Texas Court Seeks to Clear up Whether Inmate Wants to Die

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals asked a trial court Wednesday to determine whether a 51-year-old prisoner sentenced to die for a corrections officer's death during a 2007 escape attempt in Huntsville really is volunteering for execution.

Condemned inmate John Ray Falk Jr. filed his own document last month seeking to get rid of his lawyers and "expedite this process with as much swiftness as this court might allow," the state's highest criminal court said in its four-page ruling. The filing came after Falk initially sought to represent him in the appeals process, then said he wanted his appeals waived, and later decided to retain attorneys.

The court gave Falk's trial court 30 days to resolve any questions, then gave parties in the case another 30 days to submit legal briefs.

Falk last year pleaded guilty and received the death penalty for the death of Texas Department of Criminal Justice corrections officer Susan Canfield.

Canfield was killed in September 2007 trying to block the escape of Falk and another inmate, Jerry Duane Martin, from a work detail at the Wynne Unit prison in Huntsville. A truck stolen by Martin hit her horse. Falk already was a convicted murderer serving a life prison term, and Martin was serving 50 years for attempted capital murder. They were among about 75 inmates working in a vegetable patch outside the Wynne Unit prison at the northern edge of Huntsville.

Authorities said the escape began when Martin used the ruse of a broken watch to get close to an officer and snatch a weapon. He tossed it to Falk and ran to steal the truck. Canfield was hit as they sped off while shots were being fired. Her head struck the truck, killing her.

The prisoners abandoned 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. The inmates fled on foot.

Falk was apprehended within an hour. Martin was caught a few hours later, hiding in a tree.

Martin was executed in 2013 after requesting no additional appeals be filed in his case.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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