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Jacob Holmes: My top five stories of 2022

Looking back at some of my top stories from the year.

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As 2022 draws to a close, APR‘s reporters are reflecting on our top stories of the year.

Here are mine.

Sebrina Martin exposed

Sebrina Martin looked set to become a family court judge in Montgomery County after winning the Democratic primary and facing no opposition in the General Election.

But within days of the primary, APR became aware of an order in Indiana removing six children from her custody in 2013, citing excessive corporal punishment.

In interviews I conducted with three of those children, they told of how Martin and her now-husband and law partner Jesse Heifner would punish the kids for perceived wrongdoings, or just because they were angry.

The actions included subjecting a special needs child to cold showers, while Heifner allegedly beat the oldest boy, Johnathan, with a belt on numerous occasions, leaving bruises for days afterward.

In addition to the accusations from her children, which Martin denied in her own statement, APR also found that Martin had failed to list the children on multiple statements of economic interest. In her statement, Martin said the failure to list the children on her most recent SEI was an oversight of her committee and would be corrected.

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The story didn’t stop there either; a woman named Morgan Whitt contacted me and revealed Sebrina Martin had adopted her newborn only months after serving as guardian ad litem for Whitt’s daughter.

Whitt filed a complaint with the Alabama Bar Association regarding the incident, and nearly three dozen family court lawyers in the region called for the Democrat party to remove Martin as the nominee.

Despite Martin’s protests, the Democratic Party officially dismissed Martin as the nominee in July.

Death row prison Warden Terry Raybon had physical altercations with women as a trooper

Terry Raybon has gradually climbed the ladder over the past two decades within the Alabama prison system, and is now the warden of Holman Correctional Facility.

But before Raybon ever joined the Alabama Department of Corrections, he was terminated as an Alabama state trooper due to two separate instances of physical altercations with women he met online.

The story shined a light on how a couple of connections helped Raybon find a new career despite his troubled past while employed enforcing the law.

The defamation trial of Roy Moore

The accusations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore made national news and rocked a major U.S. Senate race in 2017, clearing the way for Doug Jones to briefly serve as a Senator of the deep red state. Since then, Moore and his accusers, particularly Leigh Corfman, got tangled up in a number of lawsuits, and the cross-defamation trial between Corfman and Moore finally took place to start 2022.

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Both sides were victorious and defeated simultaneously, as the jury found neither party could prove one had defamed the other. Moore’s camp illustrated that as a major victory. Corfman’s team though said it illustrates that the jury must have believed her, or else she would certainly be guilty of defamation.

Although the jury has not spoken publicly about how it reached its decision, in all likelihood the circumstances of the alleged actions could not be sufficiently substantiated or disproven, leaving no other option but to dismiss both charges.

Libertarian Party makes a splash on the ballot

Given the results of the election, one might think the presence of so many Libertarians on the ballot this November was much ado about nothing.

But just getting on the ballot was a feat of itself, with Alabama requiring a large percentage of signatures just for a third party to get on the ballot. The challenge proved so great, the party had not been on the ballot for 20 years.

And the party wasn’t terribly far off from establishing ballot access for the next cycle. In the statewide races where no Democrat was running, Libertarians reached heights of around 16 percent of the vote, just 4 percent shy of the 20 percent necessary for continued access. 

In many other states, the percentage would have been far more than enough to ensure continued access.

The party wasn’t so lucky in three-way races, garnering between 3 to 5 percent in the majority of those contests.

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Libertarian Party chair Gavin Goodman said the party isn’t throwing in the towel and plans to petition for signatures to get on the ballot again soon, although he expressed concerns that lawmakers could try to make it even harder for third parties moving forward.

Law criminalizing transgender medical treatment passes, faces court challenges

After pushing the bill for multiple sessions, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill criminalizing the provision of certain medical treatments to minors experiencing gender dysphoria, including hormone therapy and the administration of puberty blockers.

The law was quickly challenged by some anonymous families of transgender youth and doctors who provide such treatments.

The law very briefly went into effect in the state as U.S. District Judge Liles Burke considered a request for an injunction against the law. 

Burke ultimately did enjoin the law, and stated that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of the case.

Most recently, both parties argued before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on whether that injunction should remain in place while the case is being tried in District Court. The court has not yet made a ruling concerning the injunction.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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