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Molly and Tom Martens appeal hears evidence excluded from trial supported self-defence claim

The father and daughter are now serving 20 years to 25 years in prison.

Molly Martens-Corbett and Thomas Martens
Molly Martens-Corbett and Thomas Martens
Image: Davidson County Sheriff's Office

Updated Jan 31st 2019, 9:43 PM

LAWYERS FOR CONVICTED murderers Thomas Martens and Molly Corbett argued this morning that they did not get a fair trial and that the trial judge excluded critical evidence in their case.

The lawyers made their arguments in front of a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in a crowded courtroom holding more than 100 people.

Today’s hearing is more than a year after Molly Corbett and her father, former FBI agent, Thomas Martens, were convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Irish businessman Jason Corbett.

They are now serving 20 years to 25 years in prison.

Deputies found the body of Jason Corbett, 39, in the early morning hours of 2 August 2015, in the bedroom of the house he shared with his wife, Molly, and his two children, Jack and Sarah, from his previous marriage. The couple lived at 160 Panther Creek Court in the Meadowlands, an upscale golf-course community in Davidson County.

During the trial in the summer of 2017, Davidson County prosecutors alleged that Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens beat Jason to death with a concrete paving brick and a 28-inch Louisville Slugger baseball bat. According to a medical examiner who testified at trial, Jason was struck in the head at least 12 different times and his skull was crushed.

Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens claimed self-defence. Thomas Martens testified that he and his wife, Sharon Martens, had surprised Molly Corbett with a visit the day before and were sleeping overnight in the basement bedroom.

Early on the morning of 2 August 2015, Martens said he heard a noise, grabbed the baseball bat and went upstairs to investigate. When he got to the master bedroom, he said he saw Jason Corbett choking Molly. That led to a life-and-death struggle in which Molly Corbett and Martens fought to save their lives and Jason died as a result.

Self-defence

David Freedman, one of Martens’ lawyers, argued today that the trial judge, David Lee, excluded evidence that would have corroborated the self-defence claim. That included a statement Martens gave in which he said that Michael Fitzpatrick, the father of Jason’s first wife, told Martens he believed Jason was responsible for her death.

Michael Fitzpatrick, who has since died, signed an affidavit saying he never said this, and according to an autopsy, Margaret Fitzpatrick Corbett died in November 2006 from a cardiac arrest stemming from an asthma attack.

Freedman said the statement wasn’t being submitted for the truth of the matter but to explain what Martens’ state of mind might have been on 2 August 2015.

Freedman said the jury heard plenty of evidence about how Jason died but hardly any evidence that might have bolstered the self-defence claim and that might have explained to the jury how Martens, an agent with the FBI for over 30 years and without a criminal record, would all of a sudden decide to bash his son-in-law’s head in.

“What was in his mind when he saw Jason with his hand around his daughter’s throat?” he said.

Douglas Kingsberry, Molly Corbett’s lawyer, and Freedman also argued that statements that Jason’s children gave to social workers should have been allowed into the trial because they gave context to the self-defence claim.

For example, Sarah gave statements that Jason would get angry if he were awakened in the middle of the night. Both children gave statements that Jason physically and emotionally abused Molly.

Contradiction

Jonathan Babb, a state prosecutor with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, said the children recanted those statements later. Besides, he argued, the physical evidence in the case contradicted any self-defence claim.

Jason Corbett, he said, had blows to the back of the head so severe that the pieces of his skull fell out when he was examined.

Freedman argued that the physical evidence actually corroborated Martens’ story. The blood spatter followed from the bedroom into the hallway and back out, just like Martens said it happened.

Kingsbery also said Lee was wrong to include a jury instruction suggesting that there was evidence Molly Corbett was the aggressor. Nothing in Molly Corbett’s statement to Davidson County Sheriff’s Office suggested she could ever have been the aggressor.

“I do not see how that one proceeded to the jury, even on manslaughter,” he said.

Mike Dodd, another one of the state prosecutors, said he was surprised that the case was not tried as first-degree murder, instead of second-degree murder. All the elements of first-degree murder were in the case, including the brutal nature of Jason’s injuries and the lack of injuries on Thomas Martens and Molly Corbett.

Tracey Lynch, Jason’s sister, and her husband, David Lynch, along with other members of Jason’s family and friends, attended the hearing, as did family members and friends of the Martens’ family.

Tracey Lynch left the courtroom without comment. She has written a book in the past year, called My Brother Jason. In that book, she argues that Molly lied and connived her way into Jason’s life and planned to murder Jason.

Michael Earnest,, Molly’s uncle, attended the hearing and called the convictions a travesty of justice.

“Tom and Molly need to be set free,” he said.

It will take months before the North Carolina Court of Appeals issues a decision.

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About the author:

Michael Hewlitt

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