Saturday 25 January 2020

Molly Martens murder trial: Mood in courtroom mirrors weather

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

Ralph Riegel

The mood inside the courtroom changed as if to mirror the weather outside.

For three weeks, the second degree murder trial of Thomas Martens (67) and his daughter Molly Martens Corbett (33) took place as temperatures outside Courtroom C in Lexington, North Carolina, soared to searing levels.

At one point it reached 105 degrees in the shade.

Yesterday, the trial resumed before Judge David Lee as North Carolina cooled in the barrage of a succession of spectacular summer thunder storms.

While the cooler temperatures may have been a relief for witnesses, jurors, lawyers and journalists alike in Lexington, the torrential downpours were a nightmare for golf fans in nearby Charlotte which this week hosts the US PGA Championship.

As temperatures cooled outside the courts complex, the mood inside Courtroom C also distinctly changed as everyone realised the trial was now entering its concluding phase.

After 14 days of evidence, more than 23 witnesses and more than 150 pieces of evidence, everyone adjusted to the realisation that a verdict by Friday may now be a realistic prospect.

Judge Lee indicated he hopes to have the jury of nine women and three men considering a verdict by today. The two alternate jurors - a man and a woman - will then be sent home. They have listened carefully and studiously to every bit of evidence since July 25.

For the two families, it has been a truly wearying experience.

A trial expected to last two to three weeks at one stage threatened to reach the five-week mark.

Both the Martens and the Corbett families have been present every day of the trial since jury selection began.

Under North Carolina law, any verdict delivered by the jury must be unanimous. That difference to Irish law, where majority verdicts of 11-1 and 10-2 are accepted, has been particularly noted by the Corbett family.

For the Martens family, there was the stark realisation, at the specific notice of Judge Lee during one evidential submission, that North Carolina can impose, on conviction, a maximum sentence for second degree murder of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

There is little doubt that, if the jury does return with a verdict on Friday, it will be standing room only for a trial that has captivated attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

Irish Independent

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