Monday 24 July 2017

Molly Martens trial: Split in heart of Irish-American family at centre of murder case against widow

Jason Corbett with his wife Molly Martens
Jason Corbett with his wife Molly Martens
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

A small, quiet town in North Carolina will next week be the setting for a murder trial that will see an influx of reporters and camera crews from both sides of the Atlantic.

Tennessee woman Molly Martens (35) and her father Thomas (67), a former FBI agent, will face a judge and jury, each charged with second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter of Limerick father-of-two Jason Corbett (39).

Molly Martens
Molly Martens

Jason's first wife Margaret died following an asthma attack in 2006. The couple, who lived in Limerick, had two children together - a boy, Jack, and a girl, Sarah.

Jason met Molly Martens in 2008 when she travelled from Tennessee to Ireland to work as an au pair for the children.

Read more: Molly Martens Corbett appears in court on second day of pre-trial hearing

A relationship developed between Jason and Molly and in 2011 they married and moved to the US with the children, settling down in the exclusive Meadowlands estate on the edge of a scenic golf resort on the outer fringes of the town of Lexington.

Thomas Martens
Thomas Martens

Baseball bat

In August 2015 Molly's father Thomas was visiting Jason, Molly and the children with his wife. But in the early hours of August 2, Thomas Martens killed Jason by striking him over the head with a baseball bat.

Prosecutors will claim that Jason wanted to move back to Ireland with his children, but without Molly. But attorneys for Thomas Martens will say he killed Jason in self-defence and the defence of his daughter after hearing a row between Jason and Molly, and finding Jason choking his daughter when he went to investigate.

Now, nearly two years after Jason's death, their fates are finally set to be decided.

Read more: Decisions on evidence due for trial of wife and father-in-law accused of murdering Irishman Jason Corbett

The case has already seen accusations and counter-accusations being hurled across a courtroom in Davidson County, in the southern state, as part of a tense and emotional custody battle for Jason's young son and daughter after his killing.

While Jason's family were still struggling to cope with their grief at his violent death, they were plunged into a transatlantic custody battle for his two young children.

Facebook

The sensitivities of the issue were also dragged from the courtrooms to social media when Molly Martens took to Facebook, uploading their photographs and posting messages declaring her love for them.

Molly wanted to raise the children in the US, but the Davidson County Court ruled in favour of Jason's sister Tracey and her husband David Lynch, who argued that the children should be raised by their family in Ireland. They are now being raised in Limerick.

Pre-trial motions heard last month were attended by local, national and international media, including network television channels.

Defence teams for Molly and Thomas Martens tried to have the trial moved from Davidson County to another court, claiming the pair could not get a fair trial, due partly to the publicity the case generated.

But they were unsuccessful in their application, and on Monday the case is due to begin in Lexington.

Read more: Wife and dad 'will face fair trial' over Irishman murder

Molly Martens and her father also want to stop the prosecution from making any claims in opening statements or in its evidence that Mr Corbett was a non-violent, peaceful person.

On the cusp of the murder trial Molly and Tom Martens filed a late motion to curb what the prosecution can introduce in the earlier stages of the trial. The prosecution lays out its case first.

The motion asks the court to prohibit the prosecution from making "claims that Jason Corbett was a non-violent, peaceful person and/or that Jason Corbett had a reputation for peacefulness".

Irish Independent

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