Sunday 21 July 2019

'I wish he'd just killed me' - Molly Martens weeps as she and her father found guilty of second degree murder of Jason Corbett

  • Molly and Thomas found guilty of second degree murder of Jason Corbett
  • Molly Martens weeps and cries aloud as the verdict is read out
  • Jury deliver verdict after three hours and 20 minutes of deliberations
  • Thomas Martens was impassive as the guilty verdict came in
Molly Martens, Thomas Martens and inset Jason Corbett
Molly Martens, Thomas Martens and inset Jason Corbett

Ralph Riegel

MOLLY MARTENS and Thomas Martens have both been found guilty of the second degree murder of Jason Corbett.

The father and daughter were convicted of the murder of the Irish businessman, who was brutally bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat and a brick in the bedroom of his US home.

Molly Martens-Corbett outside the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Molly Martens-Corbett outside the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Thomas Martens [Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch]

Retired FBI agent Thomas (67) and his daughter, Molly Martens Corbett (33), were convicted of the second degree murder of Mr Corbett (39) in North Carolina two years ago.

Ms Martens Corbett, sobbing, turned to her family in the public gallery and said: "I'm really sorry Mom - I wish he'd just killed me."

Her mother, Sharon, and brothers wept in the gallery as the verdict was returned.

A conviction of second degree murder means the jury unanimously believed the killing of Mr Corbett was done in malice

Jason Corbett with his wife Molly, who is charged with his second degree murder
Jason Corbett with his wife Molly, who is charged with his second degree murder
Jason Corbett

Both the father and daughter were immediately taken into custody, placed in handcuffs and taken to a holding area in advance of sentencing.

Sentencing will be dealt with by Judge David Lee within 15 minutes.

Members of the Corbett family wept and embraced as the verdict was confirmed.

The verdict followed a dramatic four week trial in Davidson County before Judge David Lee and a Superior Court jury of nine women and three men.

The jury had been deliberating on a verdict since 3.22pm on Tuesday.

Several jurors wept at the verdict was returned after three hours and 20 minutes of deliberation.

Ms Martens Corbett wept and cried aloud when the unanimous guilty verdicts were returned by the jury of nine women and three men.

She had to be comforted by her lawyers.

Her father remained impassive as the unanimous guilty verdicts were returned.

Read more: Legal argument proved crucial when it came to what the jury actually heard during marathon murder trial

Read more: 'He’s bleeding all over and I may have killed him' - Full transcript of Martens' 911 call

There were emotional scenes in Courtroom C of the Davidson County courts complex as the verdict was delivered on the 16th day of the trial.

Members of the Martens and Corbett families - seated across the court aisle from each other - became emotional as the verdict was returned.

Present were Mr Corbett's brother, Wayne, his sister, Tracey, her husband David Lynch, other family members and supporters.

The father and daughter were supported by Sharon Martens and her sons, Bobby and Connor, as well as Ms Martens-Corbett's uncle, Michael Earnest.

Davidson County prosecutors had claimed Mr Corbett was fatally attacked because he planned to move back to Ireland with his children, Jack (10) and Sarah (8), but without his second wife.

He had refused to sign adoption papers giving his US wife equal rights to the children.

His first wife, Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick, had died of an asthma attack in 2006 when the children were both aged under two years.

Ms Martens Corbett was also the main beneficiary of a $600,000 life insurance policy on her husband.

Her father, Thomas Martens, admitted he disliked his Irish son-in-law and wanted his daughter to divorce him.

Mr Martens told the trial he could not specifically recall telling a US Department of Energy colleague: "That son-in-law - I hate him."

Prosecutors claimed Ms Martens Corbett first tried to dose her husband with the powerful sedative, Trazedone, in a homemade mint Mojito drink on August 1 2015.

She had obtained the prescription for the medication just two days before.

Mr Corbett, who had been working in the garden of his Panther Creek home, had enjoyed about six or seven beers with a neighbour on his front lawn earlier that Saturday evening.

His parents-in-law, Thomas and Sharon Martens, had both arrived for an unexpected visit that evening.

The father and daughter claimed they killed Mr Corbett in self defence after he attacked the Tennessee woman and tried to strangle her in the master bedroom of their home.

However, Assistant District Attorneys Greg Brown, Alan Martin and Ina Stanton claimed the evidence indicated Mr Corbett was first struck when he was in bed or beside the bed.

They claimed the father and daughter then subjected the Limerick businessman to "an horrific, heinous, brutal and cruel" assault using a metal bat and a brick.

Ms Martens Corbett admitted she had kept the brick on her nightstand table.

Jurors visibly winced as Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin repeatedly struck a courtroom table in closing arguments with the metal baseball bat used to kill Mr Corbett to underline the sheer force required to crush the father-of-two's skull.

Mr Martin also recreated in the courtroom, with Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown, how Mr Corbett may have lain prone and helpless on the ground while blows rained down on his head.

"They literally beat the skin off of his skull with that bat and that brick," he said.

"They, acting in concert, her and him, literally crushed his skull."

"They turned his skull into something that resembled a bad Humpty Dumpty cartoon."

"They beat him after the threat was over - after he went down."

Mr Martin said there are indications Mr Corbett was struck repeatedly while helpless on the floor

"They hit him at least four times after he was dead - maybe more."

"It takes a lot of force to crush a skull."

"They didn't just split his skull or rip the flesh off the bone. They crushed his skull."

"It takes 'I hate you' force."

"Jason did not have to die that brutal and savage death at the hands of the woman he came to America to marry."

"His children, Jack and Sarah, did not have to be orphans."

"There were little bits of Jason all over her (Ms Martens Corbett.) That puts her in the thick of it. It is rock solid evidence. It puts her there."

Mr Martin pointed out that such was the catastrophic damage to Mr Corbett's skull that a pathologist thought the injuries were comparable to someone involved in a bad car crash or a fall from a height.

To illustrate the point, Mr Martin showed jurors the brick and the baseball bat used to kill Mr Corbett - and then showed them photographs of the Limerick father before the attack and after the attack.

"This is what they did to Jason," he said as he held up a post mortem photograph.

"This is what Jason did to them - nothing," Mr Martin said as he held up scene photographs which showed the father and daughter totally uninjured.

Mr Martin urged jurors to consider the crime scene and forensic evidence as well as the testimony of police officers and paramedics at the scene.

He said that the distinction between second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter turned on malice.

"You know what malice sounds like," he asked jurors?

"I want to divorce him - but I want his kids. He is beneath me and I am above him. He is not good enough for my daughter. I don't like him and his rowdy Irish friends who cuss too much and smoke outside my house. He is less than and I am greater than. I hate him. That's what malice sounds like."

"Murder, to cover up an assault by either one of these two people, is malice."

He also asked the jurors to consider whether they can infer Ms Martens Corbett may have obtained a prescription for the powerful sedative Trazedone just days before her husband's death in a bid to give it to him.

"Is is reasonable to infer that she tried but failed to dose him," he asked?

The court heard that Ms Martens Corbett had helped make fresh mint Mojitos on August 1 and her husband had sampled one.

Mr Martin queried how the incident could have been self defence when there wasn't a single injury or a mark on the father and daughter.

He pointed out to jurors that, when photographed after the incident, Ms Martens Corbett was wearing a delicate bracelet which had not been damaged, bent or marked in any way.

Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown claimed that, having brutally bludgeoned Mr Corbett, his wife and father-in-law then deliberately delayed ringing 911 to allow Mr Martens, a counter-intelligence operative, to come up with a story for what had happened.

Mr Brown said that, even when the 911 call was made, the duo then engaged in "fake" cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

They claimed they had performed 600 chest pumps on the blood-soaked body of the father-of-two - but no blood was found by paramedics or police on their hands.

Mr Martens and Ms Martens Corbett denied the second degree murder of Mr Corbett at Panther Creek outside Lexington in North Carolina in August 2 2015.

The two defence teams said all the prosecution evidence corroborated the account of the Martens that the incident was due to them acting in self defence.

David Freedman, lawyer for Mr Martens, said his client had no expectation of what unfolded that night.

"Tom Martens went to bed in a dream and awoke to a nightmare that night," he said.

"Mr Martens has been trained in every firearm known to mankind. If he went with any inclination (of violence) he would have brought something more than a little league baseball bat."

"What do we know about Tom and what he did for the previous 40 years? He spent the previous 40 years defending this country."

"I remember when being in law enforcement was a good thing. We have spent the last few days disparaging the FBI. He has served us, he has protected us - that is what Tom Martens knows how to do."

"So what do you think he was going to do, knowing his daughter and his grandchildren were up there. He was going to protect when he grabbed that baseball bat."

"All the evidence has shown that is all Tom Martens thinks about - raising a family, raising children and protecting."

"Tom Marten saw something he thought was not possible. He saw his daughter, having her throat surrounded by the hands of Jason Corbett. He didn't know why. But he saw that."

"He walked in there, he is there for protection and that is what he sees."

"He didn't want to be in his daughter's bedroom in his underwear."

Mr Freedman said the only malice in the case was linked to Mr Martens not liking cigarette butts being left at his home from a pre-wedding party by Mr Corbett's family and his son-in-law's drinking.

"That is absurd. It makes no sense."

"Who is more likely to have snapped that night - a 65 year old grandfather who has protected us in his life from terrorists and drug dealers or a man, from his own mouth, feeling dizziness when not taking their medication?"

"We know he (Mr Corbett) has had depression issues, we know he had sleep issues - we know that three weeks before he had his hands around Molly's throat he had anger issues. Don't listen to me - listen to him (Mr Corbett). From his own mouth."

"We know he (Jason) had seven or eight drinks - (is) that the best way to deal with anger and dizziness?"

Mr Freedman pointed out that Mr Corbett was drinking to excess while his children played around him.

"We do know he consumed a lot of alcohol."

"Tom Martens has been in this nightmare since August 2 2015 when all he wanted to do was see his grandchildren and play golf."

"But Tom Martens did (that night) what he has spent his life doing - protecting."

"Jason never stopped being the aggressor. At any time Jason could have ended the situation and just let Molly go."

"Tom was in the fight for his life. His survival instincts kicked in. All he wanted to do was live. Tom had no choice - it was Tom or Jason."

"We are not saying that Jason was bad or deserved to die. But if he let her (Molly) go it is all over."

Jones Byrd, for Mr Martens, said the prosecution had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the father and daughter did not act in self defence that night.

"What their evidence corroborates is what Tom Martens told you from the witness stand," Mr Byrd said.

Mr Byrd said that the star prosecution witness, Dr Stuart James, a blood pattern expert, offered evidence which also corroborates Mr Martens' version of the confrontation with his son-in-law who, he testified, was attempting to strangle his daughter and then threatened to kill her.

He said Mr Martens account of the blows he struck his son-in-law exactly matches the blood impact spatter marks.

The lawyer also pointed out that key elements of prosecution evidence were not properly or fully tested - Mr Martens blood-stained boxer shorts and blood stains on the quilt on Mr Corbett's bed.

Mr Byrd pointed out that Dr James never visited the scene - and never interviewed the emergency medical services personnel who attended the scene.

He also queried why two of the lead police officers in the case, Detectives Herd and Smith, never offered evidence at the trial despite attending the hearing every day.

"They have been here for three and a half weeks but we have not heard a word from them," he said.

"Why didn't we hear from them."

He also queried why the prosecution had not played the video-recorded statements taken from the father and daughter at Davidson County Sheriff's Office at 6am on August 2.

Mr Byrd also pointed out a blonde hair found in Mr Corbett's fist at the scene was never preserved and never tested.

"What else did they miss, what else have you not seen."

Defence lawyer Walter Holton insisted that Ms Martens Corbett had nothing to gain from Mr Corbett's death.

"She was not in the (2007) will. It was not about the children."

"They are gone home - they are in Ireland.

"She now lives with her parents. She has no assets," he said.

However, Mr Brown said the evidence indicated the father and daughter had subjected Mr Corbett to a heinous and cruel assault.

He said they had then delayed in making a 911 call to allow Mr Martens, a former FBI agent, lawyer and counter-intelligence expert, to develop a story for what happened.

Mr Brown said the evidence also suggested that the duo engaged in "fake" CPR life-saving procedures.

He said neither were found to have blood on their hands despite the fact Mr Corbett's body was soaked in blood.

Mr Brown also made reference to Ms Martens Corbett's police statement.

"I tried to hit him with a brick I had on my nightstand," she said.

"I do not remember clearly after that," she told Davidson County Sheriff's officers.

Mr Holton said it was possible the brick was on the ground and Mr Corbett was rolled over on top of it as the father and daughter were attempting cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on his blood-soaked body.

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