A US District Attorney who offered a plea bargain to Tom (71) and Molly (37) Martens over the murder of Irish father of two Jason Corbett has been flooded with objections from North Carolina citizens appalled at the deal.
idower Mr Corbett (39) was beaten to death in August 2015 with a metal baseball bat and a concrete paving slab in the bedroom of his Winston-Salem home by the former FBI agent and his daughter, the Limerick businessman’s second wife.
The father and daughter last month won a North Carolina Supreme Court appeal on evidential technicalities, and a full retrial was ordered.
However, Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank – having considered the Supreme Court judgement and the massive backlog of murder trial cases caused by the pandemic – has offered the duo a plea-bargain deal to voluntary manslaughter. They must accept the offer within seven days or face a full retrial.
If accepted, instead of facing 20-25-year prison terms, they will be likely to receive a jail term of five years and seven months. Both will have served four years in custody by August, meaning they could be free by March 2023.
Mr Corbett’s sister, Tracey Corbett-Lynch, speaking to the Irish Independent on her return from North Carolina, said her family were “overwhelmed and grateful” for the support they received in Ireland and North Carolina since the plea deal came to light.
“It has meant so much to us because this has been an absolute nightmare for our family,” she said.
“The support and sympathy of ordinary people has meant so much. The outpouring of support from North Carolina, in particular, has been overwhelming.
“Jason’s murder, our fight for justice and the challenges, such as consideration of offering plea deals, leave families such as ours powerless and suffering so much more than is necessary.”
The Corbett family launched a petition on www.change.org called ‘Retrial for Molly and Tom Martens’ which aims to garner public support for blocking the plea deal.
It secured almost 7,000 signatures across Ireland and the US within 48 hours, with the number still climbing.
The Corbett family have signalled that they will also take legal action to challenge the plea-bargain deal.
Ms Corbett-Lynch said it wasn’t acceptable that a factor in the plea-bargain decision was the backlog of murder cases in North Carolina.
Ms Corbett-Lynch, her husband David Lynch, and Mr Corbett’s two children, Jack (16) and Sarah (14), all travelled to the US state to meet with Davidson County prosecutors and police last week to support the retrial process. They were shocked to learn of the plea-bargain offer.
“We hold firm to our statement that a plea deal in this case is tantamount to letting the Martens get away with murder,” she said.
“Should a plea-bargain proposal be presented to a judge in the coming days, we will be filing a motion to voice our fervent opposition.
“We remain completely opposed to the District Attorney offering any plea deal to Tom and Molly Martens who admitted killing Jason Corbett, leaving his children, then aged 10 and eight, orphaned.
“We have heard the District Attorney say that he must make his decision on whether to seek a retrial in the context of having other murder cases to pursue – cases which have been delayed by Covid-19.
“But this is not a reason to devalue the life of Jason and allow the Martens to escape justice for what they did.”
Both Tom and Molly Martens insisted they acted in self-defence after claiming Mr Corbett had attacked Ms Martens.
However, they were found to be uninjured at the scene. In contrast, the Irish father’s skull had been shattered.
Mr Corbett had been drugged, attacked while asleep in bed and then beaten even after he was dead. The Martens’ 2017 murder trial also heard the duo then stalled ringing emergency services just to ensure he was dead.
Ms Corbett-Lynch said the Irish family did everything in their power to support prosecutors and police in the six-year campaign for justice.
“Jason’s children travelled, at the request of the District Attorney, from Ireland to North Carolina and they spent two harrowing days presenting new evidence of years of child abuse perpetrated against them by Molly Martens,” she said.
Source: Irish News