A hearing this week will determine whether Sebrina Martin will remain the Democratic nominee for a family court judgeship in Montgomery’s 15th judicial circuit.
Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Chris England confirmed Monday that Martin responded to a show cause order before the deadline expired on Friday and said a hearing will be held some time this week. APR’s efforts to reach Martin for comment were unsuccessful.
Martin survived an election contest on July 1 after a subcommittee found that the individual who filed the contest did not meet all the criteria necessary to file a contest.
However, the committee said the evidence presented during the hearing “gives the committee grave concern regarding the conduct of the candidate” and unanimously recommended that England issue the show cause order.
A week earlier, 32 family court lawyers signed their names to a letter calling on the Democratic party and the Secretary of State to remove Martin from the ballot, citing Martin’s failure to recognize her four living adult children on her Statement of Economic Interest as well as potential campaign shenanigans.
“We cannot stand silent in light of certain allegations and reports which have arisen since May 24, 2022,” the lawyers wrote. “The ramifications of these reports upon our future clients, the families we serve, and the integrity of the Bench and Bar are too great.”
The letter came more than two weeks after APR published an article revealing a 2013 Indiana court order that removed Martin’s custody of six children for excessive corporal punishment in her Montgomery home.
The judge in that order wrote that the evidence, including testimony from three of the children, constituted “evidence of a pattern of domestic violence.”
One of those six children, Jasmine Martin, now 21, filed an affidavit in the election contest, recounting once again her story of life in the home with Martin and Jesse Heifner, now Martin’s husband and law partner.
The allegations include Sebrina Martin taking a pillow and sitting on the head of her youngest child, then around 5 years old, to stop her from screaming. Jasmine said Sebrina and Heifner also used cold showers as a consistent form of punishment for the youngest girl. The girl, one of five former foster children adopted by Sebrina Martin, was born addicted to meth and has significant learning disabilities as a result.
She also recounted Heifner hiding snacks outside in the middle of the night for her brother, Jonathan, and telling him to find them while calling him “fattie” and laughing.
Heifner is enjoined by the Indiana court from being in the presence of any of the six children without Sebrina Martin also present. Jasmine recorded audio at the time, which APR has reviewed, of Heifner whipping Jonathan with a belt while Jonathan screamed. The court determined Heifner was responsible for bruising Jonathan in particular during the custody hearing.
Sebrina Martin responded eight days after the initial APR article in a video statement, claiming that her ex-husband Michael Martin had manipulated the children into making false claims against her in 2013 and that the children once again lied when talking to APR about the environment in the home.
“My ex-husband told me when I divorced him that he would do everything he could to destroy me, and he nearly did when he manipulated my kids to turn against me,” Sebrina Martin said. “Because when we went to court, no one cared about the police reports or the DHR investigation that said there was no abuse or neglect, no one cared what my witnesses had to say. Once the kids said what they conspired to say, it was over. The Indiana trial judge believed the kids instantly … The kids had been weaponized and trained to spew hatred and to attack me in front of whoever would listen, and they still do it this day.”
Michael Martin provided APR with a hospital report from November 2012 from a trip to the emergency room with Jonathan after an alleged incident.
“Patient was allegedly beaten after the wind slammed the door,” the doctor wrote in a note on the form. “Patient believes he was hit by the belt about six times.”
The form notes a 4-centimeter bruise on the mid-thigh as well as multiple 0.5 centimeter bruises on the upper thighs. According to the doctor’s notes, these bruises appeared to be five to nine days old.
According to the form, the Evansville Police Department, Warrior County police dispatch and Indiana Department of Child Services were all called to the hospital to photograph the injuries for evidence, but all advised they could not do so because the incident occurred in Alabama.
Eventually, Alabama authorities were contacted and consent was given to take photos, which were included in the document.
Jasmine, Sydney and Jonathan Martin also disputed their mother’s statement and stood by their recollection of events to APR.
After the initial story came out, Brittnie Morgan Whitt contacted APR to tell her story of how Sebrina Martin came to adopt her son. Sebrina Martin served as guardian ad litem for Whitt’s daughter in a dependency case. When Whitt became pregnant during the case, Sebrina Martin spoke privately with Whitt about adopting Whitt’s newborn son and now is the adopted mother of that child.
The Democratic party can remove any nominee if they find their conduct is incompatible with their position.