Friday 20 October 2017

Trial by Facebook: How the Martens family used social media to make Molly look like the victim

Molly Martens posted hundreds of posts on Facebook in the run-up to the trial
Molly Martens posted hundreds of posts on Facebook in the run-up to the trial
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Molly Martens-Corbett and her family posted almost 100 Facebook statuses between August 2015 and May 2017.

After Jason Corbett's brutal murder, Martens regularly wrote emotional posts on social media about how much she missed his two children, Jack and Sarah.

She and her father, Thomas Martens, were found guilty of the second-degree murder of her husband in North Carolina in August 2015.

Their lawyers have sought to have the conviction set aside, alleging that certain jurors spoke about the trial on social media and gave inappropriate interviews to the press.

But it could also be argued that Molly Martens-Corbett and her family used social media in the two years leading up to the trial to try and make her look like an innocent victim.

Her mother, Sharon Martens, posted a photo on November 10, 2015 which read: "Sometimes a child is forced to grieve the loss of a parent that's still alive."

Martens uploaded a new picture of her, Jack and Sarah on a daily basis. She spoke about how they were "cruelly" and "unfairly" taken away from her. She added her email address and phone number at the end of every status and made them visible to the public.

She never mentioned her husband, but certain posts were a clear dig at Jason Corbett and his Limerick family members.

"The bailiff at the courthouse told us your guardians loved America because they could get so many cigarettes for so much less money. Perhaps they decided cigarettes were more important than your teddy bears or sweatshirts or dolls or games," she wrote on December 23, 2015.

"I have loved, nurtured and protected you to the best of my ability in the environment we found ourselves. I do not know what you will remember about our lives but I know some of the things you are being told. I pray one day you are able to remember with truth and clarity some of the events of our lives," she said on January 5, 2016.

"Remembering this night...The good things and the bad, but trying to only dwell on the positive," she wrote on January 1, 2016, alongside a picture of her and Sarah.

Jason Corbett's first wife Margaret died during an asthma attack in 2006. Ms Martens moved to Ireland in 2008 to work as an au pair for his children, and she and Mr Corbett later became emotionally involved. He and the children moved to the US and the couple married in 2011.

It was alleged during proceedings that Mr Corbett intended to move back to Ireland with Jack and Sarah, and that Ms Martens was unhappy about this.

They are now under the guardianship of Jason Corbett's sister, Tracey Lynch.

Before the court case began, Martens and her father-in-law sought to move their murder trial to a different location as they claimed they couldn't get a fair trial where the killing happened.

But social media posts by the Martens family had many comments underneath from people in North Carolina offering their support. Their online campaign to portray Martens as a loving mother could have impacted the opinion of any potential juror who read her Facebook page.

Sharon Martens wrote on September 4, 2015: "Strength of character isn't always about how much you can handle before you break, it's also about how much you can handle after you've broken. For my daughter, Molly Martens Corbett, you are so much stronger than you think."

Friends posted underneath, saying "She is a wonderful and beautiful person. Love her greatly!!" and "Molly they are torturing you...My heart breaks for Sarah and Jack."

Legal experts warn that social media is no place for judges, juries or defendants.

A number of recent Irish and international cases have highlighted the ability for comments and interactions on social media to affect trials, sentencing and even see whole juries disbarred.

Eoin O'Dell, a Trinity College law professor, said authorities may need to offer greater advice to the public about what comments are acceptable online.

"In the UK for example, the Attorney General issues what he calls advisories relating to high profile trials to remind people that social media for example is subject to contempt laws and there are usually links to these advisories on Facebook and Twitter and so-on," he told Newstalk Breakfast.

While Martens' Facebook posts didn't affect the outcome of the trial, they did make some people sympathise with her.

The former model told police she tried to hit her husband a number of times in the head with a brick she had on her nightstand.

Policemen who arrived at the scene that night carried Jack and Sarah downstairs and advised them to close their eyes so they couldn't see their father's blood stains on the wall.

Even still, people wrote "my heart breaks for you Molly".

Two weeks after the murder, her brother Connor Martens uploaded a number of pictures indicating that he was on holidays and had been to a couple of baseball games.

Reading their profiles, it wasn't obvious that a family member had just been murdered.

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