Closing arguments were heard before the jury began deliberations Wednesday in the murder trial of a Conyers couple accused of abusing their baby and ultimately causing his death.
The trial of Matea and Grant Stewart began last Wednesday with the prosecution spending four days detailing the brutality five-month-old James Stewart endured in his short life before he died on July 28, 2010. An autopsy revealed the infant died from a six-inch skull fracture that caused his brain to swell. The baby also had 25 bone fractures in various stages of healing on his arms, legs and ribs.
The Stewarts, who were both 21 when their child died, were tried together on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, cruelty to children and deprivation of a minor and contributing to the deprivation of a minor. Only Matea Stewart took the stand during the one day of defense testimony Tuesday.
Assistant District Attorney Debra Sullivan told the jurors that it is not important for them to determine which parent delivered the fatal blow because the evidence has shown the two were "in it together."
She said their inaction, actions and failure to protect the baby prove they are both guilty of the charges. She pointed to the evidence which showed a minimum of three incidents when either parent could have and should have sought medical treatment for the infant and didn't, each defendant's lack of anger at the other after the implication of abuse was made and the fact that the defendants showed "absolutely no remorse" following the death of their child.
"Who speaks for James?" Sullivan asked jurors as she wrapped her closing argument. Pointing at Matea Stewart and then at Grant Stewart, she said, "He wasn't yours to destroy and he wasn't yours to destroy."
She turned back to the jury. "Find them guilty...you speak for James."
Grant Stewart's defense said he could not be guilty of the charges because he had been out of the home working a long-haul trucking job in the weeks preceding the July 28, 2010 incident and had returned home that morning. Grant Stewart told authorities he had given James a shower and tried to feed him but put him in his crib around 1:30 p.m. because he wouldn't eat and had become fussy. Grant Stewart called 911 at 2:11 p.m. to report the baby was in respiratory distress after finding him with a towel wrapped around his face in the crib.
Matea Stewart's defense said it was while the baby was being cared for by Grant Stewart that the skull fracture occurred, and she testified that she had no idea how any of the injuries, both new and existing, happened. The doctor who performed the autopsy said that while he believes the injury occurred very close to the time 911 was called, it could have happened 12-24 hours before.
Prosecutors presented a photo of James taken by Matea Stewart on July 27, the night before Grant Stewart returned home, in which the baby's head appears to be swollen, a key point made by Grant Stewart's defense attorney during his closing arguments.