John Ray Falk Jr’s capital murder trial in the death of TDCJ correctional officer Susan Canfield has been delayed again. State and defense attorneys are awaiting a ruling by the 10th Court of Appeals in Waco on a legal issue regarding jury instructions.
A Writ of Mandamus, delaying Falk’s trial in Bryan until a decision was made on the legal question, was filed before closing arguments in the murder trial began by Walker County District Attorney David Weeks. Weeks thinks the wording of instructions given to the jury by District Judge Ken Keeling made it harder for prosecutors to prove Falk had responsibility as a co-conspirator with fellow escapee Jerry Duane Martin in Canfield’s death.
During Falk and Martin’s 2007 escape from the Wynne Unit, Martin, who was driving a stolen pickup, rammed the horse officer Canfield was riding, resulting in her death.
Judge Keeling’s instructions to the jury, which includes questions jurors must answer to determine guilt, say that Falk should have anticipated Martin would murder officer Canfield by striking her horse with a vehicle. Prosecutors are asking the Court of Appeals to change the jury instructions, saying that there are no precedents in which the prosecution was required to prove a defendant anticipated the exact manner and means in which a murder was committed.
Attorneys for Judge Keeling, Lane Thibodeaux and Rick Metzel, say the instructions are written in the manner they are because of the language found in the state’s indictment of Falk. Attorney Thibodeaux also says there are no previous cases that say a judge may not include manner and means in the instructions to the jury.
Pending a ruling by the 10th Court of Appeals in Waco, Falk’s trial is scheduled to resume Monday in Bryan.