Ohio high court upholds trafficked girl’s murder conviction
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the murder conviction of a woman whose forced prostitution as a teenager was cited as a factor leading to her involvement in the fatal shooting of her pimp during a robbery.
The court’s 6-1 decision came in the case of a 2013 slaying of the Akron man and the wounding of another in a robbery that prosecutors say Alexis Martin helped plan.
Martin and her attorney argue that a juvenile judge made a mistake when Martin’s history of sex trafficking wasn’t adequately explored at a hearing that determined whether she should be charged as an adult. Martin was 15 at the time of the slaying.
The Associated Press doesn’t normally identify victims of sexual assault or juveniles charged with crimes. In this case, Martin has been frequently identified in the media and court documents and doesn’t have a problem with being named, according to her attorney.
Investigators say Martin and a female friend came up with the robbery plan with two other men. The victims were Martin’s pimp — Angelo Kerney — and his brother. The girls were having sex with the victims to distract them when the robbers entered a house and the victims were shot, according to court documents. Kerney was killed in the shooting. Martin is not accused of firing a gun.
The juvenile court judge should have determined that Martin was covered by a 2012 Ohio law that protects children whose crimes are related to their status as trafficking victims, according to Martin’s lawyer, Jennifer Kinsley.
Had the judge determined that the so-called Safe Harbor law applied, a court-appointed guardian for the teen could have been named, and that person could have investigated the full extent of her history of prostitution, Kinsley has said. A message was left seeking comment Tuesday.
Ultimately, the judge determined Martin could not be rehabilitated in the juvenile court system and transferred her to adult court, where she pleaded guilty to murder and other charges. Now 20, Martin is serving 21 years to life.
Summit County prosecutors challenged Martin’s appeal, saying her activity the day of the robbery is separate from her history as a prostitute.
Justice Judi French, writing for the majority, said there was no evidence that Martin participated in the robbery to free herself, and in fact said she didn’t know the plot involved shooting people.
“There is no evidence that Martin was compelled or coerced into committing the offenses,” French said.
In a dissent, Justice Terrence O’Donnell noted that by the time Martin was 15 she was being forced to perform exotic dances, sell drugs and recruit other girls as prostitutes for her pimp.
“It is axiomatic that the robbery and murder of Kerney, Martin’s sex trafficker, who was trafficking and exploiting her at the time of the robbery, related to her victimization because he controlled her at that time and she had a slavish relationship with him,” O’Donnell wrote.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.