herald

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Wife's murder trial set to last over three weeks

Molly Martens outside Davidson County courthouse, where she is set to go on trial with her father Thomas, accused of murdering her husband, Irishman Jason Corbett
Molly Martens outside Davidson County courthouse, where she is set to go on trial with her father Thomas, accused of murdering her husband, Irishman Jason Corbett
Molly Martens and Jason Corbett

The painstaking jury selection process will begin today for the murder trial of a former American nanny and her father, who are charged with the killing of an Irish father-of-two.

The murder trial of Molly Martens (35) and her father, retired FBI agent Thomas (67), is set to transfix both the US and Ireland for the next three weeks.

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

Mr Corbett was found lying in a pool of blood with fatal head injuries in his Davidson County home in North Carolina in the US, where he relocated with his children to build a new life with his second wife, Molly.

Efforts by the Martens family to have the trial moved out of Davidson County for legal reasons failed and the trial will begin today in Lexington before Judge David Lee.

Challenges

The Herald has learned that an exceptionally large jury panel has been called, amid expectations of challenges to any who may have known the parties involved, or the lengthy list of witnesses set to be called by the prosecution.

The prosecution is represented by three lawyers - Greg Brown, Alan Martin and Ina Stanton - while both Mr Marten and his daughter have two lawyers each, David Freedman and Jones Byrd together with Walter Holton and Cheryl Andrews.

Jury selection is expected to take up to two days, with the likelihood the prosecution opening statement may not happen until Wednesday.

Legal experts indicated that, given the number of witnesses, as well as the forensic and medical evidence involved, the trial could last more than three weeks.

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

Her husband was 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, 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.

The couple bought a beautiful home in a private residential complex, which boasted its own lake, golf course and park.

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 have claimed he struck Mr Corbett with a baseball bat after intervening in a row between the couple.

Shouting

He claimed 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.

Legal submissions indicated he will further claim Mr Corbett was choking his daughter.

However, 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.

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