US prosecutors given one month to argue against Tom and Molly Martens’ retrial transfer

Lawyers for Tom Martens argued for the transfer amid a claim that their client now cannot receive a fair trial in Davidson County


A US judge has given prosecutors one month to argue against a bid by father and daughter Tom and Molly Martens to have their retrial for the murder of Irishman Jason Corbett transferred to a different part of North Carolina.

Tom (72) and Molly Martens (38) were to argue today that unprecedented publicity warrants the transfer of their retrial for the murder of Mr Corbett (39) out of Davidson County in North Carolina.

The father and daughter were convicted in August 2017 of beating the Limerick-born father-of-two to death with a baseball bat and a concrete brick in the bedroom of his North Carolina home.

Both were sentenced to 20-25 years in prison for second degree murder but a retrial was ordered after they won their challenge to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Molly Martens

In a pre-trial motion, lawyers for Tom Martens – a former FBI agent – argued for the transfer amid a claim that their client now cannot receive a fair trial in Davidson County.

“There is no way they could receive a fair and impartial jury in Davidson County, and no way their constitutional rights as guaranteed under the North Carolina and United States Constitutions to due process and a fair trial can be adequately protected in Davidson County,” the written submission to the court claimed.

Judge David Hall, who was appointed last year to deal with the retrial, has already imposed a strict gagging order on everyone associated with the case including prosecution and defence officials, who have been banned from making any comment to the media without the judge’s express authorisation.

Judge Hall acknowledged that the publicity surrounding the case was, in his opinion, “unprecedented”.

Now, he has granted a motion of continuance to Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank to allow prosecutors time to respond to the defence transfer demands.

Two years ago, when a retrial was first confirmed, Mr Frank indicated that he saw no reason why it should not proceed in Davidson County.

Judge Hall has now given prosecutors five weeks to prepare a detailed response to the retrial transfer request before he rules on the matter next month. Defence lawyers also claimed that media coverage to date in the matter had threatened to have a negative impact on a fair trial next June.

Mr Martens’ lawyers claimed that a substantial amount of the coverage to date had been generated by Mr Corbett’s family as well as Irish newspapers, radio and TV stations.

However, the lawyers did not refer in their submissions to interviews given in the US by Ms Martens, or the fact both she and her father had given a detailed TV interview to a US network before their original trial even commenced.

In their submission, the lawyers argued that the actual facts of the case had not been reported and that the duo had been portrayed throughout as murderers.

One source explained that the transfer of the retrial out of Davidson County – which is largely working class – to another more middle-class county in North Carolina would be seen as preferable to the defence.

Defence legal teams have already launched an onslaught on the key issues that helped convict the father and daughter.

Both claimed they acted in self defence but were found uninjured at the scene by police.

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