KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The relative of Knoxville natives accused of murder is sharing his story after a new development across the state line.
Connor Martens’ father, Thomas Martens, and his sister, Molly Corbett, were granted a new trial on Friday by the North Carolina Supreme Court, years after the two were sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison on second-degree murder charges in the death of Jason Corbett.
WATE 6 On Your Side’s North Carolina affiliate WGHP has been following the case.
With the two in prison since August of 2017, Connor said he was crying tears of happiness knowing his father and sister could be released within three weeks.
“It was definitely shocking news, in a great way,” Connor said. “More than one appellate court now at this point has affirmed the trial was unfair and on multiple accounts there was evidence that was not let in that should have been and if there was a new trial, it would be hugely beneficial for us. It corroborates what we say and provides some evidence that is really important to describe the context of the situation.”
According to the report from WGHP, The N.C. Supreme Court issued its opinion that Corbett and Martens’ only defense in their case was that their use of deadly force was legally justified. The trial court, however, excluded the testimony of Jack and Sarah Corbett which could have played a vital role in the jury’s decision.
“I think it’s crucial that one of the pieces omitted that the appellate and Supreme Court admitted that should be allowed in the trial is the kids’ statements,” Connor said. “They corroborated what Molly said explaining why the paver was in the bedroom, which was considered the weapon in this incident. It also explains there was abuse in the relationship.”
At this point, there is no word when the new trial will take place.
“By erroneously excluding admissible testimony which was relevant to the central question presented to the jury, the trial court impermissibly constrained defendants’ ability to mount their defense,” the Supreme Court said.
The court said that evidentiary errors were so prejudiced against the defendants that they could not present a full and meaningful defense.
This decision agrees with the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which ruled that Corbett and Martens were unable to present a meaningful defense during their 2017 trial.
Prior to the 2017 conviction, testimony and 911 calls showed Martens came to his daughter’s defense the night of Aug. 3, 2015, when he says he saw Jason choking Molly. He says he intervened with a baseball bat.
Testimony from doctors at the scene showed Jason was hit in the head 10 times with a baseball bat and cement brick. His autopsy showed he died from blunt force trauma to the head
The Corbett family released the following response on Friday:
“We are so disappointed and distraught that the Supreme Court of North Carolina has decided to grant a retrial to Tom and Molly Martens who admitted killing our beloved Jason – a father, a brother, a son and a loyal friend – who is dearly missed by all who knew and loved him. Neither of the convicted defendants has ever expressed remorse for Jason’s killing. They put his orphaned children, then aged 8 and 10, and Jason’s parents, siblings and friends through the horrific ordeal of the first trial, all the while waging a vicious and unrelenting smear campaign in the media and in the courtroom. The jury unanimously found them guilty of second-degree murder, concurring with the detectives and EMT workers who found the crime scene to be wholly inconsistent with the defence claims concocted by Tom Martens, a former FBI agent, and his daughter, Molly, who drugged Jason prior to the attack. We can only put our faith in God to guide us through the torment of a second trial. We place our trust in the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department and in the District Attorney for North Carolina both of whom recognised from the outset that Jason was the victim of a cold and calculated murder, designed to give Molly custody of Jason’s children, and the financial benefit of an insurance policy. Despite our disappointment at this decision, by a 4-3 majority, to grant the Martens a retrial, we retain our faith in the US Criminal Justice system and our confidence that a jury will once again find the Martens guilty of this “heinous, atrocious and cruel” crime. Our priority is to continue providing love, care, support and protection to Jason’s two wonderful children whom we are blessed to have as part of our family. The family will not be issuing any further statements at this time.”
The case has seen national attention over the years, even with a report on ABC’s 20/20 back in 2017, which you can view HERE.
Connor said he actually had the chance to talk with his sister over the phone before sitting down with WATE 6 On Your side.
“She’s unbelievably happy,” he said. “When she got first delivered the news, she collapsed. It was such a relief after such a long period of time.”
Connor said it sounds like his father and sister could be released within the next three weeks, but attorneys will have to meet about a potential new trial or if a plea is made.
“We’re hoping they’ll be out in the next three weeks,” he said. “We’ll finally be back together again.”
WATE 6 On Your Side will follow updates as they become available.