Plea deal for Thomas and Molly Martens not ruled out after release on bail

Father and daughter appealed conviction for murder of Irish man Jason Corbett in US

Sharon Martens (R) and lawyer Doug Kingsbury with Molly Martens leaving Davidson County jail

Sharon Martens (R) and lawyer Doug Kingsbury with Molly Martens leaving Davidson County jail

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Sources close to the Jason Corbett trial have said that a plea deal between state prosecutors and Thomas and Molly Martens has not been ruled out, following the release of the two defendants on bail this week.

Molly Martens (37) and her father Thomas Martens (71) were released from jail on Wednesday pending a retrial, following a bail hearing at the Davidson County Courthouse.

Though they were convicted in August 2017 of murdering Limerick man Jason Corbett at his home in North Carolina in 2015, the state Supreme Court upheld an appeal court ruling quashing the conviction last month.

The court ruled that evidence, including testimony from Mr Corbett’s two children, should have been included in the original trial.

A retrial is now expected but is at least six months away and is likely to take place next year. However, it is understood that a plea deal between the state and lawyers for Thomas and Molly Martens is still a possibility.

The family of Mr Corbett has strongly opposed the prospect of the Martens reaching a plea bargain with the North Carolina district attorney, which would negate the need for a retrial, arguing that Mr Corbett’s former wife and father-in-law would not face justice.

District attorney Garry Frank and attorney for Thomas Martens, David Freedman, said they had “no comment” on the question of a possible plea deal offered by the state to his client and Molly Martens.

In a statement following Wednesday’s hearing, Tracey Corbett Lynch, who is the legal guardian of the deceased man’s children, Jack and Sarah, said: “We look forward to a date being set for a retrial at the earliest opportunity.”

She added that her late brother’s two children “look forward to telling a jury the truth about the abuse they and Jason suffered at the hands of Molly Martens”.

Members of the Corbett family travelled to North Carolina in recent weeks for discussions, including on a possible plea deal, with state prosecutors.

Several friends and local supporters of Mr Corbett came to show their support outside the courthouse in Lexington, North Carolina, on Wednesday.

Lateffa Dennis, whose son Travis worked for Mr Corbett, described the Limerick man as a “very caring person”. She told The Irish Times that she attended the company Christmas party with her son, and that Mr Corbett had gone out of his way to make her feel welcome, as she had recently lost her husband.

“Those two know what they’ve done,” she said of Molly and Thomas Martens. “A retrial needs to be held if that is what is needed to get justice for Jason.”

Ms Martens and her father were released from jail on Wednesday on a bond of $200,000 (€168,000) each. They were also forced to surrender their passports and banned from having any contact with the Corbett family.

During Wednesday’s hearing, assistant district attorney Alan Martin recounted the events of August 2015 when Mr Corbett was murdered.

Thomas Martens had attacked his son-in-law with an aluminium baseball bat while Molly Martens smashed his skull with a concrete paving block.