State appeals court overturns 2017 murder convictions

February 4, 2020 GMT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina appeals court has overturned the 2017 murder convictions of a woman and her father in her husband’s death and ordered a new trial.

The N.C. Court of Appeals said in its ruling that it found errors with evidence in the trial were “so prejudicial” that they prevented attorneys for Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens from mounting an effective defense, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Tuesday.

Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens were convicted in 2017 of second-degree murder in the death of Irish businessman Jason Corbett, 39. Molly Corbett and Martens, a former FBI agent, were each sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison.

At the time, defense attorneys argued their clients acted in self-defense and feared for their lives during a struggle with the husband. In court papers, prosecutors call those self-defense a “fantasy.”

Last January, attorneys for Molly Corbett and Martens told the appeals court that trial judge David Lee improperly excluded evidence that should have been presented to the jury.

Defense attorneys also wanted a jury to hear statements that Jason Corbett’s children made to social workers, in which they indicated that he had been physically and emotionally abusive. The children later recanted the statements.

Also at issue were allegations of jury misconduct. Attorneys said there was evidence that jurors talked about the case outside the deliberations.