Tuesday 22 October 2019

Martens trial paused after juror becomes ill when viewing photos of damage to Jason Corbett's skull

Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett
Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett

Ralph Riegel

The murder trial of Irish businessman Jason Corbett (39) had to briefly pause in North Carolina after a juror became physically ill when post mortem photographs showing the extensive damage to his skull were shown.

The female juror began retching in the jury box and had to briefly leave Courtroom C of Davidson County Superior Court during today's hearing when post mortem photographs of Mr Corbett's skull injuries were displayed.

Mr Corbett suffered multiple blunt force trauma blows to his head that were so forceful part of his scalp was detached.

A series of large photographs depicting the graphic injuries were shown at today's trial hearing.

The revelation came as North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner's Office associate pathologist, Dr Craig Nelson, offered testimony as to the extent of the head injuries suffered by the father of two at his Panther Creek home two years ago.

Thomas Michael Martens (67) and his daughter, Molly Martens Corbett (33), both deny the second degree murder of Mr Corbett on August 2 2015.

The trial, before Judge David Lee and a jury of nine women and three men, has already heard Mr Corbett, a father of two, died from multiple blows to his head from a baseball bat and a garden paving brick.

His skull was badly shattered and the damage was so severe that a pathologist could not determine at a post mortem examination precisely how many times he had been struck.

However, he sustained up to 12 blows.

Complex skull injuries were sustained to both the left and right side of his skull.

The blows were sufficiently violent to drive fragments of skull into his brain - and, when a pathologist touched his scalp during the post mortem examination, parts of his skull fell out onto the surgical table.

His nose was also broken and there injuries to his torso and extremities.

Dr Nelson told the eighth day of the murder trial that it was clear Mr Corbett suffered blunt force trauma blows to the head rather than sharp force blows.

"It (post mortem examination photos) shows detachment of scalp from the skull and the connecting tissues," he explained.

"It illustrates the depth and underscores that this was a laceration and therefore a blunt force trauma injury rather than a sharp force injury."

In one photograph, Mr Corbett's scalp was effectively "drooping (off) with gravity."

Judge Lee warned the jury that the photographs involved were "very graphic."

They were taken during the post mortem examination conducted by Dr Nelson in a Davidson County hospital on August 3.

North Carolina police officers and paramedics found the naked body of Mr Corbett lying dead in a blood-spattered bedroom with congealed blood puddles across the floor and walls at 3am on August 2.

Davidson County Sheriff's Department officer, Corporal Clayton Dagenhardt, told a murder trial he saw blood on the walls, floor, bed, hallway and bedroom of a luxury Panther Creek gated community home he was called to at 3am on August 2 2015.

Corporal Dagenhardt was the first police officer to enter the master bedroom of the home after the alarm was raised.

The District Attorney's Office also revealed that traces of a powerful sleep medication, Trazodone, were found in Mr Corbett's blood stream.

A nurse, Katie Wingate-Scott of the KPC health centre, confirmed to the trial that Ms Martens Corbett was prescribed Trazodone in 50mg doses on July 30 - three days before her husband's death.

The prescription was given after the Tennessee woman complained she could not sleep due to a congenital circulatory problem with her foot.

Ms Wingate-Scott treated both Ms Martens-Corbett and Mr Corbett who were patients of the centre.

Pharmacist James Hiatt confirmed that the prescription in Ms Martens Corbett's name was filled and collected.

Corporal Dagenhardt confirmed he was assigned to call to the Panther Creek home after 3am on August 2 when Mr Martens called 911 and said his son-in-law may have been killed when he struck him over the head with a baseball bat.

Mr Martens claimed the father-of-two was attacking his daughter.

The officer, a 14 year veteran who said he had attended more than 200 scenes where blood had been spilled, confirmed the grim sight that greeted him.

"There was blood on the floor - fairly large amounts that already seemed to be congealed," he said.

"There was blood on the bed, blood in the hall and blood in the bathroom."

"I saw some (blood) on the floor - puddles and on the walls. It was starting to dry."

Corporal Dagenhardt said blood that comes from the body is "runny."

But he said some of the blood he saw appeared to be congealed like "Jell-O" or jelly.

He confirmed that Mr Corbett was naked and lying on the floor in a pool of blood with visible injuries to his face and head.

There was large amounts of blood on his head and chest.

Ms Wingate-Scott confirmed the KPC health centre had treated Mr Corbett between 2012 and his death.

She said medical records indicated in 2013 and 2014 that, when assessed, Mr Corbett was found to be either moderately or mildly depressed.

However, no medication for depression or sleep problems were ever prescribed for him.

She said that one medical note said Mr Corbett was complaining of high stress levels, anxiety, malaise fatigue and occasional feelings of being overwhelmed.

He also told doctors: "He gets angry lately for no reason."

David Freedman, for Mr Martens, said this statement was made just 17 days before his death.

Mr Hiatt, in cross-examination by the defence, said he knows of cases where one family member will share a prescribed medication with another family member who needs it.

Ms Martens-Corbett was Mr Corbett's second wife.

Mr Corbett's first wife, Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick, died from a tragic asthma attack in 2006 when their two children were aged two and seven weeks.

The Janesboro native met Ms Martens in 2008 when she replied to his advert for an au pair/nanny to help him care for his children.

A relationship developed and they married in 2011.

The family relocated to North Carolina after Ms Martens-Corbett complained of feeling homesick.

The prosecution has claimed the fatal incident occurred against a backdrop of Mr Corbett maintaining Ms Martens status as step-mother to his two children and discussing a possible move back to Ireland.

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