The US father and daughter accused of murdering her Irish husband made an attempt to have their trial moved to another court, claiming media attention and other issues have denied them the right to a fair trial.
Jason Corbett, aged 39, was found dead in the early hours of August 2, 2015, in the home he shared with his wife Molly Martens, aged 33, in Panther Creek, Wallburg, North Carolina.
Ms Martens’ father, Thomas Martens, 67, has also been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The pair are due to stand trial in July. However documents filed with the Superior Court of Davidson County in North Carolina show that defence attorneys last week applied to have the case moved to another county.
The lawyers argued that the media both in North Carolina and in Ireland have published “initial inaccurate and misleading allegations” in police search warrants which were released by the court.
It was also claimed that the Clerk of Davidson County made improper contact with Mr Corbett’s family in Ireland on the issue of his estate and the guardianship proceedings over Mr Corbett’s two children.
They further alleged that Davidson County’s Sheriff’s Office — which investigated Mr Corbett’s death — “have developed an inordinately close relationship to the family of Mr Corbett and the Irish media”.
The documents allege that “the family of Mr Corbett has undertaken an extensive social media campaign to sway public opinion against the defendant”, which “has included direct threats to the defendant and her family as well as Facebook and website postings critical of the defendant”.
The Martens’ legal team also claimed that the pre-trial publicity, including the custody battle over Mr Corbett’s children, among local media and “word of mouth” in Davidson County would prejudice the trial.
The State of North Carolina however, called on the court to deny the motion. In its response, the state described the arguments as “irrelevant and unpersuasive”. It was also argued that the Martens’ legal team engaged in the very pre-trial publicity that they criticise the state for generating.
“Counsel for the defendants have participated in local, national and international interviews discussing the facts and circumstance of the killing of Jason Corbett,” the state claimed.
The state further alleged that the defence team filed documents with the court in order to publicise allegations against Mr Corbett.
“The defendants have used a pretrial motion filed months prior to any hearing as a strategic tool to transform potentially inadmissible evidence into public record,” the state argued.
“If the defendants are prejudiced by their own conduct, they cannot be heard to complain.”
Pre-trial motions, including the request to change the venue of the trial, will take place on June 8.
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