SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Crowded prisons in Ohio are being considered breeding grounds for the coronavirus with at least 489 inmates testing positive for the virus. In effort to stop the spread behind bars, the state continues to release non-violent inmates.
Governor Mike DeWine announced Friday he is granting seven Ohio inmates commutation, including Alexis Martin.
Martin, a sex trafficking survivor, pleaded guilty to murder and felonious assault charges after her trafficker was shot and killed during a robbery in 2013.
Summit County prosecutors argued Martin helped plan the robbery after seeking help from one of the robbery suspects. One of her attorneys, Sasha Naiman, said Martin had no way of knowing the outcome of her seeking help.
“He was somebody who said he could help and get her free. What his help amounted to ended with Alexis being arrested at the age of 15 and she was sentenced later in adult court,” Naiman said.
Naiman said Martin’s childhood was filled with physical and sexual abuse, which eventually spiraled out of control.
“By the time she was 14 and 15 she had been picked up by a human trafficker and was part of a human trafficking enterprise,” Naiman said. “ This was a person who controlled all aspects of her life and put her in dangerous and abusive situations.”
When Martin was arrested, Naiman said she was not represented in her best interest.
“Even though the juvenile court recognized there was human trafficking—her attorney, the prosecutor, people recognized that was happening—[yet] nobody invoked the safe harbor law. So instead of staying in the juvenile system where there would have only been jurisdiction until she was 21 years, where she could’ve gotten services and even had her record ultimately expunged for a totally clean slate.”
Martin’s 2018 appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court of Ohio but was not favorable.
“The Supreme Court shut down that avenue and then we applied for clemency,” Naiman said. “At that time the governor was John Kasich and he could’ve granted that executive clemency but it was a short amount of time before he left office, so he didn’t make any action on it.”
Now 22-years-old, Martin is getting a second chance during a pandemic.
“Alexis’ sentence was already really harsh and inappropriate and unfair. To sentence her additionally to a fatal illness, boy would that be wrong,” Naiman said.
Martin is expected to be released early next week after spending six years behind bars. While the details of the commutation have not been announced, Governor DeWine said Martin will be sent to a group home where she will under supervision for and extensive period.
Naiman said Martin is excited and is looking forward to taking back control of her life.
“I’m looking forward to continue reading her poetry and to seeing how she continues being an advocate for other survivors in trafficking,” Naiman said. “That’s her big goal.”