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Molly Martens hugs her mother Sharon Martens outside the courthouse

Molly Martens hugs her mother Sharon Martens outside the courthouse

Molly Martens hugs her mother Sharon Martens outside the courthouse

FORMER FBI agent Tom Martens (71) and his daughter Molly (37) are free for the first time in almost four years following their release on bail from a US jail.

It is unlikely that they will see the inside of a prison cell any time soon as their lawyers insisted a retrial for the second-degree murder of Irishman Jason Corbett will not be held for a considerable amount of time.

The father and daughter walked free from a North Carolina jail on Wednesday night after they were granted bail by a US court in a bond set at €170,000 ($200,000).

Their release followed a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling last month which quashed their 2017 murder convictions and ordered a full retrial.

Both immediately returned to their home in Knoxville, Tennessee, after being greeted by family and supporters at Davidson County jail.

Tom Martens' lawyer, David Freedman, confirmed that no future court date has yet been set.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the trials system in North Carolina, with a backlog of between 20 to 22 murder and manslaughter hearings.

"Right now, we are back at the starting point - there is no conviction and they are presumed to be innocent," Mr Freedman said.

He confirmed there were emotional scenes at Davidson County jail as the father and daughter were released from custody.

"She was ecstatic when she got out. Tom was very happy to be released too," he said.

"They had been in custody for 44 months. It is tough, they have both made the best of it.

"There is no new court date yet - Covid-19 has backed up all of the court system here tremendously.

"So I am not quite sure when we will have any further proceedings. At some point a date will be set, I believe that to be the case."

Asked about the possibility of an early hearing, he added: "I don't think so, not with all the other cases that are out there. They could be home for some time to come"

Tom and Molly Martens will now face a full retrial for the second-degree murder of the Limerick father of two - a move Mr Corbett's family welcomed after a controversial plea-bargain deal apparently collapsed.

Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank declined to comment as the matter is now formally in "pre-trial mode".

Molly Martens was greeted by her mother Sharon on release from jail and did not comment to waiting reporters.

Tom Martens, who left jail a few minutes later, simply said: "I am just glad to be back with my family.

"I'm going home."

Relief

The pair had served almost four years of a 20-25-year prison sentence for second-degree murder.

Mr Corbett's sister, Tracey Corbett-Lynch, said it was a huge relief for the family that a retrial will definitely happen.

"The Martens have shown no remorse, just utter contempt for their victim, his children and his grieving family," she said.

Ms Corbett-Lynch expressed outrage that not only was her brother's life taken with shocking violence, but repeated attempts had been made over the past six years to destroy his good name and reputation.

She vowed that her family will never waver in their campaign for justice and will continue to do everything in their power to support North Carolina prosecutors and police.

"Our six-year fight for justice for Jason continues," she said.

Both Tom and Molly Martens insisted they acted in self-defence after claiming Mr Corbett had attacked Molly on August 2, 2015, at their home.

However, both father and daughter were found by police to be uninjured at the scene.

In contrast, Mr Corbett's skull had been completely shattered and a pathologist could not precisely count the number of blows he had sustained to his head.

The original trial heard that Mr Corbett had been drugged, attacked with a baseball bat and concrete paving brick while he lay asleep in bed, and then beaten after he had died.

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