death penalty news—–TEXAS

July 15


Escapee pleads not guilty to murder

A former Celina resident facing the death penalty for killing a state
prison guard during an escape attempt entered a not-guilty plea earlier
this week.

Jerry Duane Martin, 38, and fellow inmate John Ray Falk Jr., 41, entered
their not-guilty pleas on Thursday in the Walker County District Court in
Huntsville, according to Walker County District Court records.

Martin and Falk are on trial for the murder of Susan Canfield, 59, who
worked at the Wynne Prison Unit in Huntsville and died after the pair
struck her with a stolen getaway vehicle as they made their escape on
Sept. 24, 2007. Walker County District Attorney David Weeks said
prosecutors will ask the jury to sentence both men to the death penalty.

Martin was serving a 50-year sentence on 2 counts of attempted capital
murder for shooting at Collin County sheriffs deputies during a car chase
near Prosper in 1994, according to Collin County Court records.

Falk was serving a life sentence for a 1986 murder in Matagorda County,
according to TDCJ offender records.

Martin and Falk made their escape in a field next to the state prison off
of Interstate 45 just north of Huntsville. Texas Department of Criminal
Justice spokesman Jason Clark said Martin was allowed to work in the field
since the prison considered him a minimum security risk or a G2 general
population inmate. Martin and Falk managed to overpower one of the field
correctional officers. They stole their weapons and a city pickup truck
and as they fled the scene, their vehicle struck Canfield who was on
horseback and killed her.

Huntsville police, Walker County sheriffs deputies and TDCJ correctional
officers began searching for the pair. Officers recovered the stolen
pickup not far from the scene of their escape, Clark said.

Officers first captured Falk just more than 1 hour later after they
abandoned a second vehicle. Police caught up to Martin in a wooded area
off of Interstate 45 and set up a perimeter so officers could comb the
area, Clark said.

Just before 2 p.m., tracking dogs from the Wynne Unit prison led officers
to Martin who was hiding in a tree. Police also found a shotgun in the
general area, and Martin did not have any other weapons on him at the time
of his capture, Clark said.

Both men were taken to the Estelle Unit near Huntsville and placed them in
solitary custody. Guards caught Martin trying to hang himself 3 days later
in his cell at, Jason Clark, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
spokesman. Martin tried to hang himself by tying a pair of his boxer
shorts to a light fixture, according to reports.

The trial date has yet to be set.

(source: Plano Star)


Howard County Joins Public Defender Task Force

It cost them nothing to join, but it could save thousands of tax dollars.
Howard County Commissioners said yes, Monday morning, to joining the
Public Defender Task Force, all to cut the cost of paying for a public
defender in a death penalty case.

Howard County averages one capital murder case every 10 years, according
to Judge Mark Barr, it's a matter of doing your math. And just like an
insurance policy, you never know when you're going to need it, "If you had
2, it's a good deal. If you don't have any, it's a bad deal. If you have
one, it's about the same."

It would cost Howard County, anywhere between $80,000.00 and $200,000.00
for a capital murder case. So it's no wonder commissioners voted to join
the Public Defender Task Force, which would bring that cost down,

Judge Barr tells NewsWest 9, they are missing one key player in the game,
"Howard County does not have an attorney that is certified to do capital
murder cases."

There will be no expense to the county this year but as the judge
explains, the fees will vary from year to year, "In 2009, we'll pay this
task force a little over $10,000 and in 2011, it's a little over $8,000. I
believe it escalates in 2012, to a little over 20,000 dollars."

You may call it a coincidence, but the commissioners decision to join this
task force, comes at the right time. There are already two potential cases
that would benefit from it.

"Of course we have one case that was kicked back to us on the Supreme
Court on just the punishment phase. So they're going to have to retry
that. That's possibly one. And then there's the potential of this drive-by
shooting that involved the pregnant girl. That could be another one," Barr

Commissioners can opt out of the program with a 180 day notice. So, for
now, Judge Barr says, it's a wait and see situation, "We're just gonna
kinda see, check the water and see how it is."

Tuesday's vote brings good news since Howard County has faced financial
difficulties in recent years.

Other counties in the Permian Basin that have already joined this task
force include Ector and Martin.

(source: KWES 9 News)