A former FBI agent and his daughter—who were both convicted of beating her husband to death—had their convictions overturned by a North Carolina appeals court and were ordered a new trial.
Molly Corbett, 36, and her father Thomas Martens, 70, were convicted of second-degree murder in 2017 for the death of Corbett’s Irish businessman husband Jason Corbett two years earlier.
In a 2-1 decision, the court of appeals reversed the judgments against both Martens and Corbett after finding “prejudicial errors” in the case.
“Having thoroughly reviewed the record and transcript, it is evident that this is the rare case in which certain evidentiary errors, alone and in the aggregate, were so prejudicial as to inhibit Defendants’ ability to present a full and meaningful defense,” the court ruled.
State prosecutors have the right to appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court because the appellate judges had been split in their decision, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Laura Brewer, communications director for the North Carolina Department of Justice, told Oxygen.com the attorney general’s office is “reviewing the decision.”
Molly had originally served as an au pair for Jason’s two children, Jack and Sarah, after his first wife Margaret died. Molly and Jason later began a romantic relationship and moved to North Carolina where they got married in 2011, according to court documents summarizing the case.
But the couple’s relationship would come to a violent end when Jason was beaten to death with a baseball bat and brick paver in his Davidson County home in August 2015 while Molly’s parents Tom and Sharon Martens had come for a visit.
Jason had been hit at least 12 different times and his skull had been crushed, according to testimony from the medical examiner.
Molly and Tom claimed that the attack had been in self-defense after Tom intervened in an argument between the Jason and Molly.
Tom, a former FBI agent, told investigators that while he was sleeping in the downstairs guest room he heard “a scream and loud noises” coming from the floor above and grabbed a Little League baseball bat he had brought as a present for Jack and went upstairs to investigate.
When he opened Molly and Jason’s bedroom door, he told authorities, he saw Jason with his hands around Molly’s neck and that when Jason saw him, he quickly put Molly into a chokehold.
In Tom's account to authorities, he told Jason to “let her go,” but Jason threatened to kill Molly.
Tom struck him with the baseball bat in an attempt to free his daughter and the altercation spilled from the bedroom into a bathroom, he told authorities. At some point, Molly told authorities she picked up a brick paver that had been in the bedroom and tried to hit Jason with it.
Molly and Tom were convicted of second-degree murder in 2017.
In their appeal, defense attorneys argued that statements made by Jason’s children to a social worker shortly after his death, in which they described their father as being emotionally and physically abusive to Molly, had been excluded. In addition, the children had already returned to Ireland by the time of the trial, preventing them from testifying.
However, the children later recanted the statements they had made to the social worker, according to WFMY.
The court determined that trial judge David Lee should have also prohibited testimony from Stuart James, a bloodstain pattern expert, after it was determined that stains found on Molly’s pajama pants and Tom’s shorts were never confirmed to be blood.
Overall, the appellate court determined that errors made during the trial prevented Molly and Tom from preparing a meaningful defense.
“Due to the compounding evidentiary and instructional errors that occurred both before and throughout the three-week trial in this matter, Defendants were prevented from presenting a meaningful defense, or from receiving the full benefit of their claims of self-defense and defense of a family member,” they wrote in their decision.
Walter Holton, an attorney representing Molly, said in a statement that his client was always truthful with law enforcement authorities about what happened that night.
"This was self-defense, plain and simple," he said in a statement obtained by the paper. "Molly has no fear of the truth. She is not the one trying to suppress the children's statements that were given at the time this event occurred and were given, in what the court has called, the exact correct circumstance in interviewing children. This opinion takes a huge step toward the truth and we welcome that."
Jones P. Byrd, an attorney representing Tom, also said he was “extremely pleased,” by the court’s decision, according to WFMY.
Jason’s family has been outspoken in the past about his death. His sister Tracey Corbett-Lynch wrote a book titled “My Brother Jason: The Untold Story of Jason Corbett’s Life and Brutal Murder by Tom and Molly Martens,” in which she alleges that Jason’s death had been planned by the father and daughter.
After news of the appellate court’s decision, Jason’s family said in a statement that they were aware of the decision but “will not be commenting at this time.”
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