[This story first aired on November 14, 2020. It was updated on June 26, 2021.]
Opponents feared boxerin the ring. However, it was at home where she fought her biggest battle – the one for her life
Christy Martin was a worldwide sensation in the boxing ring and was even on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She won 49 fights and was heading for 50. Away from the ring, however, Martin says she faced a different fight because her husband and trainer Jim Martin was abusive and controlling.
“I keep thinking of the people who will watch this and say, ‘How does a woman who’s so powerful … how is she not able to stand up for herself at home,'” asks correspondent David Begnaud.
“I know that people think that. But I didn’t have the same type of mental strength to overtake him,” Martin responds.
When Christy Martin finally tried to end the marriage – she says Jim went on the attack, beating and stabbing her, before pulling a gun. Moments later, he fired one shot into her chest, missing her heart by just inches.
Christy Martin survived that day in their Florida home. Jim Martin would then go on trial for attempted murder. Jim Martin’s attorney maintained it was Christy who attacked her husband, not the other way around.
“The way Jim described it … Christie …was extremely aggressive.,” defense attorney Bill Hancock tells Begnaud. “He was constantly afraid of physical attacks by her.”
Prosecutors also wondered whether a jury would believe that a celebrated boxer would be beaten by her husband.
“She became famous beatin’ the hell out of people,” Begnaud comments to prosecutor Deborah Barra. “So — it’s pretty plausible that she might beat the hell out of her husband.”
“Absolutely,” Barra replies, but she says it’s not that simple.
“I think it’s a remarkable story because you have a world-famous champion boxer and she could still be in a domestic violence relationship, because that isn’t about physical strength. It’s about mental abuse.”
What would the jury believe?
THE COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER
On April 24, 2012, in a courtroom in Orlando, Florida, boxing champion Christy Martin boldly faced down her fiercest opponent yet — her ex-husband, James Martin.
PROSECUTOR RYAN VESCIO [in court]: What was the thought that went through your mind when you saw the defendant with that knife in the bedroom?
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: I said to him, “are you gonna kill me?”
David Begnaud: The last time you had seen Jim, he’s standing over you with a gun.
Christy Salters-Martin: You know … I thought about it a lot and how am I gonna react to being in the same room with him?
Hundreds of thousands of Court TV viewers watched as a prizefighter known for knocking out 32 opponents, testified that her much older and seemingly frail husband had nearly killed her.
Ryan Vescio: This case rose and fell on the credibility of Christy and Jim.
Prosecutors Ryan Vescio and Deborah Barra were worried that the jury would have their doubts about this matchup.
David Begnaud: She became famous beatin’ the hell out of people.
Deborah Barra: Exactly.
David Begnaud: So … it’s pretty plausible that she might beat the hell out of her husband.
Deborah Barra: Absolutely.
Barra says she believed Christy’s story — the good, the bad, and the bloody.
Deborah Barra: She was very open about her marriage. She was very open about everything. It was just very much matter of-fact, this is who I am.
Christy bared it all, starting with her childhood in the tiny town of Itmann, West Virginia.
Christy Salters-Martin: Itmann, West Virginia is … literally one mile from “Welcome to, Now leaving.”
Her father, John Salters, was a coalminer. As a fighter, Christy would brand herself “The Coalminer’s Daughter.”
David Begnaud: I was … always out with my dad. We passed football, we passed baseball. I shot basketball.
She says her dad pushed her to dream big—with one excruciating exception: her love-life.
David Begnaud: When did you first realize you were a lesbian?
Christy Salters-Martin: I think I knew that I was attracted to women, fifth or sixth grade.
David Begnaud: Did you confide in anyone?
Christy Salters-Martin: No.
Christy lived a double life and kept her first love a secret. Fellow high school athlete, three years her senior, Sherry Lusk.
Christy Salters-Martin: She went away to college. … we tried to keep it together for a while. But distance and time and age and it just doesn’t work.
David Begnaud: Did you ever see circling back with her later in life?
Christy Salters-Martin: Um, no.
She says, eventually, her parents found that out she was gay and could not accept it. So, she moved out, went to college in Athens, West Virginia, and started boxing.
With no formal training, Christy won every amateur fight she entered.
Christy Salters-Martin: Just, you know, got hooked. I loved the sport.
Spotted by a promoter at one of those contests, Christy went pro. A little over a year later, 22-year-old Christy was offered formal training with a boxing coach named Jim Martin.
Christy Salters-Martin: I walked into the gym thinking, that I was going to meet this guy that, you know, wanted to train me. It was just the opposite.
The 47-year-old didn’t think that women belonged in the ring but saw dollar signs.
Christy Salters-Martin: … he thought … “It’ll be a sideshow, but I think I can get her in position where we can make some money.”
Christy says she just wanted to box—and so she put all of her faith—and trust—in her new coach.
David Begnaud: How much did Jim Martin know about your past?
Christy Salters-Martin: Jim Martin knew everything about my past. … I looked at him like … this guy’s gonna be my coach. And an athlete and a coach to have a really good bond … like they have to be able to get in your head. They have to know what makes you tick — in order to make you perform.
David Begnaud: Tell me about when the relationship with Jim went from professional to personal.
Christy Salters-Martin: It was ah, a few months … I was getting a lotta pressure from my family … to not be gay. It just seemed like it was easy.
But Christy also had a girlfriend in town. That is, until Jim found out.
Christy Salters-Martin: He said that he had called my dad. And my dad told him to just throw my stuff … in the ocean. … they didn’t want me. And so … I went the next day and married Jim.
David Begnaud: Really?
Christy Salters-Martin: Yeah. Because I felt like I had to.
The couple moved to Apopka, Florida, outside Orlando. They opened a boxing gym and worked on Christy’s career. Still living a double life, Christy was always dressed in pink.
Christy Salters-Martin: Jim, being very homophobic, would always tell me … at a press conference, if I’m fighting some girl that’s clearly there with her girlfriend ah, “Make sure you say somethin’ derogatory about her — sexuality.”
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN [at a fight press conference]: You big steroid d— bitch!
David Begnaud: Why did you continue to listen to him?
Christy Salters-Martin: Jim Martin convinced me that the world hated me. … I’m talkin’ about family, friends, the boxing world.
Then, her career took off. Spotted by a trainer who worked for the world-famous boxing promoter Don King, Christy became his first female fighter.
Christy Salters-Martin: I mean, to go to fight in Las Vegas … and King’s the promoter?
Christy Salters-Martin: That’s bigger than I could’ve ever dreamed.
But that was just the start.
In 1996, King featured Christy in a fight on a pay-per-view event headlined by Mike Tyson. With tens of millions of people watching, Christy stole the show.
Her nose was split open and bloody by the third round, but Christy won.
Christy Salters-Martin: That was the most profitable bloody nose in boxing history. I mean … I’m bleeding everywhere. … and people are startin’ to take notice. “Wow, look at this woman. … she’s still fighting. … and she’s winnin’ the fight.”
Christy became the only female boxer to ever make the cover of Sports Illustrated. But with the fame, she says, came a tightening of Jim’s already firm grip.
Christy Salters-Martin: He would always say, “I’m gonna tell the world you’re a lesbian.” And for whatever reason — you know, I just wasn’t strong enough in me to say, “Go ahead …”
David Begnaud: I keep thinkin’ of the people who will watch this and say, “How does a woman who’s so powerful and strong and successful at being aggressive, how is she not able to stand up for herself at home?”
Christy Salters-Martin: I know that people think that. … that I should be strong and tough and all those things. But … I didn’t have that same type of mental strength to overtake him.
In 2001, Christy parted ways with Don King. By 2007 her career was on the ropes and, according to Christy, Jim had spent all of their money. Feeling that she had nothing left to live for, Christy tried some cocaine that Jim allegedly brought home.
Christy Salters-Martin: He throws a baggie down on the table. And he said one of the fighters gave it to him. … because … He was gonna get clean. And I let it lay there for a couple days. And then finally, I was, like, “You know what? Might as well just do this.” … And then it just — it was every day, all day.
She claims Jim became her supplier. She also says he had hidden cameras around their house, documenting her addiction.
Christy Salters-Martin: So, you know, it was all about blackmail.
David Begnaud: Do you believe that Jim was controlling?
Bill Hancock: To the extent that he was trying to help her with a drug problem, I do.
Jim Martin’s defense attorney Bill Hancock says if there were tapes of Christy doing drugs, they were meant to show her how aggressive she was when she was high.
Bill Hancock: He was a boxing coach, not a boxer. … he was always in fear of her aggression.
David Begnaud: Did you ever beat him?
Christy Salters-Martin: Did I fight back sometimes?
David Begnaud: Yeah.
Christy Salters-Martin: Absolutely. Yeah.
After 19 years of feeling controlled, Christy says she kicked the cocaine, and threw in the towel on the marriage.
Christy Salters-Martin: And I told him. I said, “I want out. I’m done –“
Christy had already consulted a divorce attorney, when she says she told Jim there was someone else: that high school sweetheart she thought she’d never see again, Sherry Lusk.
Christy Salters-Martin: When I told him, “I’m goin’ to see Sherry,” he said, “If you leave me, I will kill you.” And I stopped. I turned. And I looked at him right in his eyes and told him, “Do what you have to do.”
Christy Salters-Martin: For 20 years, he told me that if ever I left, he would kill me.
Christy Martin says she knew she was signing up for a life-or-death battle with her husband Jim Martin when she reunited with her high school sweetheart Sherry Lusk in November 2010.
David Begnaud: So, in the days leading up to the attack, you saw Sherry several times, right?
Christy Salters-Martin: Yes. … I told him that I was leaving to go see Sherry. … And I told him I wanted a divorce.
The day before she was stabbed and then shot, Christy drove to Daytona, to spend the night with Sherry. Jim followed her there and then started texting and calling.
Christy Salters-Martin: He said to me that … he saw me greet her. … He also said that he was so close, he could touch me.
Jim’s trial attorney Bill Hancock says his client admits he was in Daytona that day, but he claims he was there to protect his wife.
Bill Hancock: Jim had to intervene one time previously because Christy was going to Daytona for her drug connection.
The next day, Christy decided to head home.
Christy Salters-Martin: I have to go back and either live or die, because I’m not gonna look over my shoulder for the rest of my life … So, I had no choice.
She says Jim was there when she arrived home.
Christy Salters-Martin: And so, I said, “My head’s killin’ me. I’m gonna lay down. Just as soon as my head stops hurting, I’m gonna go work out.”
She says she was lying on the bed, when she heard Jim talking.
Christy Salters-Martin: He’s on the phone with people tellin’ ’em, you know, that I’m a lesbian, that I’ve left him for a woman. … The entire time, he’s sharpenin’ a knife. … I can hear the knife sound [mimics sound].
Unable to sleep, Christy says she was putting on her running shoes, when Jim walked in and said he had something to show her.
Christy Salters-Martin: And then he … put his hand behind his back. … I, like, lean around … And I see that he has a knife stuck down his shorts. And I said, “What are you gonna do, kill me?” And it was, like, bam, instantly he stabbed me. Bam, bam, bam. … The fourth stab went through my breast. … And so … I try to kick him away from me. When I kicked him … he cut my calf muscle almost completely from my leg. … I’m trying to still fight with him … And at this time, I could feel he has a gun in his pocket.
It was a pink 9mm gun, and it belonged to Christy.
Christy Salters-Martin: I can’t get it away from him. … he’s too strong. … He gets the gun out of his pocket and he starts to beat me. Bam, bam. He’s beatin’ my head. … And bam, just like that, the switch flipped. I told him “You cannot kill me.” … right then, it changed. I have to live.
She says Jim stopped to tend to a cut on his hand, and then she started begging.
Christy Salters-Martin: You know, I tell him everything. “I love you, I’m sorry.” You know,” I’ve always loved you.” I — I’m pleading for my life.
Christy was interviewed by investigators, while in the emergency room fighting for her life.
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN [crying on video]: Don’t let me die, please don’t let me die … I just kept begging, don’t let me die.
Christy Salters-Martin: Finally, I realize, “he can’t let you live.” He gets the .9 millimeter. Stands at my feet. And I tell him, “You don’t have the balls to shoot me.” And he shot me. He missed my heart by three inches. … I passed out. And he thought I was dead.
An hour had passed since the stabbing started, when Christy says she regained consciousness, heard Jim taking a shower, and decided she was not down for the count.
Christy Salters-Martin: I picked up the gun because he had … cleaned the gun off, laid it down. … And picked up the car keys.
With a punctured lung, a bullet lodged inches from her heart and her leg split wide open, Christy says she got up and left.
Christy Salters-Martin: But I get to the car … It’s the wrong keys. … There’s no way in hell I’m goin’ back in that house.
She ran into the middle of this road, where Rick Cole pulled over.
Rick Cole: And before I could even say hello … handin’ me something through the window. … It was heavy. And she said, “that’s my gun.” … and I’m like, “OK, wait a minute, what’s really going on here?” Because she’s the one with the bloody gun.
Christy Salters-Martin: I took the gun so I could show somebody this is what he shot me with.
Rick Cole rushed Christy to the emergency room, where she was stabilized and then airlifted to a nearby trauma center. Meanwhile, Jim had vanished.
Ryan Vescio: He goes on the run.
Prosecutor Ryan Vescio says it took the police seven days to find Jim Martin. He had been hiding in a friend’s shed, across the street from the crime scene—and with the buck-knife used to stab Christy. This is what he told the police:
JIM MARTIN : I saved that knife on purpose cause I know Christy’s fingerprints got to be on that knife.
Jim claimed he had spent the week slipping in and out of a diabetic coma.
JIM MARTIN : I didn’t know how long I was there because I was just out.
Bill Hancock: He ran in the shed to protect himself. He was afraid she was going to continue to come after him.
Bill Hancock believes that Jim was the victim, not the aggressor.
Bill Hancock: I think Christy had come home … not in a great mood. She indicated she was suffering from a migraine, and Jim went in concerned about her health and got attacked.
JIM MARTIN : And she jumped up, grabbed the knife that was laying there. I grabbed the knife blade. We’re struggling with the knife blade.
Jim says it was Christy who brought out the gun.
JIM MARTIN : I guess she must have reached under her pillow. She come out with the pink gun.
David Begnaud: So, you think they’re fighting over the gun, right?
Bill Hancock: Yes.
David Begnaud: And the gun goes off.
Bill Hancock: Yes.
Jim was charged with attempted first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty. But to claim self-defense, he would have to admit that he stabbed and shot his wife, to save himself.
Deborah Barra: He comes into the courtroom all feeble like. … So, we thought, OK, here we go.
THE COURT BATTLE
A little more than six months after nearly bleeding out on her bedroom floor, Christy Martin got back in the boxing ring with Dakota Stone. Christy was hoping for her 50th win.
Christy Salters-Martin [watching the video of the fight] Down goes Dakota Stone for the only time in her career.
Instead, the fight was called when Christy broke her hand in nine places. She had to be rushed to the emergency room again, and then she had a stroke.
Christy Salters-Martin: I can’t walk. I can’t really talk. And I can’t see.
Prosecutor Ryan Vescio was worried: would Christy be able to testify at the trial?
Ryan Vescio: She is the only live witness to what occurred. This entire case completely fell on her shoulders.
Determined to take that stand, Christy approached physical therapy like she was training for the match of her life.
Ryan Vescio: The fight is on. And it’s going to be the fight of public opinion … in a courtroom.
Jim Martin, who had been denied bail, was doing everything he could to discredit his wife.
Ryan Vescio: We intercepted a jail telephone call from Jim to one of his friends that they were trying to blackmail Christy even while Jim was incarcerated pending trial.
JIM MARTIN [phone call]: I’ve got some tapes. You know, I’ve got some awful, awful dirty, dirty tapes of her.
Ryan Vescio: They were trying to sell these sex tapes to media outlets.
The tapes never sold. But that didn’t stop Jim Martin, who told the media that he was the victim.
Deborah Barra: I thought, “thank you. I like it when defendants talk.”
Jim’s defense became pretty clear in April 2012 when the trial began, and his attorney Bill Hancock set Christy up as the aggressor.
BILL HANCOCK: James Martin was about two or three weeks away from his 68th birthday … Christy Martin was 43 years old, training for her upcoming boxing match that was gonna begin her comeback in boxing.
Ryan Vescio declared that the evidence would show Jim Martin had tried to kill his wife.
RYAN VESCIO: We believe, ladies and gentlemen, that this case at its essence, is about a man losing control.
The prosecution called Christy’s friend and hairdresser Deanna Gross, who testified that she saw Jim be controlling.
DEANNA GROSS: Um, He would look through her phone.
DEBORAH BARRA: So, you would see him actually walk over, pick up her phone and go through it?
DEANNA GROSS: Yes.
Sherry Lusk testified about that reportedly terrifying afternoon in Daytona, when Jim seemed to be lurking in the shadows.
SHERRY LUSK: We didn’t know what to do. It’s hard to explain how you’re shaking so bad when you think you’re about to get shot.
The jury saw photos of Christy’s injuries and heard from the doctors who saved her life.
RYAN VESCIO: Is it fair to classify the lung injury or the chest injury as a life-threatening or critical injury?
DR. LUBE: Yes, yes that’s correct.
Deputy Sheriff Todd Moore testified about Jim going missing for seven days, and said he was found wielding the knife used to stab Christy — forcing Deputy Moore to draw his gun and give a warning.
DEPUTY SHERIFF TODD MOORE: … and if he didn’t drop the knife that I was gonna shoot him.
But the main event was clearly when Christy got up on that stand.
Ryan Vescio: The size of that courtroom is about the size of a boxing ring.
Ryan Vescio: You could feel Christy’s intensity. … She did not stop from staring down Jim.
With Ryan Vescio questioning her, Christy calmly gave her account of the attack.
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: He stabbed me three times under, under my left arm.
She described Jim’s only significant wound — that cut on his hand.
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: When he stabbed me, I think it was one of the times of the three on my side, his hand slid up the knife and it cut his hand.
But, according to Bill Hancock, Jim got that cut while defending himself.
Bill Hancock: The only way you can get that cut on your hand is defending against someone who’s wielding the knife.
David Begnaud: But she was cut up … one side to the other.
Bill Hancock: It doesn’t mean that he wasn’t defending himself.
Hancock hammered home that argument in his questions to Christy.
BILL HANCOCK: Did you try to shoot Jim Martin?
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: No sir.
But Hancock pointed out that when police interviewed Christy, she asked if Jim was dead.
BILL HANCOCK: Do you recall responding to Detective Evans you were pretty sure you heard one gunshot and then asking if he was dead?
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: No sir.
This is audio from that police interview recorded at the emergency room, right after the attack when Christy was fighting to survive:
DETECTIVE : You OK to still talk for a little bit?
DETECTIVE: Can you tell where he got the gun?
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: Is he dead?
DETECTIVE: Ah, we’re still trying to find him …
And then there was this:
BILL HANCOCK: Detective Evans says, “OK, what did you try to do?” And your answer was “I tried to shoot him, but I was too scared of him, pointed a gun at him and if I missed or something.”
The day after the attack, while on painkillers in a hospital bed, Christy told investigators this:
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN [police audio]: I got the gun out of his pocket and, the pink 9-millimeter. And, and like pointed it at him but then I was scared to, like, I was scare to shoot.
BILL HANCOCK: Did you tell her that?
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: I really don’t remember.
David Begnaud: Christy’s in the hospital. A police officer interviews her and she says to him, “is Jim dead?” Sounds to me like the woman wanted him dead.
Ryan Vescio: It’s not a good fact to have to deal with.
On day four, the state rested. And now it was Jim’s turn to tell his story. But the prosecution was worried. Would the jury believe him?
Defense attorney Bill Hancock insists that his client Jim Martin was a loving and devoted husband.
Bill Hancock: I think Jim was trying to work on the marriage. … I think Christie was trying to create a situation to where she could … proceed with whatever divorce paperwork she was starting.
Jim claims Christy is the one who was armed that day, with her gun and the knife.
Bill Hancock: I know she says he brought it into the room, um. He’s like, “no, she had it. “
And that bullet that just missed Christy’s heart? That was an accident, Hancock says, while wrestling over the gun.
Bill Hancock: The fact that Christy got shot with her own gun I think bolsters the fact that Jim was just trying to defend himself and they fought over the gun.
But remember, to tell that story and claim self-defense, Jim would have to admit that he stabbed and shot his wife, to save himself.
Christy Salters-Martin: Jim is such a control freak … and … believes in himself so much, that he would think that he could convince anybody of anything.
But first, Hancock tried to present a different view of the Martin household, from friend and neighbor Scott Selkirk.
BILL HANCOCK: And did you know your neighbors Christy and Jim Martin?
SCOTT SELKIRK: Yes, I did.
BILL HANCOCK: Was there ever times that you witnessed Jim Martin in a controlling manner over Christy Martin.
SCOTT SELKIRK: No.
Selkirk testified that just days before the attack, Jim came over to his house to ask if he could store his gun collection there. In Selkirk’s words, it was to “avoid a hostile situation.”
BILL HANCOCK: Had Mr. Martin brought his gun collection to your house before?
SCOTT SELKIRK: Yes.
BILL HANCOCK: How many times?
SCOTT SELKIRK: Probably, three.
Selkirk also said he saw Jim the day of the incident, and he seemed fine.
BILL HANCOCK: Was he angry or aggressive?
SCOTT SELKIRK: No.
Later that evening, he says Jim showed up at his door, bleeding.
BILL HANCOCK: And what did he tell you?
SCOTT SELKIRK: That he had been shot and stabbed.
BILL HANCOCK And then what did he do?
SCOTT SELKIRK: He turned and left.
Selkirk says he gave chase, but Jim disappeared.
Then, it was the state’s turn to question Selkirk.
PROSECUTOR DEBORAH BARRA: Sir, you’re actually really good friends with Jim, correct?
SCOTT SELKIRK: We’re good friends, yeah.
DEBORAH BARRA: OK, would you describe your relationship almost like brothers?
SCOTT SELKIRK: Good friends.
DEBORAH BARRA: OK.
Barra pointed out that when police arrived at the crime scene, Selkirk refused to share Jim’s cell phone number.
DEBORAH BARRA: Sir, isn’t it true that you said to Sergeant Callahan “Jim is my friend and I don’t want to get him in any trouble so I’m not going to say anything.”
SCOTT SELKIRK: I can’t recall that.
DEBORAH BARRA: Sir, do you remember being on the phone with somebody else while the police were in your residence and you indicated to the person on the phone, “I’ve got some cops out here and they’re acting like —- heads.” Do you remember …
SCOTT SELKIRK: Oh, I probably said that.
DEBORAH BARRA: You, you remember saying that?
SCOTT SELKIRK: Oh, I’m sure I said that.
Selkirk pushed back when Barra asked about a trail of Jim’s blood that led to Selkirk’s front door and beyond.
DEBORAH BARRA: Sir, isn’t it true that the blood went further into your house — Into your kitchen area?
SCOTT SELKIRK: No. No, I don’t know where you got that.
Barra got that from a police report, and photos of blood found in Selkirk’s kitchen.
JUDGE: Sir, you are free to go about your business.
SCOTT SELKIRK: Thank you, sir.
Now the jury didn’t hear this, but it was Selkirk’s shed that Jim Martin admits he was in, when he went missing for seven days.
Hancock’s second witness was Chris Guerra, another friend who testified that he never saw Jim be aggressive. He also said he had Jim over for dinner the night before the incident, and he seemed calm.
BILL HANCOCK: Was there anything unusual about Jim that evening when he was at your home for dinner?
CHRIS GUERRA: No.
Guerra was on the stand for only four minutes, with no cross examination. Then, Hancock surprised everyone and rested his case after calling just two witnesses. Jim Martin would not be going toe-to-toe with his ex-wife.
Deborah Barra: Ryan and I looked at each other and we were just like, he didn’t get it. … you have a world champion boxer who is in much better physical shape. … So, we thought … “What is he gonna say?” And it was nothing.
Bill Hancock: As we got into the trial, I think Jim became … more fearful about testifying and concerned about how his words would be twisted.
Deborah Barra: I personally think it was just that Jim couldn’t bring himself to tell the world that he needed to protect himself from Christy Martin.
BILL HANCOCK: Members of the jury, it has been difficult I’m sure …
In his closing, Hancock reminded the jury that the pink gun belonged to Christy — and he insisted once again that she was the one with the knife.
BILL HANCOCK: Whose blood is on the blade? James Martin. Any contribution or any DNA from Christy Martin? No.
PROSECUTOR RYAN VESCIO: That is nothing more than asking you to speculate …
Ryan Vescio reminded the jury that the knife was in Jim’s possession for seven days after the incident. And he insisted that the evidence showed, Christy never even had a chance to defend herself.
Ryan Vescio: There’s no evidence of a struggle. There’s no evidence that this was ah, ah an equal force fight.
David Begnaud: Did you think a guilty verdict was a given?
Ryan Vescio: Nothing’s ever a given in a courtroom.
THE JURY’S DECISION
After five hours of deliberating, the jury in the trial of Jim Martin had a decision.
Christy says she was worried.
Christy Salters-Martin: It was the first time ever I realized maybe they didn’t believe me.
COURT DEPUTY [reading verdict]: State of Florida vs. James V. Martin. Jury as to count one: We the jury find the defendant guilty of the lesser included offense of attempted second-degree murder.
Guilty of attempted murder, but not pre-meditated.
David Begnaud: You had prosecuted for first-degree attempted murder. They said…
Deborah Barra: Second degree … attempted murder.
David Begnaud: Did that feel like a loss?
Deborah Barra: No … I felt that was a, a good verdict. I knew that he would be facing substantial prison time. And I knew that would kind of vindicate Christy.
Christy says hearing the word “guilty” was a huge relief, but insists the verdict was only half right..
David Begnaud: Do you think Jim’s attack on you was premeditated?
Christy Salters-Martin: Absolutely. Without a doubt.
Bill Hancock says he accepts the jury’s decision, but he also disagrees.
David Begnaud: Do you think Jim Martin is innocent?
Bill Hancock: I believe my client.
Nine weeks later, at Jim Martin’s sentencing, Christy took the witness stand one last time.
She wanted the judge to know that she was still terrified.
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: Judge Thompson, Jim threatened my life for over 20 years …
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: He would also tell me that he knew people that could “make me disappear.”
Then, she turned and called out the man now convicted of trying to kill her.
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: Look at me, Jim.
Christy Salters-Martin: The entire time I testified I looked him straight in the eyes. And when he would look away from me, I would say, “Mother—— look at me.”
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: You shot me. With my own gun. Basically, point blank. And guess what mother——, I walked out.
David Begnaud: On the stand you said that?
Christy Salters-Martin: From the stand … One time the judge told me to be quiet and I just kept talkin’ cause what’s he going to do, put me in jail?
CHRISTY SALTERS-MARTIN: Judge, I hope that you’ll see fit to sentence Jim to the maximum of life in prison.
As she left the stand, Christy had one more thing she wanted to say to Jim.
Christy Salters-Martin: I walked right directly at him and said, “Mother——, I hope you burn in hell.”
Christy Salters-Martin: To me, it was tellin’ him, “I don’t fear you anymore.”
But Christy didn’t get the last word.
BILL HANCOCK: Judge, at this time Mr. Martin would like to address the court.
Jim Martin finally took the stand, turned to the judge and once again, claimed he was the victim.
JIM MARTIN: Outside the ring I was scared of Christy, you know, because I never wanted to do anything to make her mad.
His fear of Christy, he said, also explained why he fled the crime scene.
JIM MARTIN: Christy was gone. I ran through the house looking for her and then I got to thinking, Christy’s got the gun.
Then, Jim Martin apologized — but not for attacking his wife.
JIM MARTIN: I’m very sorry for that day. And I apologize. I should have just turned, walked off and whatever happened, what happened. I got stabbed I should have just turned and walked away. I never even would have turned her into police ’cause that’s not me. Cause I loved her so much.
David Begnaud: Do you believe he loved you?
Christy Salters-Martin: No. He loved what I gave to him. … I mean, the man never had a job. … I was his personal ATM.
Ryan Vescio says to this day, he remains surprised that Jim never properly claimed self-defense.
David Begnaud: Because in your opinion, that would have been the most predictable defense?
Ryan Vescio: Oh, it would have been most likely a successful defense.
Vescio asked the judge to sentence Jim Martin to the maximum: life in prison.
JUDGE: Do you have any questions Mr. Martin?
JIM MARTIN: No sir.
But, like the jury, the judge pulled his punch and handed down the minimum mandatory sentence: 25 years.
Ryan Vescio: Jim Martin will serve every single day of those 25 years. …There is no parole in Florida.
Christy Salters-Martin: The chances are he’s probably not gonna live the 25 years. So — was it a life sentence? Probably. So, am I OK with it? Yes.
Christy was left to pick up the pieces. And while she tries to stay in shape, doctors have recommended no more competing or she may die.
So, Christy followed in the footsteps of the legendary Don King and became a boxing promoter. This past July, in the middle of the pandemic, Christy held a 14-fight event in Daytona Beach.
Christy Salters-Martin: As a fighter, I didn’t settle. And I’m not gonna settle as a promoter.
Ryan Vescio: What’s remarkable about Christy today is getting to see how she’s living her second lease on life. And she’s able to be who she is, doing what she loves.
And loving who she wants to love. In November 2017, Christy married fellow boxer, and one-time opponent, Lisa Holewyne.
Lisa Holewyne: She is — one of the most genuine human beings I’ve ever met. … there is — a sweetness to her that, no matter … all the awful things she’s been through, is still there.
Christy now goes by her maiden name of Salters, and advocates for victims of domestic abuse through her non-profit “Christy’s Champs,” and she donates a portion of her fight proceeds to the cause.
Deborah Barra: I think it’s a remarkable story because you have a world-famous champion boxer and she could still be in a domestic violence relationship, because that isn’t about physical strength. It’s about mental abuse. … but you can always survive it.
Christy says she can now look back and see that she did get that fiftieth win—just not in the boxing ring.
Christy Salters-Martin: Finally, I have been able to come with– to terms with I got the 50th win when I got up off the floor November 23rd, 2010 and got outta my house. That was my 50th win.
In 2022, Christy Martin will be among the first class of women inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Christy’s relationship with her parents has improved and they continue to grow closer.
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has counselors available around the clock at 1-800-799-7233 [SAFE].
Produced by Judy Rybak. Danielle Arman is the associate producer. T. Sean Herbert is the location producer. Jud Johnston and George Baluzy are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.