A model prisoner? AG says no, confusion grows over police-killing suspect’s early release

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. — News 19 is continuing to learn more about the suspect who police say killed two people, including a Sheffield police officer Friday, but the record of his time in prison raises more questions than it answers.

Monday afternoon the Alabama Department of Corrections said Brian Lansing Martin’s “good time” earned in prison – for good behavior – led to his sentence being reduced by two-thirds, from 10 years to just over 3 years in prison.

ADOC officials said Tuesday, Martin’s release was proper and followed the law.

But Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said records show Martin was hardly a model prisoner, with a record that included getting in a fight and seriously injuring another inmate, a disciplinary incident for failing to obey a guard and two incidents of drug possession.

And, the Alabama Department of Pardons & Paroles said today Martin did not earn parole and was not subject to post-prison monitoring. The agency said Martin was denied parole in 2015, a year before he was released by the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Martin was in prison for the 2012 killing of his father, Donice Scott. He was originally charged with murder, but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given the 10-year sentence as part of his plea agreement.

Area officials said his early release led to the killings.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said in a statement Monday afternoon:

“The ADOC can confirm that former inmate Brian Martin was released on May 1, 2016, his minimum end of sentence date as determined by state statute.

“Martin served three (3) years, two (2) months, and 15 days. He was credited with six (6) years, nine (9) months, and 13 days of Good Time.

“For background information, Martin’s conviction did not bar him from being eligible for Good Time. Eligibility for Good Time is governed by state statute, and specifically the crime for which an inmate is sentenced. The ADOC does not have any authority to bar an inmate from being eligible for Good Time. Inmates will be credited for Good Time as required by state statute, unless Good Time is revoked due to disciplinary infraction(s).

“Generally speaking, inmates who are eligible for Good Time and accumulate Good Time on schedule with no revocations due to disciplinary infraction(s) will serve approximately one third of their total sentence before reaching their minimum end of sentence date.”

Alabama Department of Corrections

News 19 reviewed state law concerning prisoner good time and it appears that in order for Martin to have earned enough good time in such a short time,  he would have to be classified a model prisoner — which is at odds with Attorney General Marshall’s description.

According to the Alabama Code’s description of earned good time:

(1) Seventy-five days for each 30 days actually served while the prisoner is classified as a Class I prisoner.

(2) Forty days for each 30 days actually served while the prisoner is a Class II prisoner.

(3) Twenty days for each 30 days actually served while the prisoner is a Class III prisoner.

(4) No good time shall accrue during the period the prisoner is classified as a Class IV prisoner.

Based on Martin’s early release, it appears he’d have to have been a Class I prisoner from the outset. Here’s what the law says about those inmates:

(c)(1) Class I is set aside for those prisoners who are considered to be trustworthy in every respect and who, by virtue of their work habits, conduct, and attitude of cooperation have proven their trustworthiness.  An example of a Class I inmate would be one who could work without constant supervision by a security officer.

That apparent good behavior, according to ADOC, allowed him to shave seven years off his sentence.

News 19 asked ADOC officials about Martin’s good time accrued record and if it reflected the discipline issues cited by Marshall. 

Tuesday evening, they provided a response: 

“The ADOC can confirm that this inmate’s Good Time classification was proper and that he accumulated his Good Time on schedule per state statute, based on his crime of conviction. An inmate’s conviction and the sentence he receives dictate both of these items – they are not made in a discretionary fashion by the ADOC. The Department does not have that authority.

“Regarding his disciplinary record, Brian Martin had several minor infractions. Our records show that, as a result of these incidents, approximately six months of his Good Time was revoked in accordance with state law and ADOC Regulations.

“Due to the nature of his infractions, Brian Martin was eligible for restoration of his Good Time, which occurred after a review process. Even if the determination had not been made to restore his Good Time, Martin would have been released in the Fall of 2016, pursuant to State law.

“To be clear, the ADOC does not make arbitrary decisions about releasing inmates or when inmates are scheduled to be released. Brian Martin’s sentence was computed in compliance with state law.” 

Former U.S. Attorney Jay Town, said the decision to release Martin so early, given the nature of his offense and the original sentence, makes little sense.

“Someone’s life was taken and when you cut that sentence, not in half, but by two-thirds, so you serve one out of every three days that you were awarded by the court,” Town said. “What essentially happened, least in this case seems to be, that not only the value of the life that was taken was sort of de-minimized,  but the value of the defendant who took it, wasn’t.”

In an op-ed piece Monday, Marshall was sharply critical of the state’s good time laws.

“Sergeant Nick Risner was killed by a man whose name isn’t worth mentioning,” Marshall wrote. “That man had killed before—in fact, he killed his own father. In 2013, the man was sentenced to ten years in prison for manslaughter. A mere two-and-a-half years after entering prison, he was given the benefit of a parole hearing. His parole was denied.

“While in prison, the man racked up a lengthy rap sheet. Records indicate that he got into a fight and seriously injured another inmate. He was disciplined for disobeying a correctional officer. He got caught with drugs in his possession, twice.

“Naturally, the man was awarded ‘good time,’ provided for in statute, for this stellar behavior while incarcerated. As a result, the man served three years, two months, and fifteen days of his ten-year sentence. He was released from prison in May of 2016. Had he served the full length of his sentence, he would have been in prison, not in the Walmart parking lot, last Friday afternoon when Sergeant Risner was shot.”

Town agreed with Marshall Monday.

“A rubber stamp analysis of good time credit is no analysis at all,” he wrote. “The calculation methods, and those employing, deserve immediate scrutiny.”

News 19 asked the Alabama Department of Corrections Monday afternoon at what point was then-inmate Martin designated a Class I prisoner and if the good time analysis it used to release Martin reflected the fight and other discipline incidents raised by Marshall.

We will update this story when we get a reply from ADOC.

For his part, Town said there’s very little analysis that could explain the short sentence.

“I cannot imagine anything in our criminal justice system where a sentence of 10 years is fashioned where someone could have done anything that would justify their release after three years,” Town said. “Absolutely not what the prosecution, the judge or the victim’s family thought what they were getting, when this plea agreement was reached in a ten-year straight sentence, a term behind bars.”

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