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Corbett family ask Varadkar for help after murder retrial ruling


Jason Corbett with Molly Martens

Jason Corbett with Molly Martens

Jason Corbett with Molly Martens

A devastated Irish family has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney for support as they back US prosecutors in seeking a Supreme Court review of a shock ruling to grant killers Molly and Tom Martens a full retrial.

The US father and daughter won a retrial over their conviction for the second degree murder of Limerick father-of-two Jason Corbett (39) in North Carolina. Now, the duo could be released from prison as early as St Patrick's Day if a US attorney general decides against challenging the North Carolina Court of Appeal decision to order a retrial over the 2015 killing.

The Court of Appeal ruling in Raleigh - by a majority two to one judgment - shocked North Carolina prosecutors and devastated the Corbett family in Limerick who had campaigned for years for justice for the packaging industry executive. Now, Mr Corbett's family want the appeal verdict challenged in the North Carolina Supreme Court - a move that prosecutors in the original murder trial have indicated they also want to see happen.

However, that decision rests with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

To back North Carolina prosecutors, the Corbett family has written to the Taoiseach and Tanaiste for diplomatic support. They want the Irish Government to liaise with North Carolina authorities and signal the Irish family's support for a Supreme Court review of the ruling.

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

An attempt had been made to drug Mr Corbett with a sedative prescribed to his second wife, Ms Martens, just days earlier. The Davidson County Superior Court trial in July 2017 heard that the father and daughter then delayed ringing emergency services to ensure Mr Corbett was dead when paramedics arrived.

Both father and daughter insisted they acted in self- defence. The duo were found to be totally uninjured at the scene - while Mr Corbett had suffered such horrific injuries to his head that a pathologist could not accurately count the number of blows.

Molly and Tom Martens were convicted of second degree murder by unanimous vote of the Davidson County Superior Court jury and sentenced to 20-25 years in prison by Judge David Lee.

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

Running to 178 pages, the appeal court ruling also ranks as one of the slowest to be delivered - taking 13 months for the three judges to release.

Attorney General Stein now has 35 days in which to confirm a North Carolina Supreme Court review of the appeal decision and a stay on the order. Any Supreme Court review is unlikely to be dealt with before 2021.

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However, if a Supreme Court challenge is not lodged, Molly and Tom Martens will be able to seek release from prison on 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.

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