An inmate whose daring escape from a Huntsville prison unit six years ago resulted in the death of a correctional officer said he “didn’t mean for it to happen” before he was executed Tuesday night.
Jerry Martin, 43, apologized to the family of Susan Canfield, who suffered a fatal head injury when Martin and another inmate escaped from a work detail at the Wynne Unit on Sept. 24, 2007.
“I would like to tell the Canfield family I’m sorry. I’m sorry for your loss,” Martin said. “I wish I could take it back, but I can’t. I hope this gives you closure. I did not murder your loved one, it was an accident. ... I take full responsibility.”
Martin told his family “I’m at peace” and that he loved them before he told the warden he was ready for the lethal injection to be carried out. He was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m., 11 minutes after the lethal dose began.
A group of more than 200 Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officers showed up at Tuesday’s execution with a riderless horse to show their support for Canfield and her family. A large photo of Canfield was placed outside the front entrance of the Huntsville Unit.
Charles Canfield, Susan’s husband, said he appreciated the support and that “this is a good day” because “justice has been done.”
“Jerry Duane Martin met his judgment,” the retired Houston police officer said. “He at least acknowledged what he did.”
Alan Holub, the husband of Susan Canfield’s daughter Kara, said Martin’s execution was an opportunity for the family to move on.
“This is a chance to close this chapter of the nightmare we have had to endure,” he said.
Martin, who was serving 50 years for attempted capital murder at the time of Canfield’s death, was working in an onion patch with inmate John Falk Jr. when the two overpowered a field officer in an attempt to escape. After scaling a barb-wire fence, Martin stole a truck from the Huntsville City Service Center on Highway 75 North, and was driving when it struck a horse the 59-year-old Canfield was riding while trying to prevent the escape.
Canfield was thrown from the horse and hit the roof of the truck. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The inmates fled in the truck before ditching it behind a business on Highway 30. Martin and Falk then carjacked Madilene Loosier at a nearby bank. They took her hostage and continued the escape in her red Dodge four-door truck before law enforcement officials were able to stop the vehicle.
Falk and Martin were later apprehended.
Loosier said she needed to witness Martin’s execution Tuesday for closure.
“I needed to see it for my brain to realize he was gone and I didn’t have to be afraid anymore,” she said. “It helped me.”
Martin, who was the 16th inmate to be executed in Texas this year, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2009. A senior district judge granted Martin’s request to waive his right to appeal his conviction in June.
Martin felt that his attorneys had put together a strong enough case to get him a new trial, which he did not want.
Falk is currently awaiting a retrial in his capital murder case for his involvement in Canfield’s death. A district judge declared a mistrial back in January because he did not believe the jury could come up with an impartial verdict because of a 55-day delay in the initial trial caused by a dispute over language in the jury instructions.