Huntsville Capital Murder Trial Starts Monday in BryanFeatured Stories, News Sunday, November 25th, 2012
BRYAN, Texas (AP) — A convicted killer already serving a life prison term for murder is now facing a possible death sentence for an escape attempt five years ago that left a Texas corrections officer dead.
Opening statements and the start of testimony were set for Monday in the capital murder trial of John Ray Falk Jr., 45, for the September 2007 breakout from a prison work detail in Huntsville.
Susan Canfield, 59, a seven-year Texas Department of Criminal Justice officer, was killed as Falk and fellow prisoner Jerry Martin broke away from the inmate work crew outside the Wynne Unit prison. Martin jumped into a nearby Huntsville city truck and rammed it into Canfield, who was on horseback. The horse threw her and she struck the windshield of the truck before tumbling to the ground.
Canfield, from New Waverly, died of head injuries. No state corrections officer has been killed by an inmate since then.
Martin, 42, was convicted of capital murder three years ago and sentenced to die. At the time of the escape, he was serving 50 years for attempted capital murder out of Collin County in suburban Dallas. Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld his conviction and death sentence. He still can pursue federal appeals and he does not have an execution date.
Walker County District Attorney David Weeks is seeking the death penalty against Falk, who is accused under Texas’ law of parties that makes an accomplice equally liable as the actual killer.
State District Judge Ken Keeling agreed to a defense request to move Falk’s trial from Huntsville to Bryan, about 50 miles to the west. Martin’s case was moved from Huntsville to Centerville, about 50 miles to the north. The judge also has imposed a gag order on people in Falk’s case.
After three weeks of individual interviews with potential jurors from Brazos County, prosecutors and defense attorneys selected 14 jurors, two of them alternates. The guilt-innocence portion of the trial is expected to last about two weeks.
Falk already had been in prison since 1986 with a life sentence for a murder conviction in Matagorda County.
Both inmates, however, had been classified as minimum security prisoners based on their good disciplinary record and were assigned to do field work outside the prison under the supervision of officers.
A prison agency investigation of the escape faulted a supervising sergeant, who subsequently was recommended for dismissal and resigned, for failing to follow procedures and allowing the opportunity for Falk and Martin to bolt from the 76-inmate detail working near the prison in a field near Interstate 45.
The sergeant and Canfield, both on horseback, were among nine officers guarding the work crew, which authorities determined was an adequate amount of security. But agency investigators said the sergeant allowed Martin to improperly approach him under the guise of holding his broken watch and divert his attention from Falk.
Falk created some kind of distraction and Martin was close enough to rush him and try to get the sergeant’s .357-caliber revolver. Falk joined Martin in the struggle where Martin grabbed the gun and tossed it to Falk, who pointed it at the sergeant. When the sergeant stopped resisting, the inmates climbed a barbed wire fence and ran into a parking lot where Canfield was on her horse.
Falk began firing at her as she and other officers returned fire. He reached Canfield, stuck the revolver in her side and grabbed her rifle. Martin by then had jumped into the truck and rammed Canfield and her horse, then both inmates sped off. They dumped the pickup about a mile away and carjacked a woman in a bank drive-through. Huntsville police pursuing them shot out a tire in that car and the inmates ran away on foot.
Falk was apprehended within an hour. Martin was caught hiding in a tree about 3 1/2 hours later. The next day, Martin unsuccessfully tried to hang himself in his cell.
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