doc martens steel toe Jason Corbett was falling while being hit
Editor’s note: The headline on this story has changed to clarify the testimony of a blood spatter expert.
LEXINGTON A blood spatter expert testified Tuesday in Davidson Superior Court that dents are visible in a wall of the master bedroom where Jason Corbett died, as well as a pattern of blood suggesting that Corbett was falling while being struck multiple times.
Stuart James, who owns James and Associates Forensic Consultants in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is a specialist in bloodstain pattern analysis, also testified that the evidence indicates a vacuum cleaner with blood on it was moved before investigators arrived at the house and started taking photos.
Corbett, 39, was found bludgeoned to death in the early hours of Aug. 2, 2015. His wife, Molly Corbett, 33, and her father, Thomas Martens, a former FBI agent, are on trial for second degree murder in the death. Corbett and Martens have pleaded not guilty and have claimed self defense and the defense of others.
They both told investigators that Martens struck Jason Corbett with a baseball bat a 28 inch Louisville Slugger because Jason was choking and threatening to kill Molly Corbett. In opening statements, David Freedman, Martens’ attorney, said that Jason Corbett continued to threaten his wife and Martens and that Martens struck Jason until he went down.
Davidson County prosecutors allege that Martens and Molly Corbett intentionally beat Jason Corbett to death with the baseball bat and a concrete paving brick. Dr. Craig Nelson, a medical examiner, said Jason Corbett was struck at least 12 times. According to an autopsy report, he died of blunt force trauma to the head and had multiple skull fractures.
Testifying during the second week of the high profile murder trial, James said he considered a number of items in his analysis, including 700 crime scene photographs, the autopsy report, autopsy photographs, the toxicology report,
a diagram of the Corbett house at 160 Panther Creek Court and other things.
James testified that he also came to Davidson County to use special equipment to take pictures of the red polo shirt and plaid boxer shorts that Martens was wearing on Aug. 2, 2015, as well as the pajamas that Molly Corbett was wearing.
What James called impact blood spatter was on part of the bed and a saturation blood stain was on the bed skirting. James said the evidence suggested that Jason was first struck at or near the bed.
James said a vacuum cleaner was sitting upright at the west wall of the master bedroom. He said there were blood spatters behind the vacuum and a pattern of blood spatter flowing from side to side on the vacuum cleaner.
“It tells me that the vacuum cleaner was on its side when the blood deposited on the vacuum cleaner and it was long enough for it to dry,” James said. “It shows an alteration of the scene prior to these photographs being taken.”
There was no explanation of who might have moved the vacuum cleaner or why.
He also noted the concrete paving brick, which had blood and tissue fragments on it. He said the brick was used to strike something more than once.
In other testimony, prosecutors called Joann Lowry, who worked with Martens at Oak Ridge Laboratory in the Counterintelligence Office in Tennessee, to help prove malice, an element of second degree murder.
Lowry testified that she and Martens were co workers and colleagues and worked together for about eight years. Martens and Lowry no longer work at Oak Ridge Laboratory. Department of Energy.
About two months before Jason Corbett died on Aug. 2, 2015, Lowry said she sat beside Martens on a Monday and asked him how his weekend went.
“Oh, the kids came home, and we’re always glad to see them come home, but we’re glad to see them leave,” Lowry said Martens told her.
Then he talked about Jason, she testified.
“That son in law . I hate him,” she said Martens told her.
She also testified that Martens expressed his dislike of Jason in 2011 as Jason was preparing to marry Molly.
“It was just a discussion of his pre wedding celebration,” she said. “Jason his friends were coming to their home, the Martens’ home. He indicated his dislike for Jason and his rowdy friends.”
Lowry said Martens didn’t explain his statement in 2015 that he hated Jason or why he disliked Jason and his friends in 2011.
Under cross examination by Freedman, Martens’ attorney, Lowry said she couldn’t remember exactly when in 2015 that Martens made the statement about Jason Corbett.
She also said under cross examination that Martens had been in a good mood but that his attitude had changed when he mentioned Jason Corbett. Freedman challenged Lowry, saying that in previous sworn testimony, she had not mentioned that Martens’ attitude had changed.
Lowry’s testimony was hotly contested. Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent an hour and 15 minutes arguing outside the presence of the jury over whether Lowry should be allowed to testify and whether her testimony should be limited in any way.
Freedman argued that her testimony was irrelevant, prejudicial and hearsay. Specifically, he argued that the state’s theory of the case involves allegations that Molly Corbett and Martens acted in concert. That means Lowry’s testimony implicates Molly Corbett, Freedman argues.
And that sets up a possible violation of Molly Corbett’s constitutional rights because her attorneys would either have no chance or limited opportunity to confront Lowry on cross examination.
Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown and Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin both argued that Lowry’s testimony is relevant because it goes to malice. Martin also said that prosecutors haven’t firmly committed to a theory of acting in concert and they should not be barred from eliciting what they consider relevant testimony from Lowry.
Lee eventually agreed to allow the testimony. But he gave an instruction to the jurors that they only consider Lowry’s testimony as possible evidence of Martens’ guilt,
not Molly Corbett’s guilt.