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Oklahoma Prisoner Beaten to Death After Celled with Co-Defendant He Testified Against

On March 11, 2009, at approximately 9:15 p.m., Paul David Duran, Jr., 23, a prisoner at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) in McAlester, was found beaten to death fifteen minutes after being locked in a cell with Jessie James Dalton, 32, who was serving a sentence of life without parole after Duran testified against him in a murder trial.

In March 2002, Dalton, then 25, shot Billy Ray Wayne during an armed home invasion; he was accompanied by Duran and Warren Allen Plank, both then 16. Duran was remorseful and testified against Dalton in a plea bargain that reduced his charge to robbery with a firearm and resulted in a 28-year sentence. Duran tearfully apologized to Wayne’s family, who forgave him. Plank pleaded guilty to robbery with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 20 years, which he is serving at the Lawton Correctional Facility.

As antagonistic co-defendants, Dalton and Duran were listed in prison records as “separatees” who were never to be housed together. No official explanation has been given for why Duran was celled with Dalton in violation of prison policy. Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said an investigation is pending into why the two men were housed together. “At that point [in the days after Duran’s death], to me, it looked fairly straightforward, as to what happened,” he said. “But ... it never really is straightforward.”

Both Dalton and Duran had previously been incarcerated at the Dick Conner Correctional Facility in Hominy, a medium-security prison, and had been moved to the maximum-security OSP following unrelated disciplinary problems. Dalton was caught with a shank while at Conner. A shank was discovered in Duran’s cell shortly before his death; he was moved to another cell, but fought with his new cellmate. He was then moved into Dalton’s cell where he was beaten to death in short order.

Duran’s family said they felt betrayed by prison officials and are considering legal action. The administrative investigation was completed in July 2009, but at that time the Department of Corrections had not determined whether any prison employees would be disciplined. A criminal investigation is also pending. Three other Oklahoma state prisoners have been killed this year, all in July and all at OSP.

Sources:, Oklahoman

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