Shortly after Martin was featured on “Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project,” Ohio Governor Mark DeWine announced she would be released. “Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project,” was a two-hour documentary special which aired on Oxygen at 7 p.m. EST Sunday, April 5, 2020. Martin’s story is just one of those featured on the documentary. Also featured on the show is Momolu Stewart, who was freed from prison in 2019 after spending more than two decades behind bars. Read more about him here. Another inmate freed in part by Kardashian’s support, David Sheppard, was also featured on the documentary. He had been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a deadly robbery. Read more about him here.
Kardashian has become an advocate of prison reform. She is going to law school, following in the footsteps of her father, Robert Kardashian Sr., who famously represented O.J. Simpson at his 1995 murder trial.
“I really do believe that, if people do a crime, they need to do the time,” Kim Kardashian West told TIME. “But it’s a matter of, what is that fair [amount of] time?”
Martin’s story is a shocking one, as she was a minor when the murder occurred, and she was not the person who pulled the trigger.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Announced the Release of Alexis Martin, Who Is Serving a 21-Year Prison Sentence, Accused of Orchestrating a Robbery the Resulted in the Death of a Man She Says Was Her Trafficker
Ohio Governor Mark DeWine announced the release of Alexis Martin on Friday, April 17, 2020 during a press conference about the coronavirus in Ohio. You can watch the relevant clip here.
“She was 15 years of age when she committed the crime, 17 when she went to prison. She is a child sex trafficking survivor,” he said.
DeWine said she will be sent to a group home, where she would be under supervision “for an extensive period of time.”
“The facts of her case are particularly unique,” DeWine continued. “The ultimate decision under the Ohio constitution is mine. The buck stops with me. I take responsibility for any decision.”
Alexis Martin is serving a sentence of 21 years in prison in Ohio in the 2013 death of Angelo Kerney, when she was 15 years old. She has said she was kidnapped and Kerney trafficked her, forcing her into prostitution and exotic dancing, recruiting others into prostitution and selling drugs. Martin pleaded guilty to her role in the 2013 murder of Kerney and to the wounding of Alecio Samuel in Akron, Ohio.
Her charges stemmed from evidence that she helped to orchestrate the robbery plot. However, she has said she did not know Kerney, who she calls her pimp, would be killed, according to Cincinnati.com.
“Alexis should not have been caged at all,” Attorney Sasha Naiman told the publication. “She should have received services. She was a baby. She was 15 years old, and every single day that Alexis is incarcerated is a mistake.”
Martin was admitted to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in 2015. The earliest possible date she could face a parole hearing is in 2034.
2. Alexis Martin Had a Troubled Childhood Involving Absent & Abusive Parents, a Suicide Attempt, an Incarcerated Mom & the Foster System
Alexis Martin’s childhood was troubled long before she became a victim of human trafficking, according to an appeal filed in her case. Martin’s parents were often absent from her life, and her father physically abused her. Her parents and her stepfather were involved in drugs, and her mom was imprisoned for drug trafficking. She spent time in the care of family members and in the foster system, facing more abuse there. One family member locked her in a dark closet, and another mocked her for being biracial, her appeal said.
By the time she was 8 years old, she had been diagnosed with depression. She attempted suicide when she was only 12. Between the ages of 11 and 12, she was raped repeatedly by a 21-year-old man. Also at age 12, a 16-year-old boy who she considered her boyfriend raped her and impregnated her. She had a miscarriage, and tattooed the name of her unborn child on her torso, her appeal said.
When she was 14 or 15, she was kidnapped and forced into exotic dancing. She told her probation officer she had been kidnapped. Evidence suggested Angelo Kerney, the man who was murdered, forced her into exotic dancing, drug trafficking, preparing eight other girls for prostitution and collecting money from them. She used the name Alexis Love and called Kerney “Dad,” her appeal said.
You can read the appeal in full here.
3. An Appeal Filed in Alexis Martin’s Case Argued for Guardian ad Litem & Safe Harbor Law, & Was Denied
An appeal filed in Alexis Martin’s case argued that a guardian ad litem should have been appointed in her case, and that Safe Harbor law was applicable in her case. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled the juvenile court did not fulfill its legal requirements, but affirmed her sentence anyway. You can read the appeal in full here.
The state Supreme Court voted 6 to 1 in August, 2018, saying Martin could not prove that, had the juvenile court ordered a guardian ad litem to issue a report on whether it would be in Martin’s best interest to remain in the juvenile system, the judge’s decision to bind over Martin to adult court would have changed, according to Court News Ohio. The court further ruled Martin did not prove her crimes were related to her victimization, that there was no evidence she was forced to commit the crimes, and that there was not evidence she committed the crimes to free herself from Kerney.
The decision said, “Juvenile procedure—R.C. 2152.021(F)(3)—R.C. 2152.021(F)(3) requires appointment of guardian ad litem when a juvenile is a human-trafficking victim and is charged with one or more offenses related to the victimization, which may include violent offenses—In absence of objection to a juvenile court’s failure to consider applicability of R.C. 2152.021(F), criminal plain-error standard applies—Appellant failed to present evidence that her offenses were related to her victimization and therefore failed to show that juvenile court’s failure to consider and apply R.C. 2152.021(F) was plain error—Court of appeals’ affirmance of appellant’s convictions and sentence affirmed.”
4. Alexis Martin Sought Clemency Under Governor John Kasich in 2019
Alexis Martin sought clemency in her case in 2019 through outgoing Governor John Kasich. Her attorney, Sasha Naiman with the nonprofit Ohio Justice & Policy Center filed for clemency, along with private attorney Jennifer Kinsley.
“But outgoing Gov. John Kasich could commute the sentence. He has until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, his final minute in office, to do so, Naiman said,” Cincinatti.com reported January 11, 2019.
Clemency is a provision in the state constitutions of all 50 states which allows a person convicted of a crime to petition for relief. A person convicted under state law files a clemency petition through a governor, and a person convicted under federal law files a petition through the President, according to Appeals Law Group.
However, Kasich did not make a decision on Martin’s case before leaving office, according to InTheseTimes.com.
5. Human Trafficking Victims & Others Have Fought to Free Alexis Martin from Prison
Kim Kardashian is far from the first person to advocate for the freedom of Alexis Martin. In addition to non-profit and private attorneys battling for Martin in the Ohio legal system, members of the public, including human trafficking victims, have organized to draw attention to Martin’s case and to fight for her freedom.
A group of human trafficking survivors marched in the snow January 12, 2019, to ask then-Ohio Governor John Kasich to grant clemency to Martin, according to ABC 6.
“As a survivor, when I heard about this I didn’t even hesitate,” Summer Dickerson, a human trafficking survivor, told the news station. “I was like, look we have to go up there, and we have to help this young lady.”
An appeal asking for clemency for Alexis Martin also circulated on Change.org.
“Alexis Martin was 15 years old when her pimp was killed,” the organizer wrote. “She was charged with first degree murder and robbery and was raped and sex trafficked. She was sentenced to 21 years in prison. She did not even pull the trigger. Someone else did it. Please free her!”
However, advocacy for Martin has so far gone unanswered.
“What is needed most is to remember Alexis Martin,” Kate D’Adamo of Reframe Health and Justice told InTheseTimes.com. “Social media has a short attention span, that doesn’t always do well to keep those with 21 to life in mind. We’re going to need to continue writing letters and keep calling, and while the outgoing voicemail may change, our resolve cannot.”