A jury spoke this week for a 5-month-old Conyers infant who died in 2010 by finding his father and mother guilty of his murder.
The jury deliberated for only one day before finding Grant Stewart guilty on all charges, including malice murder and cruelty to children. The child’s mother Matea Stewart, was acquitted of malice murder but was found guilty of felony murder and deprivation of a child for her part in the July 28, 2010 incident that led to baby James Stewart’s death. Both parents were also found guilty of cruelty to children in the first degree and contributing to the deprivation of a child for the events that happened before the baby died.
The couple will be sentenced on Sept. 25 and both are facing a possible life sentence. Prosecutors had asked the jury to convict both parents because, despite not knowing who caused the final injury that lead to the baby’s death, they believed the parents were “in it together.”
Assistant District Attorney Kirk Thomas said Friday, "They took a very good look at this case and all the evidence and testimony and gave a great consideration. I think this was an appropriate result."
James Stewart died July 29, 2010 and an autopsy revealed the cause of death was 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 when he died. Both defendants, who were 21 when their baby died, were charged with malice murder, three counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, cruelty to children, deprivation of a minor and contributing to the deprivation of a minor after the death was ruled a homicide. Grant Stewart was found guilty on all charges, the most important charge being malice murder, which means "intent to kill". The guilty verdicts imply both parents knew about the abuse but neither acted to prevent it or seek medical attention.
While Grant Stewart did not take the stand, Matea Stewart did on Tuesday and testified that she had no idea when the fractures occurred. Grant Stewart had been working out of town for several days before he returned to the family home at 362 Morris on the morning of July 28, 2010. He 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. The baby's injuries were discovered when a chest x-ray taken to verify the placement of an intubation tube revealed 14 rib fractures. An investigation was immediately launched and the couple was arrested on August 19, 2010.
Matea Stewart's defense contended it was while the baby was in Grant Stewart's care that day that the skull fracture occurred. The doctor who performed the autopsy testified that while he believes the injury occurred very close to the time 911 was called, it could have happened 12-24 hours before. Grant Stewart's defense rested on the allegation the baby's head was injured on the night before Grant Stewart returned home.
Assistant District Attorney Debra Sullivan said the couple's inaction, actions and failure to protect the baby prove they were both guilty of the charges. She presented 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.
Grant Stewart was not the baby’s biological father but Matea was pregnant with James when she married Grant in January 2010 and he adopted James. Grant’s parents testified in his defense and said he was great with the baby the approximately ten times they saw James before he died. Matea Stewart also told authorities Grant Stewart was "never anything but a loving father." The couple were expecting another child when James died and Matea Stewart gave birth to a girl while she was in jail awaiting her trial. Grant Stewart's mother and step-father have custody of that child.