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Defence team claims media publicity of trial warrants switch out of Davidson County
Prosecutors are set to oppose the transfer of the murder retrial of Tom and Molly Martens in the US by arguing claims of unprecedented media coverage of the case will have reached all parts of North Carolina equally.
The revelation came as the family of Irish businessman Jason Corbett (39) – who was beaten to death in August 2015 – are hoping to travel to North Carolina for the latest retrial hearing tomorrow in a bid to demonstrate their ongoing support for prosecutors.
Strict gagging orders imposed by the judge handling the retrial, Judge David Hall, has meant the Limerick family cannot comment on the ongoing proceedings.
Lawyers for Molly Martens (38), who was Mr Corbett’s wife, and her father Tom (72), have claimed that unprecedented publicity over the case now warrants the transfer of their retrial for second-degree murder out of Davidson County.
In a pre-trial motion, lawyers for Tom Martens – a former FBI agent – argued for the transfer amid a claim that their client now cannot receive a fair trial in Davidson County.
Mr Corbett lived in Davidson County and its capital, Lexington, hosted the five-week murder trial in 2017 at which the Martens were convicted of second degree murder.
The Martens’ legal team now want the retrial held in June in another part of the state.
“There is no way they could receive a fair and impartial jury in Davidson County, and no way their constitutional rights as guaranteed under the North Carolina and United States Constitutions to due process and a fair trial can be adequately protected in Davidson County,” a written submission to the court claimed.
Lawyers for Molly Martens have now submitted a supporting motion seeking a retrial transfer.
North Carolina sources indicated that a transfer of the retrial from Davidson County to an area such as Forsyth County – where the city of Winston-Salem is located – may be advantageous to the defence. While Davidson County is a largely working class area, Forsyth County is more middle-class and affluent.
Some analysts have suggested that, in terms of jury selection, this might prove a preferable location to the defence teams, who are to argue that the father and daughter acted only to defend themselves.
It is expected that prosecutors will argue that publicity has to date reached all parts of North Carolina equally – thereby rendering any retrial transfer as unnecessary.
The father and daughter were convicted in August 2017 of beating the Limerick-born father-of-two to death with a baseball bat and a concrete brick in the bedroom of his home.
Both were sentenced to 20-25 years in prison for second-degree murder, but a retrial was ordered after they won their challenge to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Judge Hall has warned he won’t allow media coverage of the case to jeopardise the integrity of the retrial. He said he had never encountered publicity on the scale that surrounds the case.
The judge imposed a strict gagging order on everyone associated with the case, including prosecution and defence officials, from making any comment to the media without his authorisation.