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California Couple Pleads Not Guilty on Charges They Shot and Killed Daughter’s Pimp

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.) -- A San Francisco couple accused of murdering the man they say pimped their teenage daughter could face the death penalty if they're found guilty.

Barry Gilton, 38, and Lupe Mercado, 37, pleaded not guilty Friday, as friends and family members packed the courtroom to support them. Because the couple allegedly planned what District Attorney George Gascon called a "vigilante murder," they are eligible for the death penalty, according to KGO-TV, ABC's San Francisco station.

Gilton's and Mercado's defense lawyer said he thinks prosecutors are making a "big mistake."

"This case is getting more ridiculous by the day if they go after our clients with the death penalty," Tony Tamburello, the defense attorney, told KGO-TV.

The parents allegedly shot and killed Calvin Sneed, 22, close to their Bayview home on June 4. They had also allegedly followed him to North Hollywood just days before, and shot at his car but failed to fatally wound him.

The couple had tried to get their daughter to come home, without success, and sought help from San Francisco police as well, filing a missing persons and abuse report, Eric Safire, Gilton's attorney, said.

The DA acknowledged that Gilton and Mercado were also victims, because they were trying to get their 17-year-old-daughter back, but "murder is murder."

"Basically, what we have is we have the parents who become the judge, the jury and executioners," Gascon told KGO-TV.

"The death penalty is not a tool that I am in favor of," Gascon said. "But, again, in order for us to seek other remedies, we have to use special circumstances that were appropriate in this case."

Sneed's father admitted that his son was a pimp, but said he felt his murder was undeserved.

Defense attorneys said Sneed had other enemies who wanted him dead.

The couple's daughter and her siblings are safe and staying with family members, according to KGO-TV.

Gilton, a San Francisco public transit driver who is on disability, and Mercado were both ordered held on $2 million bail. They are scheduled back in court Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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