An attorney general in the US is to challenge a court ruling allowing a father and daughter convicted of the murder of an Irishman a retrial.
Jason Corbett, 39, originally from Limerick, was murdered in his US home in Walburg, North Carolina, in August 2, 2015 while he slept. Mr Corbett, was killed with an aluminium baseball bat and paving stone.
Molly Martens Corbett, 36, and her father Tom, 70, a retired FBI agent with 30 years experience, were convicted of the business executive’s death by a US court in August 2017.
The Martens pair pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed self-defence was the reason behind their deadly actions. Both are serving 20 to 25-year jail terms in high security prisons in the US.
The North Carolina Attorney General Joshua H Stein, has filed a motion to the Supreme Court of North Carolina to stay the Court of Appeal's decision.
Ms Martens was Mr Corbett’s second wife and the couple met when the American woman worked as a nanny in his Co Limerick home.
The pair appealed their convictions early last year to the Court of Appeal in North Carolina and were granted a retrial last week.
A Corbett family spokesperson said: “In essence (this) is a motion to temporarily halt the effect of the opinion of the appeals court decision on the 4th February 2020.
“In the absence of a temporary stay being granted, Molly Martens and her Father would be entitled to proceed to trial court.
“The Attorney General intends to file a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court based on Judge Collins’ dissent within fifteen days of the Court of Appeals’ mandate.
“We are grateful for his decision. Thank you for your continued support.”
The Court of Appeals made their ruling just under three weeks ago.
Lawyers for the pair said they did not get a fair trial, held in July and August 2017, and that the trial judge had excluded critical evidence in their case.
In their appeal, lawyers for Molly and Thomas Martens argued that the judge in the case had excluded key evidence that would have corroborated their client's claims.
This included information which they said might have explained Thomas Martens' state of mind on the night of the murder.
They argued that statements Mr Corbett's children had given to social workers should have been allowed as evidence.
The three judges, in the Court of Appeal ruling, described its ruling as "deceptively simple", boiling down to whether the defendants lawfully used deadly force to defend themselves and each other during the tragic altercation with Mr Corbett.
"Having thoroughly reviewed the record and transcript, it is evident that this is the rare case in which certain evidentiary errors, alone and in the aggregate, were so prejudicial as to inhibit defendants' ability to present a full and meaningful defence," the court ruled.
The judges also found that "the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the aggressor doctrine as to Tom, given the absence of evidence to support such an instruction”.
Speaking from the US tonight Mr Earnest, an uncle of Ms Martens and family spokesperson explained that legally it can take two to three weeks before the ruling is “mandated” made fully legal (this has not now been allowed to happen due to the Attorney General’s intervention).
“After that period of time the ruling can be appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina by the other side.
“The Supreme Court can decide to uphold the original second degree murder charge or allow the retrial if an appeal is made. It is unusual for a retrial not to be allowed.
“We don’t know if Tom and Molly will be released at some stage on bail if the Court of Appeal ruling is referred to the Supreme Court.
“But we as a family have complete confidence in the Appeal Court ruling as they spent an incredibly long time over their deliberations.
“We as a family had this naive expectation that the truth would be told fairly for our family. We know very little so far now about what the Attorney General is going to do next.”
He added that he has been able to visit his niece but not his brother-in-law. “Molly is doing as well as anyone would could knowing that she is innocent and did not carry out a crime she is convicted of.
“We have always had faith in the law and we had been thankful it has found in our family’s favour by the Court of Appeals.”