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Molly and Tom Martens want retrial for murder of Jason Corbett moved to new location

North Carolina sources have indicated that the retrial transfer is expected to be sought this year during a procedural hearing.

Molly and Tom Martens

Ralph RiegelIndependent.ie

The killers of an Irish father of two in the US are set to seek a transfer of their murder retrial venue.

Tom (72) and Molly Martens (38) will argue this year that unprecedented publicity warrants the transfer of their retrial for the murder of Jason Corbett (39) out of Davidson County in North Carolina.

Prosecutors, defence lawyers and the families involved are unable to comment on the matter because of a strict gagging order imposed by the judge specially appointed to deal with the retrial, Judge David Hall.

Judge Hall has threatened to initiate contempt proceedings against anyone associated with the case who breaches his order which is aimed at protecting the integrity of the trial.

The judge described the case and retrial as having attracted unprecedented publicity.

North Carolina sources have indicated that the retrial transfer is expected to be sought this year during a procedural hearing.

The retrial itself is listed for next June.

One source explained that the transfer of the retrial out of Davidson County – which is a largely blue-collar and working-class area – to another more middle-class county 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 of the brutal murder of the Limerick businessman in August 2015.

Jason Corbett

Mr Corbett was beaten to death with a paving brick and a metal baseball bat by Mr Martens, a former FBI agent, and his daughter.

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

Prosecutors argued during the five-week 2017 trial that Mr Corbett was asleep in bed when he was attacked, that an attempt had been made to drug him and that he was beaten even after he was dead.

District attorneys argued that the father and daughter then delayed alerting the emergency services just to ensure Mr Corbett was dead when they arrived

Mr Corbett’s character has already been attacked, with defence lawyer Douglas Kingsbery accusing him of having murdered his first wife.

No evidence whatsoever in support of Mr Kingsbery’s claim was offered to court – and Mr Corbett’s family were left horrified by the unfounded suggestion.

Friends of the Limerick man rejected the claims as “disgusting” with Mr Corbett’s first wife Margaret ‘Mags’ Fitzpatrick dying of an acute asthma attack in November 2006.

Her death left her husband with two children aged two years and under.

The forensic evidence, which five years ago helped convict Tom and Molly Martens, will also be the focus of fresh legal manoeuvres by the father and daughter’s lawyers.

Defence legal teams will now target the key planks of the prosecution case which led to their 2017 conviction for the second-degree murder of the Limerick-born widower.

One Davidson County legal source revealedthat the retrial is expected to revolve around two key elements – disputing the forensic evidence that was central to the prosecution case and reinforcing the contested allegation that Molly Martens was afraid of her Irish husband.

The latter is likely to see defence legal teams insist on introducing statements made by Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack and Sarah, to North Carolina social services in August 2015, just days after their father’s killing and at a time when they were in the care of Ms Martens and her family.

Elements of those statements relate to the alleged relationship between Jason Corbett and Molly Martens.

Tom Martens

Both of the children, who are now aged 18 and 16 years, have made fresh statements to Davidson County prosecutors and have repeated their willingness to offer direct testimony at the US retrial to support the prosecution case.

The original trial judge, Judge David Lee, ruled out the children’s North Carolina statements as they were flatly contradicted by statements made just weeks later when the children were returned to Ireland after their father’s killing and following a bitter custody battle.

“This time the defence knows precisely what is coming and what they face,” the legal source said.

Mr Corbett, a packaging industry executive, was found savagely beaten to death in the bedroom of his luxury home outside Winston-Salem in August 2015.

He had been beaten with a metal Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a heavy concrete paving slab.

Mr Corbett was found by paramedics and police lying naked and blood-soaked on the bedroom floor.

Pathologist Dr Craig Nelson performed the postmortem and said such was the devastating damage to Mr Corbett’s skull that he could not accurately count the number of blows inflicted.

Tom Martens, a retired FBI agent and a counter-intelligence contractor for the US Department of Energy, insisted he only confronted Mr Corbett in a bid to protect his daughter.

Mr Martens, who is also a lawyer, claimed he saw Mr Corbett holding his daughter by the neck and struck him with the baseball bat only after he refused to release his Tennessee-born wife.

Both the father and daughter insisted they acted entirely in self-defence – despite the fact neither suffered any injury and were found by Davidson County police at the scene without a bruise, cut or scratch.

Ms Martens had to be repeatedly warned at the scene by police officers to stop vigorously rubbing her neck.

The Davidson County Superior Court trial in July and August 2017 heard detailed forensic evidence from key prosecution witnesses which contradicted the killers’ version of events.

It has yet to be clarified whether the defence legal teams will introduce testimony from their own forensic expert at the retrial.

However, the defence legal teams are expected to vigorously challenge the forensic evidence and the interpretations attached to it at the original trial.

Former North Carolina prosecutor, Judge David Hall, was appointed to deal with the retrial.

He set the retrial date for June 26 and explained that it proved impossible to stage it earlier, blaming “the Covid bottleneck”.

Final pretrial motions will be dealt with on June 12.

Jury selection will commence on June 26 – a process that the Davidson County legal expert said will be complicated by “the overwhelming media coverage the case has attracted”.

The judge noted the unprecedented coverage the case has attracted, and warned he will not allow “media exploitation” or anything that could undermine the integrity of the trial process.


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