal in January.

Tyler Marlatt, 21, is facing charges of first-, second- and third-degree murder and other counts from the Jan. 16 stabbing death of 20-year-old Tyler Struble in Lemont. The trial is scheduled to start Nov. 5.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller expects defense attorney Ed Blanarik to claim self-defense to justify Marlatt’s killing of Struble, but she argued in court papers filed this week that Marlatt’s use of deadly force should not be accepted. Parks Miller said Marlatt provoked the argument at Struble’s house that became physical and ultimately fatal. She said Marlatt should have left the scene and was not in danger.

Parks Miller said Struble, on the other hand, did not have to leave — as the attack happened at his home — and he could have used deadly force against Marlatt under the Castle Doctrine.

Parks Miller also asked the judge to bar the defense from questioning police witnesses about what Marlatt told them about claiming self-defense.

Police said Marlatt and others went to Struble’s place to reclaim their money and marijuana after a drug deal went wrong minutes before on Southgate Drive, State College. Police said Struble met with Marlatt and Marlatt’s girlfriend, Fatima Ghoul, but drove off without paying Ghoul $20 for pot.

Ghoul sent Struble a text message telling him he was in trouble and that their posse was on its way.

In the court papers, Parks Miller also asks the judge to allow prosecutors to present evidence of Marlatt’s drug dealing as a motive for murder. She said it will be important to prove Marlatt and Ghoul were drug dealers, and she said the couple’s marijuana-selling business was not doing well.

Parks Miller also wants the judge to exclude any materials from trial that suggest Struble had a juvenile record.

The prosecution’s requests followed defense pre-trial motions last week. Marlatt’s attorney, Ed Blanarik, said in court papers that the marijuana found in Marlatt’s and Ghoul’s apartment and the text messages from Ghoul should be thrown out as evidence because they could prejudice jurors.

President Judge Thomas King Kistler has not ruled on the requests.

Marlatt has been awaiting trial in the county jail.

Ghoul pleaded guilty to robbery and drug charges and is awaiting her sentencing.