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Molly could get out of prison within weeks after shock appeal court ruling

  • Father and daughter may be released by St Patrick's Day

  • Prosecutors may challenge decision to order a retrial

Molly Martens

Molly and Tom Martens could be released from prison as early as next month.

Experts say that they could be free as early as St Patrick's Day if a US attorney general decides against challenging their Court of Appeal retrial ruling over the brutal murder of Irish father-of-two Jason Corbett (39).

The father and daughter remain in prison in North Carolina despite a shock ruling in their favour after they challenged their second-degree murder convictions and 20 to 25-year prison sentences.

They claimed their ability to mount an argument of self-defence had been unfairly restricted during their 2017 murder trial.

Beaten

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

An attempt had been made to drug Mr Corbett with a medication prescribed to his second wife, Ms Martens, just days earlier.

He was also beaten as he lay helpless on the bedroom floor, and was even beaten after he had died.

A pathologist found that the damage to Mr Corbett's head was so severe that he could not accurately count the number of blows that had been inflicted.

While both the father and daughter argued that they acted in self-defence after they claimed Mr Corbett had attacked his wife, neither was found to be injured at the scene.

Both were examined by police and paramedics and found not to have sustained a scratch, bruise or cut.

The concrete paving brick had Mr Corbett's blood, hair and tissue on it - and the brick left its outline in blood on the floor when it was subsequently lifted by forensic officers.

The Davidson County Superior Court trial heard that the father and daughter then delayed ringing emergency services to ensure Mr Corbett was dead when paramedics arrived.

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

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein now has 35 days in which to seek a North Carolina Supreme Court review of the appeal decision and a stay on the court order.

Any Supreme Court review is unlikely to be heard this year.

However, it has been confirmed that 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.

Both have served two-and-a-half years of 20 to 25-year prison terms - with Tom Martens in special protection measures because of his status as a former FBI agent. Molly Martens was transferred between North Carolina prisons after being cited for a number of rules breaches while in custody.

Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank, who led the July 2017 prosecution, admitted they were "very disappointed" by the North Carolina Court of Appeal ruling to grant the father and daughter a retrial for second-degree murder.

He said that his prosecutors were now to liaise closely with the North Carolina Attorney General over a potential North Carolina Supreme Court review of the appeal decision.

"We will vigorously urge such a course of action to be pursued," he said.

Mr Frank said what made the ruling all the more surprising was that Davidson County Superior Court's Judge David Lee ranked as one of the finest justices in the state.

Statement

Judge Lee handled the murder trial and ruled out various statements which Molly and Tom Martens wanted to introduce as part of their self-defence argument.

Statements by Mr Corbett's two children, Jack (15) and Sarah (13), to North Carolina social services about the relationship between Mr Corbett and Ms Martens were not allowed by the trial judge.

This was because the children had made statements in Ireland which totally contradicted their US statements.

Similarly a statement from Tom Martens about a disputed conversation with Michael Fitzpatrick, Mr Corbett's first father-in-law, was ruled out by Judge Lee.

Mr Fitzpatrick denied the conversation as alleged by Mr Martens had ever taken place - and went to a solicitor to make a sworn statement to that effect.