The sister of Irish businessman Jason Corbett testified that her brother told her several times, starting a year before he died, that he wanted to move back to Ireland.
Tracey Lynch took the stand yesterday afternoon in the second-degree murder trial in the death of her brother, Jason Corbett, who was found bludgeoned to death two years ago. The second anniversary of his death was Wednesday.
Ms Lynch’s testimony about her conversations with her brother about leaving for Ireland permanently with his two children, Jack and Sarah, was hotly contested, and Judge David Lee ultimately decided that she could not testify to those conversations in front of the jury.
Ms Lynch and her husband, David Lynch, have legal guardianship of Mr Corbett’s two children, who live in Ireland. Guardianship was granted after a protracted child custody battle with his wife, Molly Martens.
Ms Martens, 33, and her father, Thomas Martens, 67, a former FBI agent, are now on trial for second-degree murder in Mr Corbett’s death.
Prosecutors allege that the two beat Mr Corbett to death with a concrete paving brick and a 70cm Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
Both accused claim self-defence and the defence of others and say Mr Martens struck Mr Corbett with the baseball bat because Mr Corbett was choking and threatening to kill Ms Martens.
Outside the presence of the jury, Ms Lynch testified that Mr Corbett had expressed to her that he wanted to go back to Ireland. The initial conversation was in August 2014, she said.
“He had good friends there and appreciated them,” she said. “He planned to go back there before Jack started secondary school.”
However, David Freedman, attorney for Mr Martens, got her to acknowledge on cross-examination that Mr Corbett had not made any plane reservations or made any other arrangements to go back to Ireland on a permanent basis.
Assistant district attorney Ina Stanton noted that Mr Corbett’s passport was found on a nightstand in the master bedroom where Mr Corbett’s body was found.
Ms Lynch also recounted when Mr Corbett’s first wife, Margaret Fitzpatrick Corbett, died in November 2006.
She said Mr Corbett had called 911 and had placed her in the car to drive to the hospital.
At some point, she stopped breathing.
“Jason took her out of the car and started performing CPR,” she said.
Ms Lynch said Mr Corbett’s first wife was later put into an ambulance but it was too late. She died on the way, she said.
Ms Lynch also told the jury how Mr Corbett and Ms Martens met in 2008. Mr Corbett had hired Ms Martens as an au pair to take care of household duties and helped take care of the children. However, by 2011, they had married and moved to the US, Ms Lynch said.
A lead detective falsely told an insurance agent that Ms Martens refused to cooperate and answer questions about the death of her husband, an attorney for Ms Martens alleged in court.
The issue yesterday concerned reports from an insurance agent called Alice Huffman, whom Lieutenant Wanda Thompson had interviewed about the family’s insurance policy.
“Two days into the trial, we receive this report”, Walter Holton, one of Ms Martens’s attorneys, said outside the presence of the jury.
“It is my information that this report was not available to the district attorney or our office until two days into the trial.”
Ms Huffman, Mr Holton said, gave detailed accounts of her conversations with Ms Thompson. In one of those conversations, Ms Huffman says Ms Thompson told her Ms Martens refused to answer questions from investigators and that she requested to see an attorney.
Mr Holton said that’s simply not true.
“Molly Corbett never requested an attorney and never refused to co-operate,” he said. Those documents from Ms Huffman would be used to impeach Ms Thompson, who is the next witness in the prosecution’s case.
Ms Thompson supervises the detectives in the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, including the lead detectives in this case. Ms Thompson also wrote affidavits for a number of the search warrants in the case.
Mr Holton and Mr Freedman said defence attorneys would have a limited opportunity to impeach Ms Thompson on what Ms Huffman wrote in her documents. That’s because, Mr Holton said, Ms Huffman has refused to talk to defence attorneys and she lives in Maine. It would be difficult to get a court order during the trial to get Ms Huffman to Davidson County to testify, Mr Holton said.
“We had no notice that this witness existed,” he said.
Ms Stanton argued that defence attorneys will have a chance to cross-examine Ms Thompson and that prosecutors don’t plan to ask Ms Thompson about her interviews with Ms Huffman.
Judge David Lee ruled that Ms Thompson could testify. Prosecutors never asked Ms Thompson about Ms Huffman and her reports.
However, another prosecution witness was prevented from testifying — a co-worker of Mr Corbett at Multi Packaging Solutions. Mr Stanton said the co-worker would testify that the two talked about Mr Corbett’s concerns about his status with the company and that his marriage was on the rocks. Mr Freedman objected, saying the testimony is irrelevant.
Judge Lee agreed and ruled it could not come in at this point.
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