DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Thomas Martens and Molly Corbett will soon be sentenced once again after the results of their 2017 murder trial in Davidson County were overturned.
Martens pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, and Corbett pleaded no contest to the same charge. The district attorney dropped a charge of second-degree murder.
The state decided against a retrial after the 2017 conviction was overturned.
On Monday, they entered plea agreements that could get them minimal future jail time or none at all.
The final resolution could take days.
More witnesses will be called, and the judge will make a decision that could mean more time in prison. The judge could also give them credit for the four years they’ve already served and suspend the rest of their sentences.
The deliberation will begin again at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the Davidson County Courthouse.
The death of Jason Corbett
Prosecutors alleged that Molly Corbett and Martens, her father, beat Molly’s husband, 39-year-old Jason Corbett, to death with a paving brick and a baseball bat on Aug. 2, 2015.
During the case, both of them argued self-defense, saying that Jason Corbett had strangled Molly Corbett.
Martens has said that he beat Jason in a “life-and-death struggle.”
The 2017 trial
Molly Corbett and Martens had pleaded not guilty and filed a motion to have the trial moved out of Davidson County, but it was initially denied and the trial moved forward.
The trial, however, was called into question with court documents claiming that several jurors acted inappropriately during the 2017 trial.
The jurors reportedly admitted that they had conversations about the case against the instructions of the judge, said that they “formed opinions about Molly Corbett despite the fact that she did not even take the witness stand” and violated the court’s instruction that her decision not to testify should not influence the jury. Jurors also reportedly “developed their own theories” about the case that were “not supported by the facts or evidence.”
Jack and Sarah Corbett, children from Jason Corbett’s previous marriage, gave statements to the Dragonfly House Children’s Advocacy Center in Mocksville and the Union County Department of Social Services about Jason Corbett abusing Molly Corbett, but they did not testify and their testimony was not used.
In 2020, the NC Court of Appeals overturned the second-degree murder convictions, in part because Judge David Lee excluded the statements that Jason Corbett’s children made during the initial trial.
Prosecutors have argued that Jack and Sarah recanted their statements about abuse.
In 2021, the Supreme Court upheld the court’s decision, stating that the committed testimony impacted the initial trial, and the case was slated to be re-tried.
Change of venue request
Counsel asked for the trial to be moved out of Davidson County to Forsyth or another county, citing the “unprecedented” coverage both by the press and on social media, saying much of the information circulating is “false.” The document also accuses the Corbett family of continuing to make statements about the case to the media, calling Thomas and Molly murderers “while portraying Jason Corbett as a saint.”
An oral order was entered by Judge David L. Hall on Sept. 21, 2022, saying that no one should be making extrajudicial statements about the case.
“Within 20 minutes after the Judge entered this Order, social media postings complaining of the Order and making other extrajudicial statements regarding the case were made by Jason Corbett’s family or representatives of his family,” the document alleges.
On Dec. 1, 2022, a written order was submitted that prohibited counsel and past and potential witnesses from making public comments.
“Due to the enormous and unprecedented media and social media coverage in this case, as well as the fact that there has already been one trial held in Davidson County with jurors from Davidson County who made admissions that they violated the instructions of the Court, there exists such a great prejudice in Davidson County against Molly Martens Corbett and Thomas Martens that there is no way they could receive a fair and impartial jury in Davidson County, and no way their constitutional rights as guaranteed under the North Carolina and United States Constitutions to due process and a fair trial can be adequately protected in Davidson County,” the document states.
Forsyth County Resident Superior Court Judge David Hall said he would allow the case to move to Forsyth County, a victory for the two defendants.
“After careful review, I determine that Forsyth County is the most proper venue for the joint trial of these matters,” Hall said. “The considerations attendant with this decision are myriad, and certainly specific to the factual and procedural posture of these cases. Your arguments were all well-founded and exceptionally persuasive. In the final analysis, the totality of the circumstances, and particularly the fact that these matters are on for re-trial, satisfy the defendants’ extraordinary burden.”