The prison service in North Carolina said that the confusion over the announcement of the imminent release of Molly Martens Corbett and her father was due to “human error”.
The father and daughter have been moved to the North Carolina state prison system to serve the remainder of their sentence for the killing of Limerick man Jason Corbett.
A spokesman denied reports that there was an investigation or inquiry underway into the circumstances in which the department of adult corrections in North Carolina had, initially on a website and later in a formal statement, said that Thomas Martens was to be released on Tuesday 5th December and that Molly Martens would be freed on Wednesday.
It said in its first statement on Monday that the two would have a 12-month period of supervision by a probation/parole officer after they left prison. Later the department of adult corrections said that the Martens would be remaining in prison until next summer.
A spokesman told The Irish Times on Tuesday that: “there was an error; it was noticed and it was corrected.”
The department of adult corrections in North Carolina said that the daughter and father had been moved on Tuesday from the Davidson County Jail to the North Carolina state prison system to serve the remainder of their sentences.
It said that Molly Martens Corbett was admitted to North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh, while Thomas Martens was admitted to Piedmont Correctional institution in Salisbury.
“These two prisons are admission centers in the North Carolina prison system. These offenders may be transferred to other prisons after the completion of the admission and evaluation process.
The current projected release dates for both are June 27, 2024.”
The department of adult corrections said that online public information pages in respect of the Martens “have been taken down temporarily to get them accurately updated”.
Meanwhile, the family of murdered Irishman Jason Corbett strongly criticised the authorities in North Carolina for visiting a “nightmare” on them this week.
They added nobody from the justice system in North Carolina had been in touch with them to explain, or offer support after, the prison release error. Tracey Corbett Lynch, who won custody of her murdered brother’s children, said she is convinced Thomas Martens and Molly Martens would now be free only for the reaction in Ireland when news broke they were about to be released.
“The events of the sentencing hearing and the confusion over incorrect early prison release dates in North Carolina this week caused further hurt and upset to two children who have already suffered far too much,” Ms Corbett Lynch said of Jack (19) and Sarah (17) who are now part of her family in Ireland.
They found it “incredible” the North Carolina justice authorities had made an error of early release sentence calculations and were about to release the killers on Monday.
The Irish media and the ‘Justice for Jason’ supporters had highlighted the “injustice” of the planned release, Ms Corbett Lynch said. But for that, the family was “convinced... the two killers who cruelly took Jason’s life and tried to attack his good name would be released after the shocking period of just four weeks behind bars”.
Molly and Tom Martens had “orphaned” Jack and Sarah and had “never shown remorse”. While Mr Corbett’s family in Ireland had been “fighting for justice for Jason for eight long years” many other families were not able to fight.
“The events of the past few weeks raise serious questions about the fairness and the empathy of the justice system in North Carolina,” Ms Corbett Lynch added in a statement on Tuesday on behalf off the family.
She added other criminals in North Carolina were being imprisoned for 20 years or more for non-fatal assaults, yet the Martens had been sanctioned last month with seven additional months in jail. This was despite the fact they “beat a helpless man to death with a baseball bat and a concrete paving slab”. This was “nothing less than a shocking injustice” and “simply not good enough for the families of victims of violent crime”.
While Ms Corbett Lynch asked for privacy at this time, she said her family would “continue to speak out about this and campaign for victims rights whether it is in Ireland or the US”.
The North Carolina department of adult corrections had said in a statement on Monday that Martens Corbett and her father would be freed from prison this week, and would spend a year under supervised probation. However, in a second statement later on Monday, it said it had calculated the sentence incorrectly and that no release would take place.
“The current projected release dates for both are June 27th, 2024. Corbett and Martens will be transferred to state prison facilities to complete the remainder of their sentences,” it said.
Mr Corbett was beaten to death with a baseball bat and a brick in a bedroom in his home near Winston Salem in North Carolina in August 2016. Molly Martens Corbett, who married Mr Corbett after he had lost his first wife to a asthma attack, and her father claimed self defence. Initially they were convicted of second degree murder and served 44 months in prison, but their convictions were later quashed by an appeals court.
In October, Martens Corbett and her father agreed a plea deal with prosecutors which avoided the need for a retrial. Martens Corbett did not contest a charge of voluntary manslaughter while Thomas Martens pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Following a ten-day sentencing hearing last month, the two were sent to prison for a minimum of 54 months and a maximum of 74 months. As they had already spent 44 months in jail before an appeals court quashed their original convictions, it had been expected they would face between seven months and two and half years of additional time in jail.
- Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date