Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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July 3, 2014

Testimony begins in murder trial — Plotting out a killing in advance versus a self defense claim — those are the differing sides presented as testimony began Wednesday in the murder case for an Elmore City man.

After two full days of jury selection eight men and four women were seated to hear the first-degree murder trial of Justin Hammer, 32.

With opening statements in the trial coming Wednesday morning it was Tara Portillo who said the state intended to prove Hammer had planned out the shooting death of Brandon Duran, which came on Aug. 7, 2012 at Hammer’s rural residence northeast of Elmore City.

Portillo, an assistant district attorney in Garvin County, told jurors the state also intended to prove Hammer had planned to dismember Duran’s body and dispose of the parts in one of his farm ponds.

She led jurors through a general summary of state witnesses meant to make the case and send Hammer to prison for the rest of his life.

“Brandon Duran was a son, a brother, a father,” Portillo said.

“He had no idea he was going to die on that day. He had no idea that he would be cut into 25 pieces. He had no idea those pieces would be placed in a dog crate and five buckets and dumped into the bottom of a pond.”

Portillo said Hammer fired a shotgun once into the side of Duran’s head, before then using a .22 caliber gun to fire three more shots into his head.

The evidence would show, she said, that Hammer planned out the killing by making two trips to a local hardware store in advance to buy items like plastic buckets and lids, concrete, bleach and latex gloves.

Those items, along with a saw, were used in the dismembering of Duran’s body inside Hammer’s residence, the prosecutor told jurors.

“All the evidence you will hear in this case will prove the defendant killed Brandon Duran — that he planned it, it was plotted, it was premeditated,” Portillo said.

One of two defense attorneys, Michael Haggerty, told jurors the state would have no problem proving his client killed Duran.

He stresses there’s a problem in other areas, namely Hammer was afraid of Duran and his threats as the killing was done in self defense.

“I expect Justin Hammer to take the stand when it comes to our part of the trial,” Haggerty said.

“Justin Hammer is going to explain that Brandon Duran is the one who broke into his house that night.

“Brandon Duran was threatening Justin Hammer and Justin shot him with a shotgun,” he said, adding another gun was used to shoot Duran.

“Justin had a decision to make and he made a very bad decision,” the defense attorney said, referring to Hammer cutting Duran’s body into pieces and placing them into a pond.

That part of it, Haggerty said, was due to Duran being associated with the California biker gang called the Bandidos — a group he said has a history of violence.

“Justin was worried what the Bandidos would do to him,” Haggerty told jurors.

“He broke the law. Cutting up the body and placing the pieces in that pond is a felony.

“The problem is that felony is not murder,” he said adding a not guilty verdict should come for the murder count.

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