Friday 23 August 2019

Corbett family asks DFA to clarify delay in appeal rulings for Tom and Molly Martens

Tom Martens (sunglasses) and Molly Martens at a court sitting. Picture: Mark Condren
Tom Martens (sunglasses) and Molly Martens at a court sitting. Picture: Mark Condren

Ralph Riegel

THE Department of Foreign Affairs has been asked to clarify the delay in confirming the outcome of a US appeal by Tom and Molly Martens against their conviction for the brutal murder of an Irish father of two.

Irish diplomats have been asked to raise the seven-month delay in delivering a ruling on the North Carolina appeal as the family of murder victim Jason Corbett (39) warned they feel trapped in "a never-ending legal nightmare."

Jason Corbett and killer Molly Martens on their wedding day
Jason Corbett and killer Molly Martens on their wedding day

The American father and daughter were convicted two years ago of the second degree murder of Mr Corbett at his Panther Creek Court home in North Carolina on August 2 2015.

Tom (68) and Molly (34) Martens battered the Irish businessman to death as he lay asleep and helpless in bed.

The trial heard they then delayed alerting emergency services to the incident ensure Mr Corbett was dead when paramedics arrived.

Mr Corbett's two children were asleep in an upstairs bedroom when the fatal attack occurred.

Jason Corbett
Jason Corbett

Tom Martens, a retired FBI agent, claimed he acted in self-defence and alleged Mr Corbett had been attacking his second wife, Molly, who is Mr Martens daughter.

However, the Corbett family maintained that the Irish businessman was planning to bring his children back to his native Limerick amid increasing concerns over his wife's mental health problems.

The trial heard that an attempt had been made to drug Mr Corbett - and that he was beaten so savagely by a metal baseball bat and heavy concrete brick that his skull fragmented.

One blow was inflicted after Mr Corbett was already dead.

Both Tom and Molly Martens were found to be uninjured at the scene.

Mr Corbett's first wife - the mother of his two children - died from a tragic asthma attack and he met Ms Martens when the Tennessee woman moved to Ireland to work as a nanny for his children.

They married in the US in 2011 but she visited a divorce lawyer just months later to determine her rights to his two children.

On conviction by unanimous jury verdict, the US father and daughter immediately launched appeals against their 20-25 year prison terms.

Last January, the North Carolina Court of Appeal heard arguments before a three judge panel from both the defence teams and the prosecution.

While some appeal rulings can take as long as a year to deliver in North Carolina, it had been indicated that given the high-profile nature of the Corbett case, a decision would be fast-tracked as much as possible.

Independent.ie has learned that Mr Corbett's sister, Tracey Lynch, has now written to Tánaiste Simon Coveney to see if the Irish Consul in North Carolina can determine when a ruling is likely to be delivered.

The decision to write to the Tánaiste and Department of Foreign Affairs came amid fears the appeal ruling could now drag on for months.

Since Mr Corbett's killing in August 2015, Tracey Lynch and her family has fought a determined battle to bring his killers to justice.

However, the family are worried that they may be trapped in a legal nightmare of appeals and possible retrials which could drag on for years.

Last January, one US Special Attorney General argued that the only thing strange about the case was that the retired FBI agent and his daughter weren't charged with the first degree murder of the Limerick father of two.

In North Carolina, a first degree murder conviction can carry the death penalty.

"It appears to me there was evidence to bring a first degree premeditated murder case," Special Attorney General Mike Dodd argued.

He pointed out that the case met all seven stipulations under North Carolina law for a first degree murder prosecution.

However, a grand jury instead opted in 2016 for a second degree murder charge.

Defence lawyers David Freedman, for Mr Martens, and Douglas Kingsbery, for Ms Martens, delivered oral arguments which challenged the fairness of the August 2017 trial in Davidson County.

The appeal was heard before Chief Judge John Tyson, Judge Valerie Zachary and Judge Allegra Collins at the appeals courthouse in downtown Raleigh.

The defence teams said the prosecution never properly challenged the argument that the father and daughter acted in self defence - and cited the decision by the trial judge to refuse to allow contested statements by Mr Corbett's children, Jack and Sarah, to be entered into evidence.

They also objected to the omission of other evidence which they claimed bolstered the defence cases.

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