Sunday 18 March 2018

Molly Martens murder trial: Judge sends out jury to consider verdict

Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett
Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett. Inset Jason Corbett
Jason Corbett and Molly Martens on their wedding day (Inset above: Molly Martens' photo taken after arrest; inset below: Molly Martens' father Tom)
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The jury has retired to consider its verdict in the case of a father and daughter accused of murdering Limerick man Jason Corbett.

Thomas Martens (67) and Molly Martens Corbett (33) both deny the second degree murder of father-of-two Mr Corbett (39) at Panther Creek outside Lexington in North Carolina in August 2, 2015.

Mr Corbett died from catastrophic skull injuries inflicted by a metal baseball bat and a stone garden paving brick.

A pathologist said Mr Corbett suffered a minimum of 12 powerful blows at least one of which was inflicted after the Irishman was dead.

The North Carolina jury of nine women and three men were sent out to select a foreperson and begin deliberating on their verdict in the Jason Corbett murder trial at 3.22pm (8.22pm Irish time).

The Davidson County Superior Court jury were sent out by Judge David Lee to deliberate on a verdict on the 15th day of the trial which began on July 17.

More than 200 exhibits and 23 witnesses have featured in evidence.

In closing arguments earlier today the defence teams said all the prosecution evidence corroborates the account of the Martens that the incident was due to them acting in self defence.

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."

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 Martens 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," he said.

"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."

Defence lawyer Walter Holton insisted that Molly Martens Corbett (33) had nothing to gain from Jason Corbett's death.

"She was not in the 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.

In the prosecution closing, Assistant District Attorney Greg 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.

Defence lawyer Walter 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.

The jury will be asked to consider a verdict once Judge David Lee concludes his legal instructions.

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