Molly Martens faces jurors as trial begins
DAY ONE OF JASON CORBETT MURDER TRIAL
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