Molly Martens Corbett and her father Thomas Martens, front left, arriving at court for the pre-trial hearings in North Carolina Picture: Mark Condren/Independent News & Media
THE MURDER trial of Limerickman Jason Corbett will stay in Davidson County in the US, a judge has ruled after two days of hearings ahead of the trial.
The 39-year-old father of two from Janesboro died after being hit with a baseball bat and a paving stone in the early morning hours of August 2, 2015, in his home in Davidson County, North Carolina.
Mr Corbett’s second wife, Molly Martens Corbett, 33, and her father, Thomas Martens, 67, a former FBI agent, are each charged with second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter of Mr Corbett.
Both accused have claimed self-defence, saying Mr Corbett was choking his wife and threatening to kill her at the time of the incident.
Both defendants, who were granted bail last year on a $200,000 (€185,000) bond each, are scheduled to go to trial in the week of July 17 next.
Attorneys for both accused have filed a motion for change of venue, alleging their clients would not get a fair trial because of the media attention the case has received.
Ms Martens's lawyer, Walter Holton, argued that adverse publicity meant the trial should not be heard in Davidson County.
He claimed false information had been released to the media in the early stages and this information had been spread “like wildfire with gasoline” across social media.
However, Judge David Lee of Davidson Superior Court ruled that their attorneys had failed to show such prejudice against Corbett and Martens. He said the trial should stay in Davidson County.
Prosecutors filed a motion on Friday to call a jury pool of 300 people for the trial.
But it has not been decided whether statements that Jason Corbett’s children, Jack and Sarah, made to social workers after his death would be allowed at trial.
“Each child reported incidents of verbal and physical abuse by Jason Corbett inflicted upon Molly Corbett,” according to a motion that attorneys filed last year in the case.
Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin said those statements were never generated to be admissible in a court of law and are considered hearsay.
Attorneys for the accused argued that the statements can be part of the trial based on an exception dealing with medical diagnoses.
Tracey Lynch, Jason Corbett’s sister who has legal guardianship along with her husband, David Lynch of the children, testified that Jack admitted on his own that he had lied and wanted to talk to law-enforcement authorities and prosecutors.
Mr Martens claimed in a motion filed to the court that he was “approached by Michael Fitzpatrick (since deceased), the father of Jason Corbett's late first wife Margaret Corbett” at his daughter and Jason's wedding in 2011.
It reads: “On that occasion, Mr Fitzpatrick told Mr Martens that he believed that Jason Corbett had caused the death of his daughter Margaret.”
Mr Martens has also claimed that his state of mind during the altercation caused him to act “in defence” of himself and his daughter.
Mr Corbett's first wife Mags Fitzpatrick died tragically after a sudden asthma attack in November 2006, leaving him a widower with two young children.
Following his death, mother Marian Fitzpatrick and Mags’ sister Catherine gave interviews to police attesting to the ‘loving, caring relationship’ the couple had.
He met Ms Martens in 2008 when she moved to Limerick from Tennessee to work as an au pair for the children. He and the children later moved to the US and the couple married in 2011.
Ms Martens has two attorneys, and her father has two also. The prosecution side has engaged three attorneys.