pm prospective ralph riegel lexington july jason corbett ireland irish
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Ralph Riegel in Lexington
July 19 2017 7:10 PM
PROSPECTIVE jurors in the murder trial of an Irish businessman and father of two have been asked by the prosecution whether they have any personal bias against Ireland or Irish people.
The detailed questioning came as the jury selection process continued into a third day in the trial of American nanny Molly Martens Corbett (35) and her father, retired FBI agent Thomas Michael Martens (67), who both deny the second degree murder of Limerick-born Jason Corbett (39) on August 2 2015.
The father and daughter, who are originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, are on trial before Judge David Lee at Davidson County Superior Court in Lexington, North Carolina.
They are accused of the second degree murder of Mr Corbett who was found with fatal head injuries in the gated community home at Panther Creek, Meadowlands, North Carolina he shared with Ms Martens-Corbett who was his second wife.
Alan Martin, for the Davidson County District Attorney's Office, has been questioning prospective jurors at length.
He specifically asked about their attitudes towards Ireland.
"Mr Corbett was a resident of the Meadowlands but he was a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. Do any of you have any bias towards Ireland or Irish people," he asked?
"Do you have any bias towards Irish folks?"
All prospective jurors indicated they did not.
Of the 12 original prospective jurors called from a panel of 143, eight were eventually discharged.
One of those discharged had referred to Ms Martens-Corbett as "Miss Molly" and had been questioned on whether she had closely followed all the local media coverage of the case in 2015.
Of the eight replacements then called, two were subsequently discharged.
All prospective jurors were asked to complete a 16 page questionnaire which was then submitted to both the prosecution and two defence teams.
This included details sections on experience of and attitudes towards domestic violence, knowledge of Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation, their stance on the US justice system and what details they had either read or heard about the case.
Two jurors were excused on the basis they felt, on religious grounds, they should not sit in judgement of another human being.
Of the 12 prospective jurors now in place, nine are women and three are men.
They will also be questioned by the two defence teams.
The prosecution are also expected to ask for two alternate or replacement jurors to be sworn in given the complexity and likely length of the trial.
Judge Lee has indicated that the trial is expected to last at least three weeks once it goes to full hearing at Courtroom C in the Davidson County Courthouse.
The trial has already heard that Mr Martens and Ms Martens-Corbett will argue self defence and the defence of another.
Neither have spoken during the hearing though both were asked to stand to identify themselves to the jury panel.
Both had also faced voluntary manslaughter charges but these were dropped on the opening day of the hearing last Monday.
No reason for the withdrawal of the charges was given in court.
Mr Corbett first met Ms Martens in 2008.
His first wife, Margaret 'Mags' Fitzpatrick, who was the mother of his son and daughter, died in November 2006 from an acute asthma attack as she was being rushed to hospital from her Limerick home.
Mr Corbett advertised for a nanny-au pair to help look after his children, aged two years and three months when his wife died, and Ms Martens travelled to Ireland from the US to take up the position.
A relationship developed between her and Mr Corbett and they married in 2011 at a ceremony in the US.
The couple then relocated to North Carolina as Ms Martens was homesick for her native US.
Mr Corbett's employer agreed to allow him transfer to a plant they operated in North Carolina.
Ms Martens-Corbett was being visited by her parents at the exclusive Panther Creek home she shared with her husband when the fatal incident occurred.
Mr Martens, a grandfather, retired FBI agent and qualified lawyer, claims he heard the sound of shouting and, on going to an upstairs bedroom to investigate what was happening, alleges he saw Mr Corbett attacking his daughter.
He will claim he intervened to protect her and Mr Corbett suffered fatal head injuries when struck with a baseball bat.
Mr Martens rang Davidson County emergency services but Mr Corbett was pronounced dead a short time later.
Mr Martens is represented by lawyers David Freedman and Jones Byrd.
Ms Martens-Corbett is represented by Walter Holton and Cheryl Andrews.
Both defence teams have to question the prospective jurors.
The prosecution case will be set out by Greg Brown who is being assisted by Alan Martin and Ina Stanton.
Judge Lee has issued stern warnings to prospective jurors over their duties and to the large media contingent over how the proceedings are reported.
No photography or recording is permitted within the courtroom.
Judge Lee has also warned the media that anyone who publishes a photograph of any prospective juror, contrary to North Carolina law, will potentially face a jail term.
Prosecutors will argue that the fatal incident occurred against a backdrop of Mr Corbett wanting to move back to Limerick with his children but without Ms Martens.
A major custody battle erupted immediately after Mr Corbett's death in 2015 before the US authorities allowed Mr Corbett's family to bring the children to Ireland.
Several prospective jurors have said they recall media coverage in the US of the custody issue.
Mr Corbett's two children are now in the care of his sister, Tracey Lynch, and her husband, David, in Ireland.
Both Tracey and David are attending the Davidson County trial together with Mr Corbett's brother, Wayne.
A number of relatives and friends of the Martens, including Mr Martens' brother-in-law, Michael, are also attending.
Ms Martens-Corbett had wanted the two children to remain in the US with her even after Mr Corbett's death.
Since 2015, she has posted multiple social media messages to the children.
One message, posted on Facebook, was that: "I miss you with every single heartbeat."