Jason Corbett's children to come face to face with Tom and Molly Martens for first time since he was killed
Jack (17) and Sarah (15) to attend court today ahead of North Carolina retrial of Martenses
The two children of murdered Irish businessman Jason Corbett will today attend a special US court hearing to add their voices to his family’s demand for justice in a high-profile retrial of father and daughter Tom and Molly Martens.
Jack (17) and Sarah (15) Corbett will attend a Davidson County Superior Court pre-trial hearing in North Carolina – the first time Mr Corbett’s children will have personally attended any of the multiple court proceedings since their 39-year-old father was beaten to death seven years ago.
They will attend the hearing in Lexington, North Carolina, alongside Mr Corbett’s sister, Tracey Corbett-Lynch, her husband David, and siblings Dean and Adam, who have led the determined Irish campaign for justice for the father of two.
Mr Corbett was beaten to death in the bedroom of his North Carolina home by his American wife Molly (37) and his father-in-law Tom (71), a retired FBI agent.
It will be the first time the two children will come face to face with Tom and Molly Martens since the father and daughter killed Mr Corbett in August 2015.
Tom Martens and his daughter Molly, who was the Irish widower’s second wife, face a retrial after their 2017 convictions were overturned by the North Carolina Supreme Court last year.
Today’s hearing will deal with administrative and logistical issues arising from the planned retrial on second-degree murder charges of Tom and Molly Martens. A specific date for the retrial this year is also expected to be set.
Judge David Hall from Forsyth County is expected to sit for the proceedings today.
Both children will attend the hearing in a public demonstration of support for prosecutors who were shocked when the original second-degree murder convictions were set aside on appeal last year.
A number of Mr Corbett’s friends and colleagues will also attend in a show of support for prosecutors.
It is expected that both children will prove key witnesses in the retrial.
Unlike the first trial, testimony from Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack and Sarah Corbett, is likely to prove central to the prosecution in the retrial.
Both were asleep in upstairs bedrooms of their home at Panther Creek Court outside Winston-Salem in North Carolina in August 2015 when their father was beaten to death downstairs.
The refusal of the original trial judge to allow statements taken from the children in August 2015 by North Carolina social services officials to be entered into evidence was critical to Tom and Molly Martens getting their convictions overturned.
Today’s hearing will be supervised by the new judge appointed to deal with the Davidson Superior Court prosecution – and will focus on the timeline for the proposed retrial.
The retrial had been scheduled to take place next spring but legal and logistical issues, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, have now raised fears of yet another delay.
It is expected that the defence legal teams will seek a trial date next autumn.
Mr Corbett’s family are deeply concerned at the impact on the children of the retrial being moved to next autumn – with Jack scheduled to sit his Leaving Cert in 2022/23.
Sarah, who is also in secondary school, also faces a key examination year next year.
The family had carefully planned their educational regime around a US retrial in May and June.
“We are putting our faith in the district attorney to do the right thing and not bow to pressure from the defence. All the preparation is done – it’s a ‘do over’ with the exception of Jack and Sarah’s testimony,” a Corbett family spokesperson said
“It is not fair for this to be hanging over the heads of the children – we want the retrial to proceed as initially indicated in May and June. This has been ongoing now for seven years.”
Both the prosecution and defence teams today will be asked to clarify their preparedness for a retrial to the judge.
US prosecutors are bracing themselves for the retrial of the father and daughter to prove one of the longest-running non-capital murder trials in North Carolina history.
In 2017, the trial lasted for almost five weeks.
There are concerns the retrial – because of new evidence and witnesses – could last for up to seven weeks. Prosecutors have already ruled out any question of the trial being moved away from Davidson County where the original 2017 conviction was delivered.
Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank said his prosecution team was confident of securing another conviction.
However, he acknowledged there was a “backlog and schedules” with “considerable time” required to deal with these.
Tom and Molly Martens were unanimously convicted of Mr Corbett’s second-degree murder after a five-week trial in August 2017 and they received 20-25-year prison sentences.
The Tennessee-based father and daughter beat the Limerick-born packaging industry executive to death at his luxury home in August 2015. However, they subsequently won a retrial after a challenge to the North Carolina Court of Appeal and then Supreme Court.
Both insisted they acted in self-defence in killing Mr Corbett, after they alleged they had been attacked by the father of two.
However, the original trial heard evidence that Mr Corbett was likely asleep in bed when the first blow was struck.
Tom and Molly Martens were found totally uninjured at the scene – while the skull of the Irish widower had been so badly shattered by a concrete paving slab and a metal baseball bat that a pathologist could not accurately count the number of blows inflicted.
Prosecutors later claimed that an attempt had been made to drug Mr Corbett – and that the father and daughter deliberately delayed calling emergency services just to ensure the Irish executive was dead when they finally arrived.
Paramedics told the original trial they were startled to find Mr Corbett’s body was cold when touched.
Mr Corbett’s life insurance policy had also recently been changed to ensure Ms Martens was the only beneficiary.
The Limerick man had steadfastly refused to sign adoption papers which would have given Ms Martens equal rights to his two children by his late first wife, Margaret ‘Mags’ Fitzpatrick, who died of an asthma attack in November 2006.
Mr Corbett’s family have consistently maintained that the murder was orchestrated because he wanted to return his two children to Limerick amid growing fears over the mental health status and bizarre behaviour of his second wife Molly.
The death last year from Covid-19 of Mr Martens’s lead counsel, David Freedman, had not been expected to affect the timeline of the retrial. Mr Freedman’s firm still represents Mr Martens.
The retrial was ordered last year after plea bargain talks collapsed over the refusal of Tom and Molly Martens to spend any further time in jail.
Since her release from prison, Molly Martens went on an extended US holiday with her brother Connor and visited Chicago and New York.
Molly Martens wed Mr Corbett in June 2011 after travelling to Ireland years earlier to work as a nanny for the Irish widower’s two small children .
'idiotic' | Taxi driver filmed wielding ‘gun’ in viral video east Belfast ‘UVF’ enforcer court hears
'little lies' | David Haye's girlfriend Sian Osborne takes cheeky dig at Una Healy in wake of ‘throuple’
calamity keeper | Roy Keane rips into Man United’s fall guy as Man City win FA Cup final
'huge impact' | Charlie Bird praised for charity work as crowds of well-wishers meet him at Bloom
pleaded guilty | Thug who blinded woman in one eye after ‘beating the life’ out of her faces jail
shouted abuse | Drunk man fined after making threats while trying to get inside Dublin apartment
Teen Meath magician Cillian O’Connor through to Britain’s Got Talent final
'distress' | Garda facing prosecution over N7 burglary gang pursuit ‘in limbo’ as summons yet to be issued
TRAGIC LOSS | Funeral hears Louth community ‘united in grief’ following tragic road death of farmer (80s)
house arrest | Teen boy arrested on suspicion of trespassing into Leinster House