US prosecutors fighting to get Tom and Molly Martens a second conviction in the murder of Irishman Jason Corbett face major challenges, complicated by the long delay in their retrial.
The father and daughter will face another trial in a North Carolina court on June 26 next year, nearly eight years since the Limerick-born father-of-two was found bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of his Winston-Salem home.
It’s also been six years since Tom Martens, 72, a retired FBI agent, and Molly, 38, were convicted of second-degree murder after a five-week trial.
Judge David Hall told the Davidson County Superior Court this week that it was impossible to hold the retrial earlier, despite pleas from Mr Corbett’s family for an earlier hearing.
“Everyone involved made efforts to get the process underway earlier, but there were realities that could not be overcome,” Judge Hall said.
The court gave no explanation for the delay. Mr Corbett’s Irish family had expected the retrial to take place next month and in November.
Now they have to wait 10 months for the retrial, with the US prosecution team already dealing with a death, retirement and the ill health of some people linked to the 2017 case.
That Irish Independent has learned that a key witness from the original 2017 trial has died, three key prosecutors and police officers have retired, and two other witnesses are of advanced age or have had recent medical problems.
Tom Martens’ lead counsel, David Freedman, died with Covid-19 in September last year. Only one of the three main defense attorneys – Jones Byrd – was involved in the original trial, a factor that has also slowed the legal investigation process.
Judge Hall has set a deadline of March 17 to resolve all outstanding litigation matters, with pre-trial matters scheduled for June 12.
The judge said he wanted jury selection to begin at the June 26 trial.
You don’t expect to see so much blood
Prosecution and defense officials received a warning from Judge Hall on Wednesday that no public comment could be made without his consent.
He said he would not tolerate the integrity of the retrial being compromised.
Davidson County officials all declined to comment on the status of the trial or any concerns.
However, District Attorney Garry Frank told the North Carolina media last year that he was confident his prosecution team could bring forward a second conviction after successfully obtaining a conviction five years ago.
One of the paramedics, Sergeant Barry Alphin, who attended to Mr Corbett, 39, in his blood-splattered bedroom on August 2, 2015, is dead.
Sgt. Alphin provided crucial evidence at the original trial in Davidson County Superior Court.
He described being shocked by the amount of blood in Mr Corbett’s bedroom in Winston-Salem as paramedics struggled in vain to save him.
“You don’t expect to see that much blood,” he told the trial.
Sgt. Alphin also provided vivid evidence of how he learned of the severity of his injuries while attempting to move Mr. Corbett.
The case’s lead investigator, Wanda Thompson, has retired, although it is understood she has made it clear that she will assist the retrial as best she can.
Also retired is the key prosecutor who worked on the 2017 sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown.
He was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Ina Stanton, who also will not be involved in the retrial.
Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin – who delivered a devastating closing argument at the 2017 trial in which he repeatedly smashed a table with a metal baseball bat to illustrate the force it took to crush Mr Corbett’s skull – will lead the prosecution team in the retrial .
The first trial involved a total of 23 witnesses and lasted five weeks. The retrial is expected to include multiple new witnesses and could last seven weeks or more.
Unlike the 2017 case, next year’s retrial is said to include direct testimony from Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack, 18, and Sarah, 16, who were at the property at the time of their father’s killing. Both slept in an upstairs bedroom.
His skull was crushed so badly that a pathologist could not accurately count the number of blows
The original judge, David Lee’s, decision to refuse to admit contested testimonies from the two children into evidence was pivotal for Tom and Molly Martens, who successfully appealed to have their conviction overturned. Both have claimed they acted solely in self-defense.
Jack and Sarah Corbett have expressed to Davidson County prosecutors their willingness to travel to court to give direct testimony on the prosecution’s case.
Mr Corbett, a senior packaging executive, was beaten to death in his bedroom with a concrete block and metal baseball bat.
The 2017 trial was told there had been an attempt to drug him, he was beaten even after he was dead and both Tom and Molly Martens then delayed calling emergency services to ensure he was there on their arrival was dead.
His skull was crushed so badly that a pathologist could not accurately count the number of blows.
Mr Corbett, a widower, had refused to sign adoption papers to give his American second wife equal rights over his two children. The Limerick man lost his first wife, Mags, to an asthma attack just weeks after Sarah was born.
His family insist he was killed for trying to bring his two children back to Ireland amid growing concerns about Molly Martens’ mental health and behavior. Martens and her father insisted they acted in self-defense. They claimed Mr Corbett attacked Molly and her father intervened with a baseball bat to protect her.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/dead-witnesses-and-retiring-investigators-pose-hurdles-in-retrial-of-jason-corbetts-killers-42011106.html Dead witnesses and retired investigators pose hurdles in the retrial of Jason Corbett’s killers