The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX


December 30, 2009

Top Stories of 2009: Martin sentenced to death for murder of TDCJ officer

Editor’s Note: The following is 11th and final installment of an 11-day look back at the biggest stories of the year in Walker County.

HUNTSVILLE — A long-awaited moment came for the family of Texas Department of Criminal Justice officer Susan Canfield this year as inmate Jerry Duane Martin was found guilty and formally sentenced to death for capital murder.

Martin was found guilty of capital murder by a Leon County jury on Nov. 30 for his September 2007 escape from the TDCJ Wynne Unit and resulting death of officer Canfield.

After three days of testimony in the sentencing phase and almost eight hours of deliberations over a two day period, the seven-woman, five-man jury issued Martin the death penalty on Dec. 8.

“I feel the verdict handed down by the jury was appropriate,” Walker County District Attorney David Weeks said. “Jerry Duane Martin will pay for this crime committed in a community that so many have worked so hard to protect.

“I hope that the those who wear the blue and gray appreciate what was done for them,” he added. “And I hope this verdict brings some peace to the Canfield family.”

Martin’s sentence was finalized at a judgment hearing on Dec. 17 at the Walker County Courthouse under presiding 278th District Court Judge Kenneth Keeling.

“You have been found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death by the jury,” Keeling said to Martin. “The jury has deemed you a continuing threat to society, with no mitigating circumstances.

“You will be sentenced to death by lethal injection.”

Martin and fellow inmate John Ray Falk escaped from the Wynne Unit on Sept. 24, 2007, after wrestling former TDCJ field officer Joe Jeffcoat from his horse and stealing his weapon.

Falk exchanged gunfire with Canfield on the site of the adjacent Huntsville City Service Center, as Martin stole a city vehicle and ran it into Canfield’s horse, causing the officer’s death.

The two inmates were eventually captured, but not before leading law enforcement officers on a cross-town chase, stealing another vehicle and kidnapping its driver along the way.

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