DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — The NC Court of Appeals overturned murder convictions of Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens.
Corbett and her father, Thomas Martens, were both found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Molly's husband, Jason Corbett, back in August 2015. Prosecutors said Jason was beaten to death with a brick paver and a baseball bat by his au-pair-turned-wife Molly Corbett and her father, former FBI agent, Tom Martens. Molly Corbett and Martens maintained they killed Jason in self-defense after he tried to strangle Molly.
Their convictions were overturned by a ruling in the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The ruling says there were errors in the case and the trial was “so prejudicial and as such the defendants were not able to have a full and meaningful defense" including their self-defense claims. The ruling goes on to say those errors warrant a new trial in the case.
"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 receiving the benefit of their claims of self-defense and defense of a family member,” read a paragraph on page 115 of the majority's opinion.
Defense attorneys also argued that the statements Jason Corbett's children made to a social worker about him being physically and emotionally abusive were excluded. However, those statements were later recanted. The opinion also pointed out that the matter of jury misconduct was not taken into consideration.
Davidson County DA Garry Frank said his office is still reviewing the Appellate Court's decision for the next steps.
"It is a very lengthy opinion and so I have read it but not studied it. I would say that I'm disappointed but grateful for the legal analysis that represents the dissent which I think the dissenting opinion had it right and you know it's all part of the process and we'll go forward from here," he said.
"It seems to me it was an accumulation of evidentiary ruling that the majority opinion hung its hat on but this judge, Judge Lee, is one of the most experienced, most fair judicial trial judges that I have had any experience with, in my 42 years in the legal profession," he said.
"We believe he was right and will just have to see if what the court of appeals says is proven to be right and if the supreme court will review this," said Frank.
"We will consult with the North Carolina Attorney General's office Appellate division. They will, with us, make the decision on whether to seek a review by the North Carolina Supreme Court. We will expect that will happen and they will handle the appeal just like they handled the appeal in this case'" said Frank.
They have until next month to make that request.
The lawyers for the defendants told WFMY News 2 they were still reviewing the 169-page opinion and sent in their statements.
"We are extremely pleased with the Court of Appeals’ opinion today with respect to the evidentiary issues at trial, and look forward to the opportunity to be heard in a fair fashion on behalf of our client, Tom Martens," said Jones P. Byrd of Crumpler Freedman Parker & Witt.
"This is still an active criminal case, and as such, I don’t believe it is appropriate for attorneys who are involved in the case to comment outside the courtroom on the merits of legal issues in the case," said Douglas E. Kingsbery of Tharrington Smith, LLP who represents Molly Corbett.
"I do think, however, that both the State and the defense should commend all three of the appellate Judges who considered this appeal for their thoughtful consideration of the issues presented and for taking the time they felt necessary to determine those issues," added Kingsbery.
At this time, Corbett and Martens remain in the custody of the State's Department of Corrections. The DA says the matter concerning whether they will be released from or kept in jail is still pending.