Jason Corbett case: Molly Martens lawyers claim inquiry mishandled
Attorneys allege sheriff’s deputies viewed data protected by attorney-client privilege
Attorneys for Molly Martens Corbett and her father, Thomas Michael Martens, accused the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in the US of mishandling the investigation of the death of Jason Corbett (above) after an administrative hearing on Wednesday.
Attorneys for Molly Martens Corbett and her father, Thomas Michael Martens, accused the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office of mishandling the investigation of the death of Mr Corbett after an administrative hearing on Wednesday.
Ms Martens Corbett and Mr Martens were charged with second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the August 2nd, 2015, death of the former’s husband.
They entered pleas of not guilty, claiming self-defence and the defence of others, and were each released on a $200,000 bond in January.
Walter Holton and Cheryl Andrews, who represent Ms Martens Corbett, and David Freedman, one of Mr Martens’s attorneys, are alleging Davidson County Sheriff’s deputies improperly viewed information protected by attorney-client privilege and used the information in their investigation.
When the sheriff’s office began its investigation in August 2015, search warrants were issued to obtain emails from the Google accounts of Ms Martens Corbett (32), and Mr Martens (65).
Emails were printed, and both the hard copies and disks were submitted as discovery.
Removed from discovery
A total of 14 of those emails were removed from discovery in the case on Wednesday, as prosecutors and defence attorneys agreed that information obtained from the privileged emails was inadmissible.
Freedman confirmed some of the emails were addressed to and from him.
“Generally what happens, investigators who are trained as agents of the government, they stop and don’t read [privileged documents]. They take the information and ask what to do with it,” Mr Holton said.
“The investigators read it and took steps to further their investigation. There’s nothing damaging in the emails, because Molly is innocent. There’s nothing we’re trying to hide. It does taint the investigation. The genie’s out of the bottle.”
Moreover, Mr Holton said deputies delayed in notifying the defence of documents filed pertaining to the case. Ms Andrews said some reports from the sheriff’s office she received last month were dated in August.
Mr Holton alleges at least a portion of the reports were written by Lt Wanda Thompson with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
“Why are we getting reports dated August 10th with no time stamp? If Lt Thompson wrote the reports August 10th, why wasn’t it time stamped?” Mr Holton asked aloud.
“This isn’t a real investigation. It is to get to an end, to produce a result - the conviction of two innocent people. This is not a fact-finding mission. They never came and interviewed Tom and Molly. They didn’t like what [the defendants] said. It doesn’t fit their theories on the case.”
Mr Freedman expressed his disappointment with the investigation, lamenting the fact openness to the sheriff’s office has not been rewarded in kind.
“We’ve had Tom and Molly available for interviews from day one, and they haven’t interviewed them,” Mr Freedman said.
“We said there wasn’t any need for search warrants because we’ll give them any information they want, but they went and executed all these warrants.”
During the hearing at Davidson County Superior Court, the defence attorneys said they were unsuccessful in receiving information from the family of Jason Corbett’s first wife, Margaret Fitzpatrick Corbett, who died in 2006.
Mr Holton said attempts were unsuccessful because the Fitzpatrick family said they could not speak with attorneys because it would violate a court order.
Judge Bridges clarified that the court order only applies to Ms Martens Corbett and not attorneys or investigators in the case, and that witnesses in the case can speak with attorneys or investigators should they choose to.
Mr Holton also told the judge that Ms Martens Corbett and her family have received threats through social media. Her uncle, Michael Earnest, said Ms Martens Corbett has received voicemails from “Jack” asking her to call him in what they believe is an attempt to get her to violate a court order.
Mr Holton addressed the alleged badgering of his client in court Wednesday.
“Ms Corbett has been the subject of harassment via social media, has received death threats, things of that nature,” Mr Holton said to the judge. “Ms Corbett has very dutifully followed the court’s orders not to contact her children.
“She continues to receive very serious physical threats.”
The assistant district attorney Mr Martin, speaking on behalf of the prosecution, described such attacks as abhorrent and called for them to cease, saying threatening or harassing witnesses or defendants “goes to the very core of our system”.
Judge Bridges made a continuing order for anyone associated with the case, proclaiming that any threats directed at anyone involved are expressly prohibited.
The next court date for Ms Martens Corbett and Mr Martens is May 30th.