23rd November 2023

As we head into the winter months, the hot legal topic being covered in the media was addressed by Seamus Gunn, with Donal Kavanagh, being the running sentencing hearing in a North Carolina Court of Molly Martens Corbett and Tom Martens following their Manslaughter Pleas in respect of the death of Jason Corbett in August 2015. It was remarked by Donal Kavanagh how the sentencing hearing is being approached in a different manner than would be in similar cases in this jurisdiction. To some degree the deceased’s character was being put on Trial. Our contributor Seamus Gunn raised the points being focused on by the Defence who have continued to put forward a self-defence theory in mitigation and in support of it, putting the spotlight on the deceased with the allegations of domestic violence, following statements from his 2 children Sarah and Jack days after the event and the fear that his wife Molly Martens Corbett claimed to have for her own life as she believed that he had killed his first wife as far back as 2006. It was explained how a top pathologist had reviewed the postmortem reports in respect of her death and concluded that they did not disclose any cause of death. He ruled out the asthma theory as the cause of death, being critical of the manner in which the postmortem was carried out and believed that it was possible that it could have been strangulation. It was stressed that he was not putting forward this proposition but agreeing as a possibility while at the same time discounting the theory that the deceased was attempting to strangle Molly Martens Corbett on the night in question, which gave rise to the attack on him with a baseball bat in respect of Tom Martens and a brick in respect of his daughter. Our contributor thought that it was a difficult case to assess, that the emphasis by way of mitigation was being put on the deceased and his history in the marriage which in the first instance was corroborated by his children who then rescinded their statements both in Ireland and in the US. The question of influence was also addressed, and Seamus Gunn was of the view that this cut both ways, that if there was a theory of coaching in respect of the aftermath of the crime in the USA then that could also apply to the situation when the statements were withdrawn in Ireland. He said that there may be evidence to come on the actual recanting of the Statements. Our contributor also highlighted the difficult position that the 2 children Sarah and Jack found themselves in and he had some concerns on the impact this may have on them going forward. 

He pointed out that if aggravated circumstances were found which could be interpreted on the basis of the children being in the house at the time, then the sentencing could range from 6-9 years but that if this was not the case and the mitigation Pleas were accepted then the sentence could be as low as 3 years, but this was entirely up the to the Presiding Judge to decide based on the evidence which had not all yet been heard. He said that if it was on the low scale that as both of the accused had already served upwards of 3 and a half years, they could walk free after the sentencing hearing. As there is further evidence to follow, we wait to see how it plays out. 

The Q&A followed as usual, spanning a number of topics, which can be listened to below.