Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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April 7, 2014

Few words for murder case witness — A judge’s ruling agreed with an Elmore City murder defendant’s motion Friday to not force his former girlfriend to take the witness stand and answer questions from prosecutors.

The hearing in a Garvin County District courtroom was for a handful of motions filed in the case of Justin Hammer, 32.

Hammer is facing a first-degree murder charge accusing him of brutally murdering Brandon Duran in the summer of 2012 and then attempting to dispose of his body, cut into parts, in a pond on Hammer’s own property near Elmore City.

One motion filed a few weeks ago by Hammer’s defense team asked that Amber Andrews be prohibited from being called as a witness in the case.

Andrews is the former wife of Duran and at the time of his death she was Hammer’s girlfriend.

District Judge Greg Dixon agreed not to compel Andrews to testify after her attorney announced she intended to invoke her 5th Amendment rights and not answer questions that might be self-incriminating.

“She will invoke the 5th and she doesn’t intend to testify,” Richard Anderson said about Andrews.

Although the issue was never invoked, Dixon agreed Andrews shouldn’t have to testify even to a very limited set of basic questions from prosecutors which he said had already been established in the case.

“I believe none of the questions would incriminate this witness,” said prosecutor Jennifer Austin.

Anderson stated his client’s rights outweighed any line of questioning that might come in the state’s case against Hammer.

“At this time I am not going to require Ms. Andrews to testify based on her attorney’s announcement she was intending to invoke her 5th Amendment rights,” Dixon said from the judge’s bench.

As for the motion, Hammer’s defense based its argument on the belief Andrews was also considered a suspect in Duran’s death.

“It appears that the state’s theory of the case will be that Duran was murdered so that Andrews could regain custody of (their) child,” Hammer attorneys stated in the motion.

“It is clear that Andrews is suspected of being the primary motivator of and an accomplice to the killing.”

During a preliminary hearing last year a handful of witnesses took the stand offering testimony ranging from Hammer’s admission of the deadly act and subsequent self defense claim to the defendant asking a friend to help dispose of the body after he had cut it into pieces.

Hammer has claimed it was self defense when he used a shotgun to fire the deadly shot into the face of Duran.

He told authorities that Duran was making verbal threats while forcing his way through a door at Hammer’s rural residence.

Hammer’s jury trial, which had originally been scheduled for later this month, as been moved to June 30.

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