Jason Corbett killing: Tom and Molly Martens could be released on manslaughter charges with a deal

The couple who killed the 39-year-old businessman in 2015 are due back in court today to face charges of second-degree murder.

However, in a dramatic development, the Irish Independent can reveal details of a bargain deal negotiated ahead of the hearing.

It is understood the murder charge will be dropped if the voluntary manslaughter charge is accepted.

If the involuntary manslaughter charge is confirmed before Judge David Hall in Davidson County Superior Court in North Carolina, the duo could potentially be released based on time already served in prison.

Molly Martens at the Davidson County Courthouse. Photo: Donnie Roberts/Dispatch.

US legal sources said this was the result of weeks of negotiations leading up to the retrial. Their original 2017 convictions for second-degree murder in the death of the Limerick father of two were overturned.

The charge of voluntary manslaughter may be dealt with based on an Alford plea, a special U.S. legal mechanism in which defendants continue to maintain their innocence but acknowledge that the prosecution may have enough evidence to secure a conviction if the matter would have been fully heard.

Tom and Molly Martens have three options when presented with a plea deal: they can reject it, accept it, or they can enter a no contest where the judge will proceed with the matter.

Her retrial was originally scheduled to take place late last year in North Carolina, but was postponed until June.

However, last spring the judge presiding over the matter granted a defense request to move the trial from its original location in Davidson County to the nearby city of Winston-Salem in Forsyth County.

This was prompted by concerns about jury bias in Davidson County related to social media coverage.

The Martens’ legal team argued that “the Irish” were behind the social media campaign in question.

For evidentiary and logistical reasons, a trial planned for June was postponed to November 6th.

However, U.S. legal sources said the retrial was remanded to Davidson County and the date moved forward by a week, despite previously raised concerns about juror contamination in the area.

Only two weeks are reserved for the hearing in the sixth courtroom of Davidson County Superior Court in Lexington.

US sources said the retrial before a jury was expected to take at least six weeks.

Additionally, Davidson County sources said a jury pool has not been formed for this week’s hearing.

Six years ago, the selection of the 12-member jury and two alternates took a full week before the trial could begin.

Tom Martens

Davidson County prosecutors and defense attorneys are now expected to present detailed sentencing motions to Judge Hall when the plea agreement is formally ratified.

The hearing then becomes a trial rather than a full retrial.

The imposition of a sentence in the event of an accusation of negligent homicide occurs after a detailed presentation of the case and legal opinions from both the public prosecutor and the defense.

Under North Carolina sentencing standards, a higher sentence for involuntary manslaughter can be a maximum of nine years.

The higher penalty is usually imposed if there are aggravating circumstances.

Defense attorneys – who have consistently argued that the father and daughter feared for their lives on August 2, 2015 and acted solely in self-defense – are apparently prepared to argue for a lower sentence that could start with at least 3 years.

The father and daughter served three and a half years of their 20- to 25-year sentences before their second-degree murder convictions were overturned by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

If Judge Hall accepts defense requests to impose sentences at the lowest end of the scale, the Martens could escape court given the time they have already served in prison after the original sentencing in 2017.

Judge Hall imposed a strict gag order on the prosecution and defense attorneys, as well as the Corbett and Martens families.

All have refused to comment on today’s proceedings.

Today’s hearing in North Carolina will include Mr. Corbett’s two children, Jack, 19, and Sarah, 17, as well as Mr. Corbett’s sister, Tracey Corbett-Lynch, her husband, Dave Lynch, and other family members and supporters.

The Martens family and their supporters will also be present.

The two children were orphaned by the murder of Mr. Corbett by his American second wife and father-in-law.

Molly Martens

Mr. Corbett was beaten to death with a metal baseball bat and a concrete block in the bedroom of his luxury home in North Carolina.

The Irish widower’s family has always argued that the attack was triggered by a dispute over control of the two children.

Tom and Molly Martens insisted they were acting in self-defense, although both were found unharmed at the scene by police.

In the original 2017 trial, prosecutors argued that Mr. Corbett was asleep in bed when Tom and Molly Martens’ fatal attack began.

They also argued that attempts were made to drug him, that he was even beaten after his death and that Tom and Molly Martens then delayed alerting emergency services to ensure he could not be saved.

Paramedics who arrived at the scene were shocked to find the Irish packaging industry manager feeling cold to the touch.

The father and daughter argued they had only acted in self-defense after Mr Martens claimed Mr Corbett violently attacked his daughter and refused to release her while holding her by the neck.

Mr Corbett had suffered such horrific injuries that a pathologist, Dr. Craig Nelson, couldn’t accurately count the number of blows to his head. His skull had been shattered by the force of the repeated blows.

Both were unanimously convicted by a Davidson County Superior Court jury after a high-profile five-week trial in August 2017 and sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Mr. Corbett.

After they won their challenge to the North Carolina Supreme Court two years ago, a full retrial was ordered. They had already won a lawsuit in the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2020.

The pair were released from prison after serving more than three and a half years of their sentence.

Mr Corbett’s first wife, Margaret “Mags” Fitzpatrick, died after suffering an asthma attack at their home in Limerick in November 2006. Mags had given birth to her youngest child, Sarah, just two months earlier.

Mr Corbett met Molly Martens when she flew to Ireland two years later to work as a nanny for his two children.

He was unaware that she had no training as a nanny and suffered from severe mental health problems.

The couple began a relationship and married in the US in June 2011 – although Ms Martens visited a divorce lawyer weeks later to find out her rights to the two children.

The Irish family have claimed Mr Corbett was killed as he prepared to take his two children back to Ireland for their safety.

Both children were returned to Mr Corbett’s Irish family and removed from Ms Martens’ care following a custody hearing in August 2015.


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