Attorneys in Corbett and Martens case seek trial to be moved

Father and daughter charged over death of Irishman in North Carolina

A Davidson County judge appeared unconvinced that a high-profile murder trial should be moved out of the county but didn't make a decision after an hours-long hearing Thursday.

Attorneys for Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens, who are charged with the fatal beating of Irish businessman Jason Corbett in August 2015, have filed a motion seeking to have the trial moved outside Davidson County, alleging that news organizations have published what they consider false information contained in search warrants.

That has led to an overwhelming prejudice against their clients, they argue, that will prevent Molly Corbett and Martens from getting a fair trial.

Molly Corbett (33) was Jason Corbett’s wife, and Thomas Martens (67) a former FBI agent, is her father. They are each charged with second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in Jason Corbett’s death. They have claimed self-defense, saying Jason Corbett was choking his wife and threatening to kill her.


Mr Martens told authorities that he hit Jason Corbett with a baseball bat to stop him and then hit him again when Jason Corbett moved against him. Jason Corbett died of blunt-force trauma to the head and multiple cuts and skull fractures, according to an autopsy report.

They are scheduled to go to trial starting the week of July 17th. Walter Holton, Molly Corbett's attorney, and David Freedman, Mr Martens' attorney, recommended Thursday that the trial be moved to Davie County, which is in the same judicial district as Davidson.

Mr Holton and Mr Freedman argue that the Davidson County Sheriff's Office has had close ties to Jason Corbett's family and the case has received local, national and international attention because Jason Corbett is from Ireland.

The case has not only been covered in the Winston-Salem Journal and other local media but also by Nancy Grace, who used to host a national television program on HLN. News organisations in Ireland also have covered the case.

Judge David Lee of Davidson Superior Court said he wasn’t entirely convinced that the trial should be moved out of the county. “I just don’t see it,” he said.

One of the first witnesses that Mr Holton called on Thursday morning was Lt Wanda Thompson of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. Ms Thompson supervises the detectives in the sheriff’s office, including the lead investigators in the homicide investigation. She also applied for some of the search warrants in the case.

Mr Holton asked Ms Thompson repeatedly where she got information that formed the basis for certain allegations in her search warrants. For example, the search warrants alleged that Jason Corbett had planned to transfer $60,000 from his accounts in the United States to Ireland and wanted to take his two children, Sarah and Jack, to Ireland permanently, without Molly Corbett.

Ms Thompson said she interviewed Mr Corbett’s business partner, but Holton pointed out that emails between Jason Corbett and his business partner revealed that Jason Corbett was trying to get a business loan. There was never any information in the police reports that he received from prosecutors that said Jason Corbett was planning to take his children to Ireland because of problems with Molly Corbett, Holton argued.

Holton also asked Thompson about allegations in the search warrants that Molly Corbett took large amounts of money from the couple’s joint accounts after Jason Corbett died. Thompson said she got that information from one of the estate attorneys, but she acknowledged that she didn’t take notes on that conversation.

Mr Freedman pointed out in his questioning that as an investigator, she is required to document her interviews with witnesses. Ms Thompson said she doesn’t take notes on every part of a conversation she has with someone if it isn’t relevant to the investigation.

Mr Holton argued that inaccurate and false statements in the search warrants were repeated in stories that news organisations published over and over again. That created a tremendous amount of prejudice for Molly Corbett and Martens.

Assistant district attorney Alan Martin said Davidson County has more than 161,000 residents. Mr Holton and Mr Freedman had failed, he said, to provide any evidence that so much prejudice exists that Molly Corbett and Mar-tens would be unable to get a fair trial.

Winston-Salem Journal