Thursday 22 February 2018

Molly Martens: Alternate juror says some 'inappropriately discussed' case despite judge's warnings

Molly Martens-Corbett. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Molly Martens-Corbett. Photo: Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

SOME of the 12 jurors who convicted Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens of the second-degree murder of Irishman Jason Corbett talked to each other about evidence during the trial, it is claimed.

The judge for the high profile case in North Carolina repeatedly told the jurors that they could not talk about the case among themselves until after all the evidence had been presented and he had explained the law.

HAPPY INTERLUDE: Jason Corbett and Molly Martens on their wedding day — a happy moment in a troubled relationship
HAPPY INTERLUDE: Jason Corbett and Molly Martens on their wedding day — a happy moment in a troubled relationship

However, one of two alternate jurors in the trial, has claimed that this direction was not followed.

Brian Graham has made the claim in an affidavit as lawyers for Ms Martens and her father argue their guilty verdicts should be set aside due to alleged jury misconduct.

The affidavit was included in court papers filed Friday in Davidson Superior Court, according to the 'Winston-Salem Journal' newspaper.

Mr Graham said he overheard jurors talk about the case during breaks and asking questions about the evidence.

After a month-long trial in Davidson Superior Court, Martens-Corbett (33) and her father Thomas (67) were convicted of second-degree murder by a jury of nine women and three men.

Both were sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison following the verdicts earlier this month.

Thomas Martens
Thomas Martens

Father-of-two Mr Corbett was beaten to death with a brick, which was on his wife's nightstand in the couple's bedroom, and an aluminium baseball bat in his home in Panther Creek Court, North Carolina, in the early hours of Sunday, August 2, 2015.

They claimed they were acting in self-defence but the jury returned verdicts of second-degree murder after just three hours and 20 minutes of deliberations. However, lawyers for the father and daughter are now calling for the verdicts to be thrown out. The motion also calls for a new trial, and county prosecutors have responded, calling for a judge to dismiss the motion.

According to a report in the 'Winston-Salem Journal' newspaper, the newly-filed support documents from lawyers for Ms Martens and her father include Mr Graham's affidavit, and a transcript of an interview given to reporters after the trial by jury chairman Tom Aamland. 

In his affidavit, Graham said he tried to keep to himself and didn't eat with other jurors so he wouldn't be involved in any conversation about the case.

“However, at certain breaks during the trial, I overheard other jurors in the jury room and outside the courthouse commenting on the evidence presented or, in some cases, asking questions about the evidence,” Graham said in the affidavit.

“Usually when this occurred, another member of the jury would remind the group that we were not supposed to talk about the evidence,” he said. “But on at least one occasion, a conversation about the evidence took place between the jurors for two to three minutes, despite the warning by the court and some other jurors not to discuss.”

“Following the first closing argument for the State, another juror, Mr. Aamland, expressed his opinion to me about the merits of the State’s argument,” he added. “I disagreed with his expression of opinion and ended the conversation.”

Mr Graham said he didn't initially think it was his role to report the comments to the court at the time, but has since decided to share what he knew. 

Lawyers for Ms Martens will maintain that jurors inappropriately discussed the case.

They also argued that some of the jurors improperly considered Molly Corbett’s demeanor during the trial, drawing conclusions that she had bipolar disorder and that she was “manipulative.” But no evidence about Molly Corbett’s mental health was given during the trial, and she did not give evidence. 

Ms Martens lawyers also accuse Nancy Perez, one of the jurors, of deceiving the court about the reasons she vomited at seeing an autopsy picture of Jason Corbett.

They have said that Ms Perez told one juror that she became sick because she had skipped breakfast. But she told ABC News’ “20/20” that “she was not prepared for the graphic nature of the photograph,” according to the papers seen by the 'Winston-Salem Journal'.

Ms Martens lawyers have also questioned social media postings made by Ms Perez after the trial, saying they show bias against her and her father.

She is alleged to have called Molly Corbett a “non human person” and saying that “everything that comes from her mouth is is (sic) a lie.” She also said “this family is utter disgust” and “how tom is an arrogant piece of bleep .... that was outwitted by the people of Ireland and Davidson county.”

The judge who oversaw the trial will decide on the motion.

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