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May 24, 2012

Tempers flared at Stewart's preliminary hearing

Going to trial for being at crime scene when friend was killed

— He ran when the shot rang out but Dustin L. Stewart walked into the Blanchard Police De-partment about 30 minutes later to talk about the crime that resulted in the Dec. 31, 2011, shooting death of his friend, Justin Martin.

In an incident that gained national and international news coverage, Martin was shot by 18-year-old Sarah McKinley after he reportedly forced his way into her home with a knife in his hand.

Under Oklahoma law, a person can be charged with murder if an accomplice dies while in the commission of a felony.

That's the predicament that Stewart finds himself in. He didn't pull the trigger, but he admitted to investigators that he was with Martin at the home when the crime was committed.

Blanchard officer Dan Huff testified for almost three hours Wednesday in a preliminary hearing that ended when Judge Timothy A. Brauer bound Stewart over for trial.

Brauer ruled that the prosecution had shown probable cause and established that Stewart was in violation of the statute.

A formal arraignment will be held at 9:00 a.m. June 28.

Huff answered a continuous stream of questions from Grady County First District Attorney James Walters and Defense Attorney Stephen Buzin.

Tempers flared and the tension was thick between the two attorneys as each frequently objected to the other's line of questioning.

Buzin contended that Walters had not established a foundation for his line of questioning and Walters stood up several times to object that Buzin would not let the witness finish his answers without cutting him off and redirecting questions.

Buzin accused the witness of being evasive in his answers.

Walters objected to questions based on "hearsay" and Buzin snipped to the judge that  he had allowed hearsay in his court before.

Stewart, dressed in a plaid shirt opened at the front to show a cross around his neck, stayed relatively still and quiet throughout the heated exchanges among the attorneys and the testimony of officer Huff.

When the prosecution handed a photograph of the deceased Martin (showing a knife in his gloved hand) to Buzin seated at the table, Stewart looked straight ahead. After Buzin had Stewart look at the photo and a short discussion, Stewart looked forward and wiped his eyes.

Huff, who stayed steady and at times answered slowly under Buzin's rapid-fire, sharp-tongued questioning, said that Stewart admitted during the investigation that he had gone with Martin to the McKinley residence.

"Mr. Stewart related to me that Justin shared with him a plan to make entry into the home," Huff testified.

Apparently, there were narcotics – prescription drugs – in the home, as McKinley's husband had recently passed away and he wanted to get those, the officer said.

"Mr. Stewart said he knew Martin about four years and that he was addicted to painkillers due to an injury – bullriding or something. He had a back injury. They had shared hydrocodone, which they took about 30 minutes before entering the home," Huff said.

The officer also said Stewart related he was uncomfortable with the plan and stood back several feet to watch as Martin entered the home.

Stewart originally told officers that he and Martin were on the property to ask permission to use an entry gate to remove nearby scrap metal. Huff said Stewart later provided different information, noting they were after narcotics.

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