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Molly and Tom Martens could both walk free from prison by St Patrick's Day

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Seeking release: Molly Martens and her father Tom Martens could both walk free on a bond in just over a month from now. Picture: Mark Condren

Seeking release: Molly Martens and her father Tom Martens could both walk free on a bond in just over a month from now. Picture: Mark Condren

Seeking release: Molly Martens and her father Tom Martens could both walk free on a bond in just over a month from now. Picture: Mark Condren

Molly and Tom Martens could be released from prison as early as St Patrick's Day if a US attorney general decides against challenging their Court of Appeal retrial ruling over the murder of Irish father-of-two Jason Corbett.

The father and daughter remain in prison in North Carolina despite a shock Court of Appeal ruling in their favour after they challenged their second-degree murder convictions and 20-25 year prison sentences.

Both were convicted of battering Mr Corbett (39) to death with a metal baseball bat and a concrete paving block in the bedroom of his North Carolina home as he slept on August 2, 2015.

An attempt had been made to drug Mr Corbett with a medication prescribed to his second wife, Molly Martens, just days earlier.

He was also beaten as he lay helpless on the bedroom floor.

Mr Corbett was even beaten after he had died.

The Davidson County Superior Court trial heard the father and daughter then delayed ringing emergency services to ensure Mr Corbett was dead when paramedics arrived.

The appeal ruling, by a majority two-to-one margin, will automatically grant them a full retrial unless it is challenged.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein now has 35 days in which to seek a North Carolina Supreme Court review of the appeal decision and a stay on the order.

Any Supreme Court review is unlikely to be heard this year.

However, it has been confirmed that if a Supreme Court challenge is not lodged, Molly and Tom Martens will be able to seek release from prison on a bond pending their retrial.

If a Supreme Court challenge is not signalled, both could be released from prison on bond as early as March 11.

Both have served two-and-a-half years of 20-25 year prison terms - with Tom Martens in special protection measures because of his status as a former FBI agent.

Molly Martens was transferred between North Carolina prisons after being cited for a number of rule breaches while in custody.

Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank, who led the 2017 prosecution, admitted they were "very disappointed" by the North Carolina Court of Appeal ruling to grant the father and daughter a retrial for second-degree murder.

He said that his prosecutors were now to liaise closely with the North Carolina attorney general over a potential North Carolina Supreme Court review of the appeal decision.

"We will vigorously urge such a course of action to be pursued," he said.

Mr Frank said what made the ruling all the more surprising was that Davidson County Superior Court's Judge David Lee ranked as one of the finest justices in the state.

Judge Lee handled the murder trial and ruled out various statements which Molly and Tom Martens wanted to introduce as part of their self-defence argument.

Statements by Mr Corbett's two children, Jack (15) and Sarah (13), to North Carolina social services about the relationship between Mr Corbett and Molly Martens were not allowed. This was because the children had made statements in Ireland which totally contradicted their US statements.

Irish Independent