Thursday 19 April 2018

'You alone will determine the truth' - Judge's words as murder trial of Jason Corbett opens with jury selection

Molly Martens arrives at court today
Molly Martens arrives at court today
Molly Martens arrives at court today

Ralph Riegel in Lexington

A FORMER American nanny and her father have pleaded not guilty to the killing of an Irish father of two in North Carolina and will argue they acted solely in self-defence.

The revelation came as the murder trial of Molly Martens Corbett (35) and her father, retired FBI agent Thomas Michael Martens (67), opened before Judge David Lee at Davidson County Superior Court in Lexington.

The trial opened with the selection process for a jury of 12 from a jury panel of 143 people.

All gathered in Courtroom C of the Davidson Superior Courts complex.

Judge Lee said he expects the trial to last between two and three weeks or possibly even longer.

The father and daughter are charged with the second-degree murder of Limerick father, Jason Corbett (39), two years ago.

Jason Corbett with his wife Molly Martens
Jason Corbett with his wife Molly Martens

Ms Martens Corbett appeared in court wearing a grey blazer and blue dress while her father wore a dark blue suit.

Neither spoke during the hearing but both were asked to stand to identify themselves to the jury panel.

Judge Lee said that, to help expedite the jury selection process, the entire 143-strong jury panel will be asked to complete a detailed 16 page questionnaire.

This questionnaire includes a list of all potential witnesses in the trial.

Thomas Martens
Thomas Martens

"You will try to find the truth and reach a verdict or verdicts in this case," Judge Lee said.

"You alone will determine the truth."

Molly Martens Corbett pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband Jason Corbett
Molly Martens Corbett pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband Jason Corbett

Judge Lee noted that the jurors did not volunteer and were randomly chosen by the Davidson County Jury Commission.

Qualifying jurors must be aged 18 or over, must be English speaking, be citizens of both North Carolina and Davidson County and must not be disqualified from serving on a jury through any convictions.

Judge Lee said it was "very important" that all jurors fully complete the questions and circle the names of any potential witnesses they may know.

Jurors were also told they should indicate if they had previously heard or read about the trial matters involved.

It is expected that as well as 12 jurors the trial will see a number of alternate or replacement jurors also being sworn in.

Selecting a jury could take until Wednesday.

Once the selection process concludes, Greg Brown will open the case for the prosecution.

Mr Corbett was found lying in a pool of blood with fatal head injuries on August 2 2015 in the Panther Creek home at the Meadowlands complex where he relocated with his children to build a new life with his second wife, Molly.

Mr Corbett's first wife, Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick, who suffered from asthma all her life, died tragically in November 2006 from a severe attack of the illness.

Her husband was just 30 when she died and their children were aged just two and three months.

Mr Corbett met Ms Martens in 2008 when he advertised for a nanny-au pair to help him raise his two children, Jack and Sarah.

Ms Martens, who hailed from outside Knoxville in Tennessee, replied to the advert and moved to Ireland to help look after the children.

A relationship eventually developed between Mr Corbett and Ms Martens and they married in 2011.

Because she was homesick for the US, Mr Corbett decided to relocate his family.

His employers arranged for him to transfer to a plant they operated in North Carolina.

However, Davidson County police received an emergency call in the early hours of August 2 2015 saying that Mr Corbett has sustained serious head injuries.

He was pronounced dead shortly after paramedics attended the scene.

Mr Martens was visiting his daughter and son-in-law that weekend.

His lawyers, in pre-trial submissions, have claimed Mr Martens struck Mr Corbett with a baseball bat after intervening in a row between the couple.

He will claim he went upstairs in the property after hearing the sounds of shouting.

His legal team will also argue he acted in self-defence because he feared for the life of his daughter and himself.

The district attorney' suffice is represented by three lawyers, Greg Brown, Alan Martin and Ina Stanton.

Both Mr Marten and his daughter have two lawyers each, David Freedman and Jones Byrd together with Walter Holton and Cheryl Andrews.

Prosecutors will argue that the fatal incident occurred against a backdrop of Mr Corbett wishing to move back to Ireland with his children but without Ms Martens.

A major custody battle erupted immediately after Mr Corbett's death in 2015 before the US authorities allowed Mr Corbett's family to bring the children to Ireland.

The children are now in the care of Mr Corbett's sister, Tracey Lynch, and her husband, David.

Members of the Corbett family attended the jury selection process yesterday.

A number of relatives and friends of the Martens, including Mr Martens' brother-in-law, Michael, also attended.

Ms Martens had wanted the children to remain in the US with her.

Since 2015, she has posted multiple social media messages to the children.

One message, posted on Facebook, was that: "I miss you with every single heartbeat."

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