Execution of Jerry Martin. Huntsville Prison, Walls Unit. Huntsville.
It was good that God kept the secrets of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.
—Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
At six p.m on December 3rd, Jerry Martin was strapped to a gurney at the Huntsville Prison and administered a fatal dose of pentobarbital, a drug most commonly used to euthanize animals. He became the 16th Texas inmate to be executed in 2013, and the 508th since the State reinstated capital punishment in 1982. Martin was a “volunteer” in the parlance of the death penalty movement; he had waived all appeals and was prepared to die. “He’s rational, and he knows what he’s doing,” John Jasuta, one of his attorneys, told me the day before. “We respect his wishes, yet It is with great sadness that we stand by.”
The street directly in front of the prison’s main entrance was cordoned off with police tape, but a small group of onlookers —no more than a couple dozen— gathered in a parking lot on the corner. It was a quiet affair; there were no signs, no raised voices, and no overt signs of demonstration. The group received nothing in the way of attention from prison staff or the media, and the execution took place without any official notifications or announcements. The veterans in the group knew that the execution was proceeding as planned, and on schedule, when a procession of witnesses were herded from an administration building and up the main steps of the prison shortly before six. By this time Jerry Martin’s youngest brother, Dustin, and a niece and nephew had joined the vigil in the parking lot.
Ten members of Martin’s family had made the long drive from Celina, Dustin said, and only a handful were allowed inside to witness the execution. “The world isn’t a black-and-white place,” Dustin told me. “My brother made some big mistakes, but we love him, and he’s not a bad man.”
Dustin Martin learned of his brother’s death when a group of people started filing back out the front door up the street shortly after 6:30. “There’s my big brother John and my sisters,” Dustin said. “I guess that means it’s over.” He and his niece and nephew hung around for a bit longer, crying with and embracing strangers, and then they headed out to meet up with the rest of their family and claim Jerry Martin’s body.
"We’ll take him back up to Bonham and put him next to my dad in the cemetery there," Dustin said.