The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

July 23, 2012

Murder trial could be costly


County officials must decide what course of action to take concerning the capital murder trial of one of the inmates charged with the death of a Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officer during an escape in 2007.
District Judge Ken Keeling talked to the Walker County Commissioners Court on Monday about how much it will cost to seek the death penalty for John Ray Falk Jr., who along with Jerry Duane Martin, broke out of the Wynne Unit in 2007 and allegedly killed 59-year-old Susan Canfield in the process. Martin, who was driving the vehicle that struck the horse Canfield was riding while attempting to stop the two escapees, was tried and sentenced to death in 2009 for his role.
Keeling said that it would likely cost the county around $500,000 for the trial, which includes attorney fees and other expenses, if the death penalty is sought.
“I plan to try this case in the fall and I just wanted to give you a heads up on how much it is going to cost since I know you are working on the budget right now,” Keeling told the court. “I was hoping that a plea bargain could be reached, but it does not look like that is going to happen.”
Martin’s capital murder trial cost more than $400,000, but the state of Texas reimbursed Walker County for everything except travel expenses. The state has dealt with budget issues since that 2009 trial and is now only offering $50,000, on a first-come-first-serve basis, to help with capital murder trials.
That means that Walker County could be struck with the rest of the bill.
“If we proceed with the death penalty, Walker County will have to pay around $500,000 out of pocket for this trial,” Keeling said. “... I think you need to prepare for this. Last time the state paid it back. This time they probably will not.”

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