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Judge sets Dec. 3 death date in murder of CO

Jerry Duane Martin is scheduled to be put to death on Dec. 3 for the 2007 slaying of Texas Department of Criminal Justice employee Susan Canfield

By Cody Stark
The Huntsville Item

HUNTSVILLE — A senior district judge has set an execution date for a Texas death row inmate who was convicted of capital murder in the death of a correctional officer five years ago.

Jerry Duane Martin, 43, is scheduled to be put to death on Dec. 3 for the 2007 slaying of Texas Department of Criminal Justice employee Susan Canfield during an attempted escape from the Wynne Unit. District Judge John Delaney signed the order for the execution this week.

“Jerry Martin has given up his appeals and Judge Delaney set the execution date for Dec. 3. I expect that to occur,” Walker County District Attorney David Weeks said Thursday. “I hope it provides some closure for the victims in this case — Mrs. Canfield’s family and other people affected by Martin’s and (John) Falk’s actions.”

Martin and another inmate, John Ray Falk Jr., escaped from a work detail at the Wynne Unit in September 2007. Martin stole a truck from the city of Huntsville Service Center, and while driving, struck the horse Canfield was riding while trying to prevent the escape. Canfield suffered fatal head injuries and died at the scene.

At the time of the attempted escape, Martin was serving a 50-year sentence for two counts of attempted capital murder with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Martin was granted a motion to drop appeals for his capital murder conviction by Delaney in June during a habeas corpus hearing at the Walker County Courthouse. Martin said at the time he felt “it was the right thing to do.”

“Earlier this year on Feb. 18, my father passed away,” Martin told Delaney on June 14. “... For the first time in my life I felt what it was like to lose a loved one. ... I think Mrs. Canfield’s family deserves that closure.”

Delaney questioned Martin to make sure he was competent to make such a decision before granting the motion to waive Martin’s right to an appeal.

Martin’s attorneys, David Schulman and John Jasuta, both of Austin, told Delaney they felt their case for Martin’s appeal was strong and they did not agree with his decision to drop it, but it was his decision to make.

It is not known if Martin’s execution will be carried out on Dec. 3. TDCJ officials said in August that its supply of pentobarbital, the drug used in executions, will run out this month and the agency is looking for a substitute.

Thursday’s execution of convicted killer Robert Gene Garza could be the last using the state’s existing supply of the drug. There is an execution scheduled for next week, three in October and one in November ahead of Martin.

“We have not changed our current execution protocol and have no immediate plans to do so,” a spokesman for TDCJ said Thursday.

Falk is currently awaiting a new capital murder trial for his role in Canfield’s death. District Judge Ken Keeling declared a mistrial during Falk’s initial trial in January, citing he did not believe the jury could come up with an impartial verdict because of a 55-day delay in the proceedings caused by a dispute over language in the jury instructions.

Delaney was appointed to preside over both Martin’s and Falk’s capital murder cases after Keeling recused himself.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Delaney ruled against a motion filed by Falk’s defense attorneys in June barring a retrial. Falk’s lawyers are currently appealing that ruling.

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