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The state of Ohio vs. a sex-trafficked teenager

The criminal justice system mishandled 15-year-old Alexis Martin’s case. Now she’s living with the consequences.

By Jessica Contrera June 1, 2021

By Jessica Contrera June 1, 2021

The paperwork was signed, her belongings were stuffed into a plastic bag, and then, finally, it was time. She was guided down a long hallway. She stepped through a metal detector. A heavy door was pushed open, and Alexis Martin walked out of prison.

“Where am I going?” she asked her lawyers, hesitating on the sidewalk. It was April of 2020, the pandemic’s early days, when Ohio’s governor was going on television every afternoon to talk about shutdowns and masks and case counts — until the news conference when he had something else to announce. He was granting the release of a 22-year-old incarcerated woman.

“She was 15 years of age when she committed the crime,” Mike DeWine explained. “She is a child sex trafficking survivor.”

He was echoing what Alexis’s defenders had been arguing since the night in 2013 when the biracial 10th-grader was involved in a robbery that turned into a murder.


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