A petition to secure a retrial in the US for the convicted killers of Irish father-of-two Jason Corbett has garnered thousands of signatures.
The family of Mr Corbett, who was murdered by his American wife, Molly Martens and his father-in-law, Tom Martens, have created the public petition to garner support for the retrial after prosecutors offered a plea deal to them.
The Limerick man’s two children, Jack (16) and Sarah (14), were orphaned when their 39-year-old father was murdered in his home in Walburg, North Carolina, on August 2nd, 2015 while he slept.
Mr Corbett, was killed with an aluminium baseball bat and paving stone.
The children’s mother Mags died in 2006 following an asthma attack. Ms Martens first met Mr Corbett when she moved to Limerick from the US and was working as his children’s nanny. She subsequently married Mr Corbett in 2011.
Ms Martens (37) and her father Mr Martens (71) a retired FBI agent with 30 years experience, were convicted of the father of two’s death by a US court in August 2017.
The petition, titled Retrial for Molly and Tom Martens, was launched by Mr Corbett’s family and supporters on Thursday night on the website change.org. They sought 500 signatures to begin with but that has now soared to thousands.
The petition states: “The basis of the retrial was down to a technicality on the testing of blood on Tom Marten's shorts which could have been easily resolved and the children’s statements conducted whilst in the custody of the Martens' family.
“Not only did the children recant these statements made while terrified to child protected services. They also offered new completing evidence, which was corroborated by their counsellor in Ireland.”
The family adds: “Davidson County District Attorney, Garry Frank's has decided not to grant a retrial and instead offer a plea deal of voluntary manslaughter which carries a sentence of 51-64 months.
Forty-four months have already been served so should they accept this plea deal, and with time served, they will serve only an additional two years before being released.
“The Corbetts have fought relentlessly to protect Jason's two young children from the trauma of this social media campaign instigated by friends and family members of the Martens family, as well as fought to clear their beloved brother and son's name from the relentless and volatile lies been circulated all over social media by members of the Martens family labelling him an abuser.
“To add further trauma to the Corbett family, this plea deal only adds further pain and disdain to a family still grieving the loss of a loved one. Two children who'll never see their father again. Birthdays, weddings, Christmas, sporting events etc are painstaking to these children who've had their entire lives ripped apart by the two people they trusted and once called ‘mom’ and ‘grandpa’.”
The Martens pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed self-defence was the reason behind their actions which resulted in the death of the business executive. Both had been serving 20 to 25 jail terms in high security prisons in North Carolina, but they have now been moved back to the same facility in Davidson County where the trial took place.
Court of Appeal
In February 2020, the North Carolina Court of Appeal ruled that both defendants were entitled to a new trial. The North Carolina Supreme Court heard the case in January and upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal last month.
They could be freed permanently in 22 months and for a week over Easter as they have six days to consider the plea deal offered by the District Attorney or choose a retrial which would see them released on bond until their new court case beginning next year.
The Marten’s family are due to issue a statement in the coming days on whether they will accept a plea deal or continue with a re-trial.
Mr Corbett’s children along with their legal guardians Tracey Corbett Lynch, who is their late father’s sister, travelled to the US this week to provide legal statements in the event of a retrial. The children claim they were “coached to lie” about domestic abuse which allegedly occurred in their home.
Evidence during the original court trial was given that Ms Martens suffered with mental health issues for a long period of time and that she had hoped to adopt her late husband’s children which he did not agree to.
This week the children detailed for Davidson County detectives the long history of alleged child abuse perpetrated against them by their stepmother. The children also detailed for detectives how they saw key items of evidence, such as Jason’s phone and two of his computers, in Ms Martens family’s possession in the days after the murder.
In a statement issued over social media, the Corbett Family explained the District Attorney for Davidson County had decided to offer a plea deal and not seek a retrial of Thomas and Molly Martens.
They said: “We are devastated that the District Attorney for Davidson County has decided to offer a plea deal and not seek a retrial of Tom and Molly Martens who admitted killing Jason Corbett, leaving his children, then aged 10 and eight, orphaned.
“What does it say for justice in North Carolina that you can drug a father of two, then beat him to death with a baseball bat and a paving brick, literally crush his skull, and still escape a murder conviction?”
Mrs Corbett Lynch and her husband David questioned why the Martens should be allowed to escape a murder conviction.
US based media are now extensively covering the case following the public campaign by the Corbetts and Lynchs.