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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 1°C
GoGetFunding Molly Corbett and her father Thomas Martens

Lawyers for Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens claim jury misconduct in bid to quash murder convictions

Members of the jury discussed the case in an inappropriate way on numerous occasions, the defence claims.

DEFENCE LAWYERS FOR Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens filed a supplemental motion yesterday to get a new trial and set aside their defendants’ second-degree murder convictions.

The supplemental motion includes an affidavit from a person who said they witnessed a private conversation during jury deliberations and an affidavit from an alternate juror who claimed other jurors discussed the case prior to deliberation.

The defence’s first motion, filed 16 August, argues that post-trial, voluntary media interviews and social media posts by the jurors shows misconduct throughout the trial that violates North Carolina law and Constitutional protection.

On 21 August, the prosecution filed a motion to dismiss the claims of misconduct. The motion states the defense did not present any competent evidence of “external” influence.

The defence motions argue that several of the jurors’ statements included “I think”, “I feel”, and “I believe”, which are “internal” influences that relate to mental processes and thus inadmissible.

Jason Corbett, Molly Corbett’s husband, died on 2 August 2015. Davidson County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a report that day of an assault at the Corbetts’ home at Panther Creek Court in Wallburg.

Martens, a 67-year-old retired FBI agent who was visiting the Corbetts with his wife, told authorities he was awakened by an argument between his daughter and son-in-law and went to their bedroom with a baseball bat, where he found Jason Corbett attacking his daughter.

Martens and Molly Corbett claimed Jason Corbett was choking his wife and threatening to kill her, and they acted in self-defence. Investigators did not believe that explanation. Authorities said Jason Corbett was planning to leave Molly Corbett — his second wife and former nanny to his children — and return to his home country of Ireland.

On 9 August, a jury decided that they did not act in self-defence and found them both guilty of second-degree murder. Both were sentenced to between 20 and 25 years in prison by Superior Court Judge David Lee.

“Animated discussion”

As part of the defense’s supplemental motion, an affidavit from Stacey Blue said that on 8 August, at approximately 5:15 p.m., she saw Tom Aamland, the jury foreman, and juror Miriam Figueroa sitting in a Nissan vehicle.

Blue said the two were having an “animated discussion” that lasted 10 to 15 minutes. In its response earlier this week, the prosecution says that this allegation is “wholly incompetent and irrelevant.”

Brian Graham, an alternate juror, said in his affidavit that during breaks, he overheard other jurors commenting on evidence or asking questions about evidence. He said that when this happened, another juror would remind everyone that the jury wasn’t allowed to discuss the case.

On at least one occasion, Graham said a conversation related to evidence happened for two to three minutes, despite prior warnings.

The alternate juror also said that after the first closing argument, Aamland expressed his opinion about the prosecution’s argument. Graham said he disagreed with Aamland expressing his opinion and ended the conversation.

Graham said he didn’t feel it was his role to inform the court of what he witnessed since he was an alternate juror. After hearing the comments to the media by other jurors, he felt it was important to share his observations.

In its supplemental motion, the defence also makes reference to comments by Aamland who said “I believe she can control her personalities, whether it’s bipolar or whatever”.

The defence’s motion says no North Carolina case holds that jurors may reach factual conclusions that a defendant can control her “personalities”, or that a defendant suffers from bipolar disorder, or is manipulative based upon a defendant’s demeanor.

The motion then says the court provided the jury no instruction regarding “demeanour” other than the credibility of witnesses. The defence says Molly Corbett did not testify so the only possible “demeanour” evidence available to the jury would be general observations of her appearance in the courtroom.

The motion says that allowing a jury to stretch its observations into factual conclusions that the defendant suffers from bipolar disorder without the court’s instruction, “obliterates the Constitutional protections afforded all defendants”.

The defence claims the jurors used observations of Molly Corbett to conclude that she was “manipulative” and the “aggressor”, which violates the court’s instructions.

The defence’s supplemental motion then targets juror Nancy Perez. In its 16 August motion, the defence questions the ability of Perez to serve on the jury after she became ill while viewing an autopsy photo of Jason Corbett.

Perez later claimed she was ill because she didn’t have breakfast. The defence alleges that after the trial, Perez said the graphic photos were the source of her sickness.

In response, the prosecution’s motion says Perez’s later explanations are irrelevant to the court’s decision to allow her to remain. The state says the court as well as the defence lawyers observed the juror throughout the trial and that the juror never appeared incapacitated during other photos.

In the supplemental motion, the defence says if Perez had been honest about the reason for her sickness, the counsel could have appropriately investigated her ability to serve on the jury.

The defense says Perez revealed her bias against the defendants by stating multiple post-trial comments on social media, including Molly Corbett was a “non-human person”, “everything that comes from her mouth is a lie,” and “how tom is an arrogant piece of bleep…that was outwitted by the people of Ireland and Davidson County”.

Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank said the prosecution looked at the defense’s supplemental motion late yesterday afternoon.

He said the motion should still be dismissed.

“We have reviewed it, and we don’t think it puts them in any better of a position,” Frank said.

All of the documents, including motions by the defence and prosecution, will be reviewed by a judge who will decide whether to hold an evidentiary hearing.

Comments have been closed for legal reasons.

Read: Corbett trial: Prosecutors bid to reject attempts to overturn verdicts due to ‘jury misconduct’

Read: Lawyers for Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens seek new trial