Retrial of Molly and Thomas Martens over Jason Corbett murder

State supreme court swayed by argument duo unable to ‘fully and fairly present their cases’

 

A retrial of the Jason Corbett murder case is to take place, after the North Carolina supreme court upheld a previous ruling calling for a retrial.

The Limerick man was found dead in his home in North Carolina in 2015. Two years later, Mr Corbett’s wife, Molly Martens Corbett, and her father Thomas Martens, were found guilty of his murder.

But in a decision on Friday, the supreme court upheld a ruling from the court of appeals in February 2020, allowing for a retrial. It is expected that the trial may not take place until 2022.

Ms Martens and her father, a retired FBI agent, were both convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20-25 years in prison following the 2017 trial.

But in Friday’s ruling, the court upheld the defence case that they were unable to “fully and fairly present their cases”, due to omitted testimony.

“By erroneously excluding admissible testimony which was relevant to the central question presented to the jury, the trial court impermissibly constrained defendants’ ability to mount their defense,” the majority ruling of the court found.

Testimony connected to Mr Corbett’s children, Jack and Sarah, was denied admittance at the initial trial. Last year’s appeal court ruling found that some testimony by Thomas Martens was also struck out.

Mr Corbett’s family, said they were “distraught” at the development. “We are so disappointed and distraught that the supreme court of North Carolina has decided to grant a retrial to Tom and Molly Martens who admitted killing our beloved Jason – a father, a brother, a son and a loyal friend – who is dearly missed by all who knew and loved him,” said the deceased’s sister, Tracey Corbett Lynch.

Mr Corbett died from head injuries after a sustained assault with a brick and a baseball bat at his family home in the town of Wallburg in North Carolina.

Mr Martens claimed that he acted in self-defence, testifying that Mr Corbett was choking his daughter and that he was responding to what he believed was some sort of disturbance.

He argued that it was “unfair” to block him entering specific statements in support of his claim that he had acted in self-defence. This was contested by North Carolina prosecutors.

Ms Martens and her father remain in jail, but their lawyers are expected to move to secure their release on bail.

Molly Martens Corbett first met her Irish husband in 2008 after she moved to Limerick to work as a nanny for his children following the death of his first wife Margaret Fitzpatrick from an asthma attack. They later became romantically involved and married in 2011.

Following Mr Corbett’s killing, she lost custody of Mr Corbett’s children to his sister Tracey and her husband David Lynch who are raising the children in Limerick as their legal guardians.

Mr Corbett, a native of Janesboro, Limerick, had been living in North Carolina for four years at the time of his death. He had secured a transfer with his employer, Multi Packaging Solutions, from the company’s plant in Limerick to its operation in Lexington, North Carolina. It is believed that he moved to the US because his new wife wanted to return to North Carolina.

It has been reported that Thomas Martens filed a motion to be released on bond due to a risk of contracting Covid-19 last year, but that request was denied.