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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 22 November, 2019

Molly Martens and father lodge appeal documents against murder conviction

Lawyers for Molly and Thomas Martens have made claims of jury misconduct in a bid to quash their murder convictions.

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

DEFENCE LAWYERS FOR Thomas Martens and Molly Martens filed their appellate briefs to the North Carolina Court of Appeals today in hopes of overturning their second-degree murder conviction for the killing of Irish businessman, and Molly’s husband, Jason Corbett.

Martens’ brief presents several issues, including testimony from blood spatter expert Stuart James, statements from the late Mikey Fitzpatrick, Jason Corbett’s former father-in-law, statements from Jason Corbett’s children, Jack and Sarah, and a motion concerning jury misconduct.

Molly Marten’s brief was not available.

The briefs come a month after four years were added to Molly Martens’ sentence due to three infractions while in prison. She now has a release date of April 2041 as opposed to August 2037.

Appellate cases do not hear new evidence. Instead, the court investigates whether there were errors in the trial’s procedure.

Guilty of second-degree murder

On 9 August 2017, a jury found Molly Martens and her father, Thomas Martens, guilty of second degree murder. Both were sentenced to between 20 and 25 years in prison.

Jason Corbett, Molly Martens’ husband, died 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 68-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 carried a baseball bat to their bedroom, where he found Jason Corbett attacking his daughter.

Thomas Martens and Molly Martens claimed Jason Corbett was choking Molly Martens 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 Marten — his second wife and former nanny to his children — and return to his home country of Ireland.

Authorities allege Molly Martens and Martens beat Jason Corbett to death with the baseball bat and a brick paving stone.

Claims of jury misconduct 

Martens’ brief said the court should have granted a motion for appropriate relief concerning jury misconduct “because the evidence accompanying it demonstrates that jurors committed gross and pervasive misconduct in their private discussions of the case, its evidence and their opinions”.

The motion, filed in August 2017, stated that “private” conversations were held between the jurors prior to closing arguments, opinions were formed about Molly Martens’ character outside the evidence presented in the trial and opinions were formed regarding Molly Martens as the “aggressor” outside the evidence presented. 

It also stated that truthful answers were not provided regarding some jurors’ ability to serve on the jury, opinions were expressed by jurors during evidence presentation and additional juror comments indicated bias.

The motion also included affidavits from a person who witnessed a private conversation during jury deliberations and an affidavit from an alternate juror who claimed other jurors discussed the case prior to deliberation.

It was later denied by Davidson County Superior Court Judge David Lee.

corb-2-390x285 Jason Corbett

The brief also states the court should have allowed Fitzpatrick’s statement in which he once told Martens that he believed Jason Corbett had killed his daughter and Jason Corbett’s first wife, Margaret.

The lawyers believe the statement would “illustrate the reasonableness of Martens’ apprehension that Jason Corbett intended to kill him and Molly Corbett”.

They argued the evidence is not hearsay when it’s used for showing “state of mind” as opposed to proving the truth.

Blood splatter

Later in the document, the lawyers criticise testimony from James concerning his examination of blood spatter on Martens’ boxers.

James testified that blood stains on the inside of Martens’ boxers and stains on Molly Corbett’s pajamas did not receive DNA testing. During the trial, he testified that he reached his conclusion about the stains by considering them as part of a larger pattern through observation.

The expert said in court that because the stains had not been tested, he couldn’t testify to “a scientific certainty” that the stains were blood.

The lawyers further stated that James’ testimony was unreliable because he wasn’t provided a photo of Martens’ wearing the boxers even though James testified that he preferred to view a picture of the person wearing the garment before drawing conclusions.

The brief argues that statements by Jason Corbett’s children should have been part the trial based on a hearsay exception involving medical diagnoses. The children’s statements include descriptions of instances of Jason Corbett’s “irrational anger” toward Molly Martens and themselves.

According to the briefs, by not allowing these statements, “the trial court denied the jury the opportunity to put Jason Corbett’s recent anger in context: he was angry at home towards his family. Such context was relevant and necessary to establishing Jason Corbett’s role in the altercation as the aggressor”.

The documents also state that Martens’ testimony and Molly Martens’ written statement following the incident do not contradict a self-defence claim and that their version of events were never contradicted by the prosecution.

The brief reads, “Martens only entered into the fray that led to Mr Corbett’s death to protect Mrs Corbett from death or grave bodily harm, and continued in the struggle only to protect Mrs. Corbett and himself”.

Defence lawyers believe the fact that Martens carried a bat in anticipation is not enough evidence to label Martens as an aggressor.

It then states that when the prosecution questioned Lieutenant Wanda Thompson, who took Molly Martens’ statement, it had an opportunity to prove that facts concerning the homicide were different, but failed to do so.

The case features an 18-volume transcript of 3,190 pages and a four-volume record of 676 pages. Both appellate briefs for Thomas Martens and Molly Martens exceed 10,000 words.

A final decision by the Court of Appeals may take several months to a year.

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About the author:

Ben Coley

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