Molly Martens faces ju­rors as trial be­gins

DAY ONE OF JA­SON COR­BETT MUR­DER TRIAL

Irish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Catherine Fe­gan Chief Cor­re­spon­dent catherine.fe­gan@dai­ly­mail.ie

MOLLY Martens’s head was bowed as she walked in the court­room door.

In con­trast to her pre-trial ap­pear­ances, less than a month ago, she cut a no­tably less stylish fig­ure as she took her seat in the de­fence bench.

She was dressed in a loose-fit­ting blue shirt-dress, paired with a flimsy black cardi­gan, the cor­ners of which she fum­bled and toyed with dis­tract­edly.

Her long blonde hair was scraped back into a low pony­tail, re­veal­ing her sullen face, with just a hint of foun­da­tion; her eyes, all search­ing, were down­cast, fac­ing the floor.

Her much-an­tic­i­pated ap­pear­ance, the first in front of a jury, came shortly be­fore 11am. Sev­eral hours ear­lier, 143 po­ten­tial ju­rors had made their way in­side David­son County Court­house in an­tic­i­pa­tion of se­lec­tion for a trial that will last at least two weeks. As Ms Martens took her seat next to her co-ac­cused father Tom, all 143 turned their gaze in her di­rec­tion. To­gether with for­mer FBI agent Mr Martens, 66, she faces a charge of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der. Both deny the charge.

Ja­son Cor­bett’s fam­ily and friends, many of whom had trav­elled from Ire­land, had ar­rived some time be­fore. Hand in hand, Tracey and David Lynch made their way past 13 pews of po­ten­tial ju­rors and into a row be­hind the pros­e­cu­tion desk. They were flanked, in front and be­hind, by Ja­son’s twin brother Wayne and sis­ter Mar­i­lyn among oth­ers.

On the op­po­site side of the court­room, the walls of which are painted a mix of pink and ma­roon, the ex­tended Martens fam­ily sat side by side. Mak­ing a rare court ap­pear­ance for her daugh­ter was Molly’s mother Sharon, who was present in the house on the night Ja­son was killed. She is ex­pected to be called to give ev­i­dence. Her son Connor, Molly’s brother, was there too, as well as Molly’s un­cle, Mike Earnest and his wife Mona.

The con­tin­gent ar­rived at court ear­lier to a blitzkrieg of flash­bulbs as me­dia crews from home and the US scram­bled to get a shot.

Once in­side, they re­treated to a quiet spot out­side Court­room E, where they chat­ted an­i­mat­edly, oc­ca­sion­ally laugh­ing and on sev­eral oc­ca­sions em­brac­ing.

Just be­fore the ses­sion was about to start, they were ush­ered to Court­room C by an of­fi­cial.

In­side the court­room, the hum of an icy air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem re­ver­ber­ated be­tween the rows of ju­rors. With tem­per­a­tures out­side in the high 30s, the cool breeze brought a wel­come re­prieve from the swel­ter­ing south­ern heat.

Judge David Lee told the po­ten­tial ju­rors: ‘You and you alone de­ter­mine the truth.’ Each of them would fill out a ques­tion­naire to hurry mat­ters along, he ex­plained, and they would be split into three groups of 50.

But the first step was to swear all three groups in. With lim­ited Bi­bles avail­able, they placed hands wher­ever they could find space on a Bible, and ut­tered the oath.

Then, the two de­fen­dants were asked, separately, to turn and face the court, to es­tab­lish if any juror recog­nised them. Tom Martens went first. ‘I will ask Mr Martens to stand,’ said Judge Lee. Stand­ing tall, Mr Martens straight­ened his back and turned to the gallery. Molly, who was called next, turned, gaz­ing shyly at the ju­rors. Above her, the flu­o­res­cent haze from the over­head light­ing re­flected off her face, il­lu­mi­nat­ing her fea­tures.

In the ma­hogany pew be­hind the pros­e­cu­tion desk, Tracey Lynch stared straight ahead.

The ques­tion­naires had been fully dis­trib­uted by now and, as staff clam­oured to get pens for ju­rors, Judge Lee told them: ‘It’s 16 pages long.’ There were gasps of ‘wow’ and ‘oh God’. Among other things, it would in­clude a list of po­ten­tial wit­nesses.

‘Care­fully cir­cle any­one you be­lieve you may know,’ he said.

In al­most com­plete si­lence, the page-turn­ing and scrib­bling en­sued without in­ter­rup­tion. It took just un­der an hour.

Groups B and C, hav­ing handed in their an­swers, were free to go.

In the af­ter­noon, with the exit of groups B and C, num­bers in­side the court­room were re­duced.

Judge Lee di­rected the clerk to ran­domly draw 12 names from Group A and one by one, each took a seat in the jury box.

They would be ques­tioned, in­di­vid­u­ally, as to their suit­abil­ity to sit as ju­rors in this trial.

Molly Martens, sand­wiched be­tween her two lawyers, looked on, bit­ing her nails and purs­ing her lips. Next to her, Tom Martens sifted through and stud­ied sev­eral pages on the bench in front, lis­ten­ing but rarely glancing up.

The Cor­bett con­tin­gent, ten of them in to­tal, were side by side in their bench, qui­etly watch­ing, un­flinch­ing, while each juror an­swered queries.

There were ques­tions about work his­tory, in­quiries about mar­i­tal sta­tus and probes into hob­bies and pas­times. As the clock moved to­wards 5pm and the ses­sion ended for the day, the slow process of se­lect­ing the peo­ple who will de­cide the fate of Molly and Tom Martens had be­gun.

There were gasps of ‘oh God’

First day be­fore ju­rors: Molly Martens leav­ing court yes­ter­day. And left, her father Tom

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