March 22, 2013

Murder, burglary trial set for August

James Bright, Managing Editor,
The Express-Star

— The murder trial of Dustin Stewart, the man accused of participating in a burglary that resulted in the death of Stewart's accomplice, was continued this week until Aug. 12.

Grady County Assistant District Attorney James Walters said he filed a formal objection to the defenses motion for a continuance, but the continuance was still granted.

The defense council alleged discovery of new information and being called out of state for problems beyond the council's control as reasons for the delay, Walters said.

Stewart is being tried for murder in the first degree after he and accomplice Justin Martin, allegedly broke into then 18-year-old Sarah McKinley's house. Martin was reportedly holding a knife during the incident, which resulted in McKinley shooting and killing Martin.

Stewart allegedly ran after hearing the shot, but admitted to Blanchard police officers that he was with Martin when the crime was committed.

Walters said under Oklahoma law 707.7b, Stewart can be charged with murder in the first degree due to Martin's death.

"Oklahoma law provides that if you are committing certain crimes, burglary in the first degree being among them, that any coconspirator can be charged with murder one, if anyone is killed during the perpetration of that crime," Walters said.  

Although Walters could charge Martin with burglary, he said he does not see any need to file that motion, given it is a lesser charge. In order to make the murder one charge stick though, Walters said he will have to prove that the burglary offense did take place.

Blanchard officer Dan Huff testified for almost three hours in May of 2012 during a preliminary hearing that ended when Judge Timothy A. Brauer bound Stewart over for trial.

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

According to Huff's testimony, 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.