DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — A high-profile murder trial out of Davidson County will soon move to Forsyth County.
Ahead of their initial trial, Martens and Corbett’s team pushed to have the case moved citing concerns about whether the case could be fairly tried in Davidson County, but their request was ultimately denied. As the case now heads towards re-trial, Forsyth County Resident Superior Court Judge David Hall said Friday that he would allow the case to move to Forsyth County, a victory for the two defendants.
“After careful review, I determine that Forsyth County is the most proper venue for the joint trial of these matters,” Hall said. “The considerations attendant with this decision are myriad, and certainly specific to the factual and procedural posture of these cases. Your arguments were all well-founded and exceptionally persuasive. In the final analysis the totality of the circumstances, and particularly the fact that these matters are on for re-trial, satisfy the defendants’ extraordinary burden.”
On Dec. 22, Thomas Marten and his counsel asked the court to change the venue of the upcoming retrial of Thomas Martens and Molly Corbett, alleging concerns that the trial may not be fair, according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege that Molly Corbett and her father Thomas Marten beat Molly’s husband, Jason Corbett, to death with a paving brick and a baseball bat on Aug. 2, 2015.
During the case, both of them argued self-defense, saying that Jason Corbett had strangled Molly. Thomas has said that he beat Jason in a “life-and-death struggle.”
They pleaded not guilty and filed a motion to have the trial moved out of Davidson County, but it was initially denied and the trial moved forward.
They were both found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison in 2017.
The court documents say that several jurors acted inappropriately during the 2017 trial, admitting that they had conversations about the case against the instructions of the judge, saying that they “formed opinions about Molly Martens Corbett despite the fact that she did not even take the witness stand,” violating the court’s instruction that her decision not to testify should not influence the jury.
Jurors also reportedly “developed their own theories” about the case, “not supported by the facts or evidence.”
Despite giving statements to the Dragonfly House Children’s Advocacy Center in Mocksville and the Union County Department of Social Services about Jason Corbett abusing Molly, Jack and Sarah Corbett, children from Jason’s previous marriage, did not testify and their testimony was not used.
In 2020, the NC Court of Appeals overturned the second-degree murder convictions. The convictions were overturned, in part, because Judge David Lee excluded the statements that Jason Corbett’s children made during the initial trial.
Prosecutors have argued that Jack and Sarah recanted their statements about abuse.
In 2021, the Supreme Court upheld the court’s decision, stating that the committed testimony impacted the initial trial. The case will be re-tried.
Change of venue request
Similar issues in the 2017 trial are why counsel says they requested the change of venue, citing the “unprecedented” coverage both by the press and on social media, saying much of the information circulating is “false.” The document also accuses the Corbett family of continuing to make statements about the case to the media, calling Thomas and Molly murderers “while portraying Jason Corbett as a saint.”
An oral order was entered by Judge David L. Hall on Sept. 21, 2022, saying that no one should be making extrajudicial statements about the case.
“Within 20 minutes after the Judge entered this Order, social media postings complaining of the Order and making other extrajudicial statements regarding the case were made by Jason Corbett’s family or representatives of his family,” the document alleges.
On Dec. 1, 2022, a written order was submitted that ordered that counsel, past and potential witnesses are prohibited from making public comments.
“Due to the enormous and unprecedented media and social media coverage in this case, as well as the fact that there has already been one trial held in Davidson County with jurors from Davidson County who made admissions that they violated the instructions of the Court, there exists such a great prejudice in Davidson County against Molly Martens Corbett and Thomas Martens that there is no way they could receive a fair and impartial jury in Davidson County, and no way their constitutional rights as guaranteed under the North Carolina and United States Constitutions to due process and a fair trial can be adequately protected in Davidson County,” the document states.
They request a transfer of venue to Forsyth County or another county outside the 33rd prosecutorial district to protect the Martens’ constitutional right to a fair trial.