Day: November 2, 2012

TEXAS – Death row inmates loses appeal – Jerry Duane Martin

NOVEMBER 2, 2012

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the conviction of an inmate sentenced to death for the murder of a Texas Department of Criminal Justice employee during an attempted escape from a Huntsville prison in 2007.

A jury found Jerry Duane Martin, 42, guilty of capital murder in 2009 for the death of correctional officer Susan Canfield. Martin used a stolen truck to ram a horse Canfield was riding while trying to prevent him and John Ray Falk Jr. from escaping from the Wynne Unit on Sept. 24, 2007.
Canfield was thrown from the horse and died as a result of head injuries she sustained when she struck the windshield of the truck and fell to the ground.
Jury selection is under way in Bryan for Falk’s capital murder trial for his role in Canfield’s murder. He is also facing the death penalty. Attorneys for the state and defense are interviewing potential jurors. More than 200 Brazos County residents were summoned and the process is expected to take a couple of more weeks.
The Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected Martin’s appeals, which contained 20 points of error during his trial three years ago. Among those, Martin’s attorneys alleged jury misconduct and that Martin should have been granted a new trial.
The defense argued Martin was denied an impartial jury because one juror withheld information that her family member worked for TDCJ when her husband had been a correctional officer for 18 months and had been stabbed by an inmate. The juror testified during a motion for a new trial that this did not influence her because it happened 17 years ago and her husband had said that he did not think the incident was a “big deal.”
Martin’s attorneys also noted that two other jurors were admitted to the jury who had ties to the Texas prison system. One had formerly worked at the Limestone County Detention Center and the other had been married to a man who was a correctional officer for 20 years.
The appeals court did not see any reason to overturn the trial court’s ruling and issued this opinion: “After reviewing appellant’s 20 points of error, we find them to be without merit. Consequently, we affirm the trial court’s judgment and sentence of death.”
Walker County grand jury indictments
A grand jury handed down the following indictments last week:
• Joe A. Thomas, illegal dumping commercial weight/barrel or drum.
• Juvenal Pimentel, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Willie Ray Shelton, possession of a controlled substance point grade two more than or equal to four grams but less than 400 grams.
• Christopher Tyrone Cooper, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Jerry W. Williams, driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Robert Cartwright, indecency with a child sexual contact.
• Angela Lee Morris, possession of a controlled substance point grade one more than or equal to one gram but less than four grams.
• Christopher Fazio, fraud possession of a controlled substance/prescription schedule I/II.
• David Karl Schneider, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Anthony Lamont Person Jr., possession of marijuana more than four ounces but less than five pounds.
• Kourtnae White, driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Jacqualine Christine Hardy, two counts of driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Shelton Bernard Hightower, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Leah Taylor Yeley, credit card or debit card abuse.
• Michael Quinn Sykes, credit card or debit card abuse.
• Robert Lee Austin III, credit card or debit card abuse.
• Kristin Winfrey, driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Christopher Damon Stuart, burglary of a building

Death row inmate Jason Sharp, convicted in 1999 Madison County slaying, to get new case review

NOVEMBER 1, 2012

The Alabama Supreme Court wants the state’s criminal appeals court to take another look at the case of Jason Sharp, who is on death row after being convicted of the 1999 rape and murder of Tracy Morris.

The case took years to go to trial before Sharp was convicted in 2006.

The appeals process has bounced back and forth from various Alabama courts since Sharp’s lawyers alleged prosecutors improperly struck black would-be jurors from the jury pool.

jason sharp.JPGJason Sharp is led from Judge Laura Hamilton’s courtroom by Madison County Sheriff deputies from left, Sgt. Emmanuel Simmons, E.T. Burrows and Avery Miller after being sentenced to the death penalty Thursday Sept. 14, 2006 for the murder of Tracy Morris. (The Huntsville Times/Robin Conn)Brian Lawson |

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors must have race-neutral reasons for striking jurors. Both Sharp and Morris are white.

The state’s high court today denied a request by the State of Alabama to reconsider its order from last month, directing the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to allow Sharp’s attorneys and the state to file new briefs on the issue of whether Sharp received a fair trial.

The dispute centers the complaint by Sharp’s attorneys that the prosecution improperly struck all but two of 13 potential jurors who were African American. The defense struck the other two black potential jurors.

In December 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the conviction andordered a hearing before Circuit Judge Laura Hamilton, who presided over Sharp’s trial. The court required prosecutors to spell out their reasons for striking black jurors. If the prosecution, led by Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard failed to persuade the trial court that the juror strikes were proper, Sharp would be entitled to a new trial.

The hearing was held and Hamilton ruled in June 2010 that prosecutors did not discriminate in picking a jury. The prosecution had argued a number of the black potential jurors said they opposed or would be reluctant to impose the death penalty, or didn’t appear to have the professional or social “sophistication” to comprehend technical DNA evidence.

Broussard said he struck twice as many white potential jurors based on the DNA issue and has insisted there was no discrimination in the Sharp case.

The sophistication argument was ridiculed by the defense for appearing to suggest the jurors weren’t intelligent enough. And in one instance, a woman with a bachelor’s degree from Alabama A&M University was excluded, the defense argued, but two white jurors with no college education did make the jury.

The case took another turn in February 2011, when the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the prosecution had discriminated against the black members of the jury pool and said Sharp was entitled to a new trial.

But in February of this year, the same court, though with a slightly different make-up,reversed its decision from the previous year and said prosecutors did not discriminate.

That ruling was appealed by Sharp’s lawyers to the Alabama Supreme Court. The court ruled Oct. 18, that the lower court must let the two sides provide briefs to the appeals court on the issue of whether Hamilton’s ruling was correct that the prosecution did not discriminate against members of the jury pool.