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June 30, 2014

Man goes on trial for murder

PAULS VALLEY — A man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend’s ex-husband, cutting up the body and stuffing the remains into cement-filled buckets goes on trial for murder this week under tighter-than-usual security.

Jury selection for the trial of Justin Hammer, 32, is expected to start Monday at the Garvin County Courthouse. Hammer has been charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 7, 2012, death of 32-year-old Brandon Duran.

Hammer has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge and faces possible penalties of death or life in prison with or without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Sheriff Larry Rhodes announced extra security measures for the trial, such as positioning additional deputies throughout the courthouse and inside the courtroom, according to The Pauls Valley Democrat. Visitors to the courthouse and their possessions will also be screened electronically, Rhodes said. No cellphones or other electronic devices will be allowed inside the courtroom.

The trial could last up to three weeks.

During an earlier hearing, Hammer’s defense attorney, Irven Box, said Hammer fired in self-defense after Duran forced his way into Hammer’s home.

First Assistant District Attorney Mark Gibson argued the evidence indicated Hammer planned to shoot Duran. Among other things, prosecutors produced invoices from a Pauls Valley hardware store during the preliminary hearing that indicated Hammer purchased five 5-gallon buckets, lids and bags of concrete the day before Duran was shot.

“We believe it was premeditated,” Gibson said at the hearing last year.

The buckets containing Duran’s body parts were recovered on Aug. 10, 2012, in a pond on Hammer’s property in rural Elmore City, 65 miles south of Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Agent Marvin Akers said during last year’s hearing that Hammer was taken into custody and claimed that he shot Duran in the face with a shotgun after Duran kicked his back door open.

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