In closing arguments, Davidson County prosecutors alleged that former FBI agent Thomas Martens and his daughter Molly brutally bludgeoned Irish businessman Jason Corbett to death with a metal bat and a concrete paving brick and then concocted a story of self-defense to cover up their crime, writes Michael Hewlett.
But attorneys for Molly Martens said prosecutors had failed to provide any compelling evidence that disproves what the Martens told investigators the morning that Corbett died on August 2, 2015 – that Corbett choked and threatened to kill Molly Martens and Thomas Martens struck Corbett with the baseball bat in an effort to protect himself and his daughter.
After closing arguments finish Tuesday, the jury of nine women and three men will start the process of determining whether Corbett's wife, Molly Martens, 33, and, Thomas, 67, are guilty of second-degree murder. The jurors also have the option of finding the Martens guilty of voluntary manslaughter or not guilty. The difference between second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter is that second-degree murder requires malice.
"We will never know whether Jason Corbett tried to cry out, whether he begged for his life or whether he thought of his children" as Molly and Thomas Martens beat him to death, Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown said in closing arguments Monday. "Jason can't speak to you but his blood speaks the truth and cries out for justice."
Corbett was found bludgeoned to death in his master bedroom at 160 Panther Creek Court in the Meadowlands, a golf-course community in Davidson County. At that house, he lived with Molly Martens, his second wife, and his two children from his first marriage. Corbett met Martens in 2008 when she traveled to Ireland from Tennessee to work as an au pair, or nanny, for his children, Jack and Sarah. The two began dating, marrying in Tennessee in 2011 and settling down in Davidson County.
Brown argued that the physical evidence in the case contradicts the self-defense claims of Molly and Thomas Martens. When EMS paramedics arrived at the house, they found Corbett nude on the floor. He had flaky dried blood on his face and chest, Brown said. A vacuum cleaner in the bedroom also had flaky dried blood on it, and the blood went from side to side, even though it was standing in an upright position, suggesting that it had been laying down when blood spattered on it, Brown said. That suggests that the vacuum cleaner was moved before paramedics arrived and crime-scene photos were taken, he said.
Karen Capps, the dispatcher who took Thomas Martens' 911 call at 3:02 a.m. August 2, 2015, testified that he didn't seem out of breath after he had performed at least two rounds of CPR on Corbett, Brown said. Molly Martens also didn't seem out of breath, he said.
Both Martens also had no blood on their hands, even though they were alleged to have performed CPR on Corbett's bloody chest, Brown said. That indicates that the Martens lied about performing CPR.
Brown also noted that even though Thomas Martens testified to a life-and-death struggle for survival between him, Molly Martens and Corbett, Sharon Martens, Thomas' wife and Molly's mother, remained in the guest bedroom in the basement, never called 911 and never went upstairs to see if her daughter was okay.
Dr. Craig Nelson, a medical examiner, testified that Corbett had 10 impact sites on his head, two of which were complex lacerations that indicated he was struck more than once, Brown said. In other words, Corbett was struck in the head at least 12 times. Brown argued that Corbett had blunt-force injuries all over his body, including his torso, his hands and his knees.
Brown alleged that even though prosecutors don't have to prove motive, Molly Martens may have had her reasons to kill Corbett – including a house that Corbett paid $350,000 for, a desire to adopt his children, which Corbett rejected, and a $600,000 life-insurance policy through Corbett's company.
He also noted the testimony of Joann Lowry, a former co-worker of Thomas Martens at Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Lowry testified that two months before Corbett died, Martens said he hated Jason. Martens denied saying he hated Corbett but acknowledged on the witness stand that he disliked Corbett and related an incident in 2011 that he disapproved of the behavior of Corbett and his friends during a pre-wedding celebration at Martens' house.
Brown said the statements showed malice on Thomas Martens' part.
He also noted the testimony of Stuart James, the blood-stain pattern expert, who said in court that Corbett was beaten at one point while he was close to the ground and that blood spatter on a wall near where he was found indicates that he was being struck as he was falling to the ground. Stains on the underside of Thomas Martens' boxer shorts and on the bottom of Molly Martens' pajama pants suggest that the two were above and over Corbett's head as he was being struck, James testified.
Walter Holton, Molly Corbett’s attorney, reminded jurors of all the things he said prosecutors failed to present that gives rise to reasonable doubt. For example, Holton said, Molly Martens talked to investigators with the Davidson County Sheriff's Office for an hour around 6 a.m. August 2, 2015. That statement is recorded. Lt. Wanda Thompson, head of the criminal investigations unit at the sheriff's office, testified about Molly Martens' statements.
"She shows you a little piece of paper," he said. "They (prosecutors) have the burden. Do they show you Molly's interview. That alone would be a show stopper. 'Hold on. Something is not right. You talk to this woman at 6 or 7 in the morning for an hour and you're not going to let us see what she has to say.'"
Holton said prosecutors want jurors to ignore other things that would raise reasonable doubt, like a picture that shows a piece of hair on Corbett's right hand.
"They didn't test it," he said. "They didn't seize it. They didn't preserve it."
Investigators also didn't bother to take a look at what Holton said is a mark on Molly Martens' neck that might indicate that Corbett had cut her, Holton told jurors. Investigators never had that mark tested nor did they have Corbett's fingers tested to see if Molly Martens' DNA was there.
James didn't even consider whether Molly Martens might have been strangled, even though she told paramedics that her throat hurt and she had trouble swallowing, Holton said.
"The prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Molly was not strangled and they bring in an expert who doesn't even answer it," he said.
He told the jurors that they don't know what kind of fear Molly and Thomas Martens had that morning because they weren't there.
"When you go back, close your eyes and ask yourselves what fear did Molly and Thomas Martens have," Holton said.
Martens' attorney Jones Byrd will deliver closing arguments Tuesday and Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin will give final arguments before the case goes to the jury.