Jerry Duane Martin, 43, was executed by lethal injection on 3 December 2013 in Huntsville, Texas for killing a guard while escaping from prison.
In 1991, Martin was convicted of theft and sentenced to ten years in prison. As a consequence of Judge William Wayne Justice's strict prison population caps that were in effect at the time, he was released on "shock probation." In 1995, he was returned to prison with a 50-year sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted capital murder.
On 24 September 2007, Martin, then 37, was working in a field squad outside the Wynne Unit in Huntsville with fellow inmate John Falk, 40. Their squad of twenty prisoners was assigned to work in an onion patch outside of the main prison fence. The onion patch was adjacent to the City of Huntsville Service Center, which was separated from prison property by a fence that was made of chain link in some places and barbed wire in others. A guard on horseback was assigned to each of the four prisoner squads working that day. Another guard on horseback patrolled the service center.
After the squads had been working for a while, Martin approached Officer Joe Jeffcoat, who was guarding his squad. Martin told Jeffcoat that his watch had broken, and he asked him to hold it for him. Jeffcoat agreed, and let Martin come closer. Jeffcoat then heard something to his left; he turned to see Falk walking towards him from the other side. When he turned back towards Martin, Martin was already at his side reaching for his .357 revolver. They began struggling over the gun, and Jeffcoat yelled for help. Falk then joined in the struggle, pushing Jeffcoat off of his horse. Martin was able to get the gun. He tossed it to Falk. Falk pointed the gun at Jeffcoat. Jeffcoat then heard his supervisor yell at him to get down, so he did.
Martin and Falk fled through the barbed-wire fence to the service center, then ran in separate directions. The guards focused on Falk, since he had the gun. Three guards fired shots at him, but were unable to hit him. Guard Susan Canfield, 59, who was patrolling the service center, then fired at Falk with her revolver until it was expended. As she reached for her rifle, Falk ran at her. He was able to take her rifle from her after a struggle. He then backed away from her.
Meanwhile, Martin found a one-ton, flat-bed pickup truck in the service center that had its keys inside. Martin stole the truck and rammed it into Canfield and her horse just after Falk had backed away from her. The officer and the horse were thrown onto the hood of the truck. Canfield's back and shoulders hit the windshield, and her head struck the roof. She was then propelled up into the air, coming down on her head, neck, and shoulder. Martin then stopped the truck and let Falk in the passenger seat. They then sped away.
Jay Miller, who worked at the service center, followed the truck after it left the parking lot. He called 9-1-1 and remained on the phone during the chase. Miller testified that at one point, the truck's passenger aimed the rifle at him and fired at him, but missed. Miller continued the chase on and off the highway until the truck stopped in a parking lot and the inmates fled into the woods. Miller parked his vehicle to block theirs and then followed them on foot.
Walker County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Smallwood and Huntsville Police Sergeant Ron Cleere arrived at a bank that was on the other side of the woods from where the prisoners stopped the truck. They both saw Falk run up to a pickup truck that was in the drive-through lane. Falk opened the driver's door, shoved the driver over, and got in. Martin, who now had the rifle, jumped into the bed of the pickup. Cleere fired seven shots at the pickup's tires, hitting one of them, but the truck did not stop. Smallwood and Cleere then pursued the pickup.
Falk drove onto Interstate Highway 45, but exited after only ¾ of a mile because the right front tire was shredded. He pulled into a grassy field next to some woods. Smallwood pulled his car into a ditch 50 yards away. Martin then stood up in the bed of the pickup, aimed the rifle at Smallwood, and fired, missing him. Smallwood and Cleere both fired at Martin as he ran into the woods. Falk also ran into the woods. The owner of the truck, Madilene Loosier, was unharmed.
Other officers then arrived at set up a perimeter around the wooded area. Huntsville Police Lieutenant Daryl Slaven apprehended Falk within an hour. He stopped and surrendered when he was found. Police and deputies continued searching the area for Martin. They first found Canfield's rifle. After about two hours, they found Martin's boots and some clothing. About 3½ hours after the escape, he was captured while hiding in a tree wearing only his underwear.
Susan Canfield died of severe head injuries. Her horse suffered extensive impact injuries plus a bullet wound and was euthanized.
Two weeks after Canfield's death, Martin wrote a letter to his brother, John, describing his escape attempt. "You will never know the resolve, the desperate courage it took for me to wrestle an armed guard off his horse - and take his gun away frome [sic] him, while having three other armed guards on horses shooting at you," he wrote.
Martin's trial was moved two counties away to Leon County.
Larry Horstman, who drove the flatbed truck stolen from the service center, testified that he always parked the truck in the same spot every day and left the keys in it. Officer Jeffcoat testified that he always saw the truck parked in the same spot every time he worked in the onion field. Horstman further testified that he heard his truck take off "real fast." Other witnesses testified that the truck was "floorboarded" and "going as fast as it could go."
Sergeant John Tucker, an accident reconstructionist with the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified that the tire marks indicated the truck accelerated while going into a turn near the point of impact. He stated that there was a clear space of over 40 feet on either side of Canfield in which Martin could have escaped the parking lot without hitting her. There was no evidence that Martin had braked or lost control of the truck.
Martin's defense at his trial was that he did not intend to kill Canfield and that her death was accidental. He claimed that he was trying to turn away from the horse.
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