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Judge grants Tom and Molly Martens motion to have murder retrial moved to another part of state

Martens argued they would not receive a fair trial for the second degree murder of Irish businessman Jason Corbett

Molly Martens file photo. Photo: Mark Condren


A MOTION by Tom (72) and Molly (38) Martens to have their retrial for the murder of an Irish widower transferred to another part of North Carolina has been granted by a US judge.

The ruling - seen as a significant victory for the former nanny and her FBI agent father - came one week after a dramatic hearing in North Carolina where lawyers for the Martens argued they would not receive a fair trial for the second degree murder of Irish businessman Jason Corbett (39) if the hearing remained in Davidson County.

Prosecutors strongly opposed the transfer and insisted a fair and impartial jury could be selected in Davidson County, a largely working class area where the pair were convicted of the second degree murder of the Limerick father-of-two following a four week trial in 2017.

But defence lawyers argued the pair had been targeted by a hugely successful social media campaign over the killing of Mr Corbett which had now "infected" the potential jury pool in Davidson County.

They argued the duo were the focus of "hatred and prejudice from many citizens".

The retrial will now be transferred out of Davidson County.

It is now set to be held in Forsyth County, a much larger, more diverse but also more middle-class part of North Carolina.

Mr Corbett was beaten to death on August 2 2015 in the bedroom of his luxury North Carolina home with a metal baseball bat and a concrete brick by his American-born second wife and his father-in-law, a retired FBI agent and former intelligence operative for the US Department of Energy.

The Irish widower's family remain adamant the attack was sparked by a row over control of his two young children, Jack and Sarah.

Tom and Molly Martens insisted they acted in self defence though both were found totally uninjured at the scene by police.

Defence lawyers appealed to Judge David Hall to transfer the retrial hearing to Forsyth County where the major city of Winston-Salem is located.

Last week Mr Martens' lawyer Jay Vannoy told the pre-trial hearing "the Irish" were behind the social media campaign.

"I will say that the Irish who started this campaign did a fabulous job," he said.

"They controlled the narrative...that Molly Corbett and Tom Martens were these murderers."

Judge Hall said he was "troubled" by the sheer scale of publicity the case has attracted and its impact on potential jurors for the scheduled retrial next June.

"I have never seen coverage and public reaction to the extent that I have observed in this case," he said.

Judge Hall said he was aware of the fact when he was first appointed two years ago to deal with the retrial.

"It has troubled me from the very beginning."

While Judge Hall said a retrial transfer involved a significantly high legal requirement for the defence, he was very concerned about aspects of this particular case.

"I think it is a very close matter. It is at my discretion and I will exercise it as fairly as I can," he said.

Judge Hall had adjourned the ruling for a week to allow both prosecution and defence legal teams to make written submissions to him.

His transfer ruling was notified to the parties late on Friday.

In his ruling on the transfer motion, Judge Hall said the high standard of requirements for the transfer had, in his opinion, been achieved in the submissions.

Judge Hall told last week’s hearing that he had already confirmed the availability of the Forsyth County Superior Court facility for the June trial if required.

Meanwhile, a strict gag order imposed by Judge Hall meant that no parties to the case are allowed to comment without his express approval.

In the original 2017 trial, prosecutors argued that Mr Corbett was asleep in bed when the fatal attack by Tom and Molly Martens began.

They also argued that an attempt had been made to drug him, that he was beaten even after he was dead and that Tom and Molly Martens then callously delayed alerting the emergency services.

The father and daughter argued they acted only in self defence after Mr Martens claimed Mr Corbett violently attacked his daughter.

However, both defendants had no visible injuries at the scene.

Mr Corbett had suffered such horrific injuries that a pathologist, Dr Craig Nelson, could not accurately count the number of blows to his head.

His skull had been shattered by the violence of the repeated blows.

Both were unanimously convicted by a Davidson County Superior Court jury after a five week trial in August 2017, and sentenced to 20-25 years in prison for Mr Corbett's second degree murder.

A full retrial was ordered after they won their challenge to the North Carolina Supreme Court two years ago.

The duo were released from prison having served over three and a half years of their sentences.

A retrial is set for June 26 while final pretrial motions will be dealt with on June 12.

All legal submissions in the case must be resolved by the end of March.

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