Martens murder trial: Father-in-law said he ‘hated Corbett’

Dislike for Limerick man found beaten to death ‘common knowledge’

Thomas Martens: claims self-defence in the killing of Jason Corbett, his son-in-law. Photograph: Donnie Roberts/Dispatch

Thomas Martens: claims self-defence in the killing of Jason Corbett, his son-in-law. Photograph: Donnie Roberts/Dispatch

 

Thomas Martens, who is accused of murdering the Limerick man Jason Corbett in 2015, said he hated his son-in-law, a former colleague has told his trial in the United States.

Mr Corbett’s widow, Molly Martens Corbett, and her father are charged with the second-degree murder of Mr Corbett, who was found beaten to death at his home in Wallburg, North Carolina, in the early hours of August 2nd, 2015. Ms Corbett (33) and Mr Martens (67) have pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defence after Mr Corbett allegedly tried to strangle his wife.

Tuesday’s proceedings began with a lengthy dispute, as the defence and prosecution argued about whether Mr Martens’s colleague would be an appropriate witness.

Joann Lowry, who worked with him at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee, recalled a conversation she had with Mr Martens in 2015. When she asked about his weekend, she said, he told her that the Corbett family had visited, adding: “We’re always glad to see them come home, but we’re also glad to see them leave . . . That son-in-law, I hate him.”

Jason Corbett: the Limerick man was killed in a domestic dispute in North Carolina
Jason Corbett: the Limerick man was killed in a domestic dispute in North Carolina

She added that before the couple got married, in 2011, Mr Martens had expressed disdain for Mr Corbett and the guests he brought with him. “He was not very fond of Jason and his rowdy friends,” Ms Lowry said.

The defence argued that any statement implying malice from Mr Martens should have no bearing on his daughter and that, as this would be impossible to avoid in a joint trial, the testimony should be disallowed.

Mr Martens’s attorney David Freedman told the court that North Carolina had chosen to try the defendants together and that the assistant district attorney, Greg Brown, was arguing that they had acted in concert. If Mr Martens were to testify, he continued, the prosecution would have the opportunity to cross-examine him and to call its own witness to refute his testimony. “If and when Mr Martens testifies, these issues would be by the wayside,” Mr Freedman said.

On trial: Molly Martens Corbett and her father, Thomas Martens
On trial: Molly Martens Corbett and her father, Thomas Martens

The defence attorney argued that as Ms Lowry was referring to a conversation two months before the incident it would not “appropriately speak to the matter at hand”. Thirteen people belonged to the unit where Mr Martens used to work; although Ms Lowry believed it was “common knowledge” that Mr Martens disliked Mr Corbett, she was permitted to give only first-hand accounts.

Judge David Lee stipulated that Ms Lowry’s testimony would affect Mr Martens only, with no bearing on Ms Martens.

The court expects to hear prosecution testimony from a bloodstain-pattern analyst, Stuart H James, when the case resumes.