Court ruling Killer Molly Martens and her father Tom granted full retrial for Irishman Jason Corbett's murder
KILLERS Tom and Molly Martens have dramatically won a full retrial over their conviction for the murder of Irish businessman Jason Corbett (39).
The North Carolina Supreme Court today ratified a Court of Appeal decision that the father and daughter should have a new trial as it was deemed their ability to argue self defence at their 2017 trial had been unfairly hindered.
It was decided by a majority decision of four judges to three on the Supreme Court just three months after an oral hearing was granted to both the defence and prosecution teams in Raleigh.
However, one dissenting judge pointed out that the evidence against the defendants in this case "was overwhelming."
The dissenting opinion was shared by North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby.
Mr Corbett's Limerick-based family are understood to be devastated by the shock North Carolina ruling.
Prosecutors - who had expected the Supreme Court to ratify the original of the Davidson County murder trial conviction from August 2017 - are ready to proceed with a new trial though this is unlikely to be staged before 2022.
It is expected that the defence legal teams will move immediately to secure a release on bail from prison of both the father and daughter.
Both have been in North Carolina prisons since their conviction for second degree murder almost four years ago.
The duo were serving sentences of 20 to 25 years.
Oral hearings were staged last January by the NC Supreme Court in Raleigh into the bid by the father and daughter to have their murder convictions quashed and a new trial ordered over the killing of Mr Corbett, a Limerick-born father of two, at his luxury North Carolina home in August 2015.
The NC Supreme Court decision by Chief Justice Paul Newby, Justice Samuel Ervin, Justice Tamara Barringer, Justice Robin Hudson, Justice Michael Morgan and Justice Anita Earls was not expected before next autumn.
Mr Martens (70) is a retired FBI agent while his daughter, Molly (37), married Mr Corbett in June 2011 after travelling to Ireland to work as a nanny for the Irish widower's two children.
Their trial heard the Irish businessman was beaten to death as he slept with a metal baseball bat and a concrete paving brick.
An attempt had been made to drug him, he was beaten even after he was dead and the trial heard it was alleged the father and daughter even delayed calling emergency services just to ensure Mr Corbett was dead when paramedics arrived.
Mr Corbett's family believe he was killed to prevent him bringing his two children back to Ireland.
The father and daughter, in legal submissions tabled by their lawyers Douglas Kingsbery and David Freedman, insisted they acted entirely in self-defence that night.
Both were found totally uninjured at the scene - while a pathologist said that, such was the damage to Mr Corbett's head, he could not accurately count the number of blows inflicted.
The NC Supreme Court was told Mr Martens argued his ability to mount a proper defence was unfairly restricted at the Davidson County Superior Court trial.
Mr Martens was not allowed to introduce in evidence statements by Mr Corbett's two children, Jack and Sarah, an alleged conversation with Mr Corbett's first father-in-law and what he heard his daughter shouting on the evening of Mr Corbett's death.
Both father and daughter argued that critical testimony by a blood pattern expert should not have been allowed due to procedural errors.
The retired FBI agent offered evidence in his own defence during the 2017 trial.
His daughter, Molly, did not offer sworn testimony.
The children's statements were given to a North Carolina social services agency, Dragonfly House, in the days after the killing of their father.
Elements of those statements referred to the nature of the relationship between Mr Corbett and Ms Martens.
Ms Martens, in one written submission to the Supreme Court, said:
"(She) was worried about how the domestic violence and arguing would affect the children."
However, the original trial judge did not allow the statements on the basis they were contradicted by sworn statements given by the children just weeks later when they were repatriated to Ireland.
The Irish statements totally refuted what had been said to North Carolina social workers.
NC prosecutor Jonathan Babb pointed out that, when the children were questioned during one of the interviews, they explained they were only present because: "People are trying to take (us) away from my Mom (Molly)."
When officials asked who had told them that, they replied it was Ms Martens.
Mr Kingsbery challenged the recantation of the statements and said the children's later claim that Molly was "a psychopath" and an "abuser" ran contrary to the record of evidence in 2015.
He said the impact of the decision not to allow the statements into evidence cannot be overstated in terms of the defence case.
Ms Martens has a history of mental health problems though this was not discussed during the 2017 murder trial.
The trial also heard Mr Martens acknowledge that he had never before seen or heard Mr Corbett mistreat his daughter.
The statements made by the children in the US were given at a time when they had been placed in Ms Martens care immediately after the killing of their father - and the children were returned to the care of Tom and Molly Martens after making the statements.
Mr Martens defence team insisted that "cumulative errors denied Mr Martens and Mrs Corbett a fair trial."
"The majority of the (Court of Appeals) panel held inter alia that the trial court committed prejudicial error in excluding statements made by Jack and Sarah Corbett as they were admissible under the medical diagnosis and residual exceptions to the rule against hearsay."
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