LEXINGTON, N.C. — Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens will get a new trial after all, years after they were each sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison on second-degree murder charges in Jason Corbett’s death.
The pair was granted a new trial in North Carolina Supreme Court.
The N.C. Supreme Court issued its opinion that Corbett and Marten’s only defense in their case was that their use of deadly force was legally justified. The trial court, however, excluded the testimony of Jack and Sarah Corbett which could have played a vital role in the jury’s decision.
“By erroneously excluding admissible testimony which was relevant to the central question presented to the jury, the trial court impermissibly constrained defendants’ ability to mount their defense,” the Supreme Court said.
The court said that evidentiary errors were so prejudiced against the defendants that they could not present a full and meaningful defense.
This decision agrees with the North Carolina Court of Appeals which ruled that Corbett and Martens were unable to present a meaningful defense during their 2017 trial.
“Essentially what the court was saying was by not allowing us to present evidence that was relevant and competent, we were deprived of a fair jury trial,” Marten’s attorney David Freedman explained.
The conviction meant the jury unanimously believed the killing was done in malice. The two had claimed self-defense during the trial.
Moments after the 2017 verdict was announced, Corbett broke out crying while Martens remained quiet. Before being taken into custody, Corbett turned to her mother and said she’s “really sorry.”
Jury foreman Tom Ammland said the decision did not come easily. The group voted 12-0 for Martens to receive second-degree murder, but were stuck at 10-2 for Corbett.
”After going over some of the evidence and discussing it, the clothing and proximity to the attack, we felt that she could have gotten out of that situation but chose to stay,” Ammland said.
Testimony and 911 calls show Martens came to his daughter’s defense the night of Aug. 3, 2015, when he says he saw Jason choking Molly. He says he intervened with a baseball bat.
Testimony from doctors at the scene shows Corbett was hit in the head 10 times with a baseball bat and cement brick. His autopsy shows he died from blunt force trauma to the head.
The Corbett family released the following response on Friday:
“We are so disappointed and distraught that the Supreme Court of North Carolina has decided to grant a retrial to Tom and Molly Martens who admitted killing our beloved Jason – a father, a brother, a son and a loyal friend – who is dearly missed by all who knew and loved him. Neither of the convicted defendants has ever expressed remorse for Jason’s killing. They put his orphaned children, then aged 8 and 10, and Jason’s parents, siblings and friends through the horrific ordeal of the first trial, all the while waging a vicious and unrelenting smear campaign in the media and in the courtroom. The jury unanimously found them guilty of second-degree murder, concurring with the detectives and EMT workers who found the crime scene to be wholly inconsistent with the defence claims concocted by Tom Martens, a former FBI agent, and his daughter, Molly, who drugged Jason prior to the attack. We can only put our faith in God to guide us through the torment of a second trial. We place our trust in the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department and in the District Attorney for North Carolina both of whom recognised from the outset that Jason was the victim of a cold and calculated murder, designed to give Molly custody of Jason’s children, and the financial benefit of an insurance policy. Despite our disappointment at this decision, by a 4-3 majority, to grant the Martens a retrial, we retain our faith in the US Criminal Justice system and our confidence that a jury will once again find the Martens guilty of this “heinous, atrocious and cruel” crime. Our priority is to continue providing love, care, support and protection to Jason’s two wonderful children whom we are blessed to have as part of our family. The family will not be issuing any further statements at this time.”