THE US retrial of father and daughter Tom and Molly Martens for the murder of Irish businessman Jason Corbett, 39, is now not expected until late fall as a key hearing in North Carolina has been postponed.
Judge David Hall was scheduled to confirm a hearing with prosecutors and the two defense teams next Monday.
However, that pretrial hearing in Davidson County Superior Court has been postponed.
The court session is understood to be canceled due to a scheduling conflict.
A date has not yet been set for a new pre-trial hearing, at which a date for a full retrial will be confirmed.
Mr Corbett’s Irish family had not planned to travel to North Carolina for the hearing after attending a key court session last March.
Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack, 17, and Sarah, 15, faced their stepmother and step-grandfather at that hearing in March for the first time since their father was beaten to death in the bedroom of his North Carolina home in August 2015
Both children were accompanied to the Davidson County Superior Court hearing by Mr Corbett’s sister Tracey Corbett-Lynch, her husband Dave and their children Dean and Adam.
Tom, 71, and Molly Martens, 37, sat alongside their legal teams on the left side of Lexington’s Courtroom Nine.
Neither of them looked at the two children or members of the Corbett family as they entered to be seated on the right side of the courtroom.
The Limerick family traveled to North Carolina to demonstrate their continued support for North Carolina prosecutors — and to underscore their request for an early retrial.
The family had originally been told a retrial could take place in May or June.
However, a retrial is unlikely before the autumn – a major disappointment for the Limerick family as Jack and Sarah face important senior year exams.
The retrial – which will include direct evidence from Jack and Sarah Corbett – is expected to take up to seven weeks.
As a gesture of support for the Corbett family, two members of the 2017 trial jury who unanimously convicted Tom and Molly Martens of second-degree murder attended the court hearing last March.
Both hugged the Corbett family outside the courthouse after the end of the pre-trial hearing.
Forsyth County Judge David Hall, specifically appointed to hear the retrial, was informed by Assistant District Attorney Alan Mr. Martin that the state had disclosed all information to the defense teams of Douglas Kingsberry, R. Vannoy and Jones Byrd.
Judge Hall is a former prosecutor.
Mr Martin revealed the disclosure included 9,725 pages of documents, as well as digital files including photos and audio recordings.
Neither Mr. Kingsberry nor Mr. Vannoy were involved in the original trial in Davidson County Superior Court, although Mr. Kingsberry was involved in the Ori’s successful appealFirst conviction in North Carolina Supreme Court last year.
Mr Vannoy said he would endeavor to acquaint himself with the discovery of the state documents as soon as possible.
Mr. Martin told Judge Hall that the prosecution hoped to reach an agreement with the defense legal teams on a timeline for the hearing that would include a specific date for the retrial.
That reinstatement date should be confirmed at the second administrative hearing in Lexington on May 23.
Pre-trial applications should also be dealt with on this day.
Judge Hall issued a special warning given the high profile of the Martens case.
“This case has, in fairness to say, received a tremendous amount of media coverage through what I consider news media and what I consider entertainment media,” he said.
Judge Hall said his priority is to ensure justice is done – and the rights of the media must be balanced against this. He issued an executive order specifically forbidding the prosecution or defense teams, or their employees or agents, from making out-of-court statements on the case.
Judge Hall also said he would not allow what he described as “media exploitation” to undermine the operation of the justice system.
“My only rule is to make sure these parties get a fair trial, with no outside forces involved.
“We are here for one reason and that is to serve justice.”
Judge Hall also said he would not allow filming or videotaping of the retrial, believing it could adversely affect witnesses, the jury and even attorneys.
He bluntly warned that, in relation to media matters, he reserved all powers to enforce the court’s orders, including the imprisonment of those accused of contempt of court.
Mr Martens, a former FBI agent, and his daughter Molly, who was the Irish widower’s second wife, are facing a retrial after their 2017 convictions were overturned by the North Carolina Supreme Court last year.
Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank previously said his prosecution team secured a successful conviction in 2017 and is confident of obtaining another conviction.
However, he acknowledged that due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, a “backlog and schedules” with “considerable time” would be required to deal with it.
Tom and Molly Martens were unanimously convicted of the second-degree murder of Mr Corbett after a five-week trial in August 2017 and sentenced to 20-25 years in prison.
However, they later won a retrial after a challenge in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Both spent three and a half years in prison before being released.
Prosecutors have already ruled out moving the trial out of Davidson County, where the original 2017 conviction was pronounced.
The Tennessee-based father and daughter beat the Limerick-born packaging executive to death in August 2015 at his luxury home outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Both claimed they acted in self-defense after claiming they were attacked by the Irish father-of-two.
Mr Martens insisted he feared for his life and that of his daughter.
However, the original trial contained evidence that Mr Corbett was probably asleep in bed when the first blow was struck.
Tom and Molly Martens were found at the scene completely unharmed – while the Irish widower’s skull had been crushed by a concrete slab and a metal baseball bat so badly that a pathologist couldn’t accurately count the number of hits.
Prosecutors later claimed there had been an attempt to drug Mr Corbett – and that the father and daughter had deliberately delayed calling 911 just to make sure the Irish executive was dead when they arrived.
Paramedics told the original trial they were startled to find Mr Corbett’s body was cold to the touch.
Mr Corbett’s life insurance had recently been amended to ensure Mrs Martens was the sole beneficiary.
The Limerick man had steadfastly refused to sign adoption papers that would have given Ms Martens equal rights to his two children by his late first wife, Margaret “Mags” Fitzpatrick, who died of an unusual asthma attack in November 2006.
Mr Corbett’s family have consistently claimed the murder was orchestrated because he wanted to bring his two children back to Limerick amid growing fears about his second wife’s mental health condition and bizarre behaviour.
The death of Mr Martens’ lead counsel, David Freedman, from Covid-19 last year was not expected to affect the retrial timeline.
Mr. Freedman’s company still represents Mr. Martens.
The retrial was ordered last year after negotiations on the trial of Tom and Molly Martens’ refusal to serve further time in prison collapsed.
Both had served over three and a half years in prison before their convictions were overturned by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Any plea deal was conditional on the duo receiving the normal sentence on a lesser charge such as involuntary manslaughter or manslaughter, which meant they had to spend at least another 12 months behind bars.
With the plea barred, planning for the retrial began.
Mr Corbett’s Limerick family have promised to support prosecutors in a second murder conviction.
His sister Tracey Corbett-Lynch has led a determined seven-year campaign for justice for her brother.
“Our campaign will continue until justice is done for Jason and those who so cruelly took his life are held accountable. We have complete faith in North Carolina prosecutors and in the US judicial system,” she vowed last year.
Unlike the first trial, the testimonies of Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack and Sarah Corbett, at the retrial are likely to prove central to the prosecution.
Both were asleep in the upstairs bedrooms of their home at Panther Creek Court outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina in August 2015 when their father was beaten to death downstairs.
The original trial judge’s refusal to admit into evidence testimony made by North Carolina Social Services officials about the children in August 2015 was critical for Tom and Molly Martens to have their convictions overturned.
Since his release from prison, Mr. Martens has lived at his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.
His daughter Molly went on an extended US vacation with her brother Connor, visiting Chicago and New York.
Molly Martens married Mr Corbett in June 2011, having traveled to Ireland a few years earlier to work as nanny for the Irish widower’s two children, both aged two and under, when his first wife died of an asthma attack.
He later began a relationship with Ms. Martens, unaware of her history of mental health issues.
The Limerick businessman moved to the United States in 2011 after his Tennessee-born wife repeatedly complained of homesickness.
Mr Corbett’s family have claimed he was taking his children back to Limerick when he was attacked and killed in his bedroom.
The 2017 trial heard there had been an attempt to drug Mr Corbett, he was initially assaulted while he slept in bed and he was beaten even after he was found dead on the bedroom floor.
When the concrete slab was later lifted off the ground by detectives, it left its bloodied outline on the carpet.
Blood, tissue and hair from Mr. Corbett were also found in the bricks.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/north-america/tom-and-molly-martens-murder-retrial-delayed-again-disappointment-for-jason-corbett-family-41669996.html The retrial of Tom and Molly Martens’ murder has been postponed again, a disappointment for Jason Corbett’s family