HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A man sentenced to 50 years in prison for attempted capital murder had a sufficiently clean disciplinary record that he became eligible for field work outside a Huntsville-area penitentiary. But that privilege wasn't enough for Jerry Martin and another inmate who together made a bold dash for freedom from the onion and pepper patch where they worked — and killed a corrections officer in the process.
Martin, 43, is set for execution Tuesday in the 2007 death of 59-year-old Susan Canfield, who had worked for the prison system for seven years.
Martin requested appeals in his case be dropped and no actions taken to delay his scheduled lethal injection.
"I can't say I fully support him, but he's at peace with his decision," one of Martin's attorneys, David Schulman, said last week. "This is what he wants to do. He's not being pressured into this. He just doesn't want to live the rest of his life in prison."
Martin declined to speak with reporters as his execution date neared, but he told a judge in Huntsville earlier this year that he thought he had "done the wrong thing" all his life.
"This is my one chance to do the right thing," he said at a June hearing before State District Judge John Delaney. "I've made my peace with God. And I'm grateful that I've had this opportunity ... to accept what I've done wrong and take responsibility for my actions and die with a little bit of dignity. And a lot of people don't have that."
On Sept. 24, 2007, Martin and John Falk Jr., a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, bolted from the inmate work crew outside the Wynne Unit prison at the northern edge of Huntsville. Martin jumped into a truck at a nearby city service center and rammed it into Canfield, who was on horseback. The horse threw Canfield and her head struck the edge of the truck roof and windshield, killing her.
Authorities said the getaway began when Martin snatched an officer's weapon and tossed it to Falk. Shots were fired as the two sped off. They dumped the pickup about a mile away and carjacked a woman at a bank drive-thru. Huntsville police pursuing them shot out a tire in that car and the inmates fled on foot.
Falk was apprehended within an hour. Martin was caught a few hours later hiding in a tree.
Martin was convicted in 2009 in Canfield's death and sentenced to die. A judge declared a mistrial in Falk's capital murder case and he is awaiting a retrial.
A prison agency investigation found that the number of officers supervising the 75 inmates was sufficient that day, but recommended the firing of a supervising sergeant for failing to follow procedures. That sergeant resigned.
Martin's execution would be the 16th and last this year in Texas, which carries out more executions than any other state. Sixteen is about average for the number of executions in Texas over the last five years. At least six are scheduled for early 2014.