Tuesday 20 February 2018

Wife and dad 'will face fair trial' over Irishman murder

Accused: Molly Martens Corbett (35) attends court for pre-trial motions over the death of her husband Jason
Accused: Molly Martens Corbett (35) attends court for pre-trial motions over the death of her husband Jason

Conor Feehan in North Carolina

A murder trial into the beating to death of Limerick man Jason Corbett in North Carolina, US, will be heard in the county where it happened despite claims by the two accused that they cannot get a fair trial due to adverse publicity.

Mr Corbett's wife Molly Martens Corbett (35) and her father, former FBI agent Thomas Martens (67), are charged with second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter after Mr Corbett (39) was killed with a baseball bat and a paving stone in Davidson County on August 2, 2015.

Mr Martens, who was visiting the couple in the upmarket Meadowlands estate, has admitted killing Mr Corbett (right) by striking him with the bat but has said it was in defence of his daughter and himself, alleging that Mr Corbett was choking Mrs Martens Corbett during an argument.

The case has received international attention and lawyers for Mrs Martens Corbett and her father argued at pre-trial motions last week that this created a level of prejudice that would make a fair trial impossible.

They also alleged that the Davidson County Sheriff's Office leaked a recording of the 911 call to media in Ireland and those media outlets have repeated claims made in search warrants that the defence says are false and inflammatory.

The lawyers also claimed there is an unusually close relationship between sheriff's office investigators and the Corbett family.

But Judge David Lee ruled last Friday that the trial will stay in the county.

Read More: Accused in Irish man's death return to court

Mr Corbett's first wife Margaret died during an asthma attack in 2006. The couple had two children together - Jack and Sarah.

He met his second wife in 2008 when the Tennessee woman moved to Ireland to work as his au pair.

The couple moved to the US when Mr Corbett asked his employer if he could move his job and they married in 2011.

After Mr Corbett's death, a custody battle for the children was played out in the North Carolina courts. His family wanted to bring them back to Ireland but Mrs Martens Corbett wanted to keep them in the US.

Mr Corbett's sister Tracey Lynch and her husband David were granted custody and the children live with them in Ireland.

The purpose of the pre-trial motions last week was to set the framework for the trial and agree what evidence would be admissible.

One issue that remained undecided was if statements from Mr Corbett's children that were made during interviews with officials after his death could form part of the evidence.

Read More: We can't get fair murder trial, say wife and father-in-law of Jason Corbett

A motion filed by both the accused's lawyers last year claimed each child reported incidents of abuse by Mr Corbett upon his wife.

Prosecutors want to admit a statement from Jack made in Ireland in May last year in which he recanted what he told social workers in North Carolina.

Tracey Lynch testified that Jack admitted on his own that he had not been truthful and wanted to talk to law enforcement authorities and prosecutors.

David Lynch testified that the priority was Jack's mental health and not to help the investigation.

Sunday Independent

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