Jurors in the trial of a mother accused of murdering her two-year-old son with her civil partner have been told to put any sympathy or prejudice aside as they prepare to consider a verdict in the “highly emotional” case.
Rachel Fee or Trelfa, 31, and 29-year-old Nyomi Fee deny fatally assaulting Liam Fee, who died at a house in Thornton, Fife on March 22, 2014.
The pair say another boy, who cannot be identified, was responsible for his injuries.
Judge Lord Burns has begun directing the jury at the High Court in Livingston, where he told panel members that while the Crown case asks that inferences be drawn from the evidence presented, they should not be tempted “to fill in any gaps”.
Lord Burns said: “Those inferences must be reasonable and must not amount to speculation.”
He said there is a danger of feelings of prejudice or sympathy in the “highly emotional” case, and that members of the jury “would be made out of granite” if they had not been moved by some of the evidence.
But the judge said: “You must act impartially and dispassionately.”
The couple are accused of repeatedly inflicting “blunt force trauma” to Liam’s head and body and of the ill treatment and neglect of two other boys.
The pair have admitted during evidence that they failed to seek medical help for Liam for a suspected broken leg in the days before his death.
Trelfa said she feared social workers would be alerted and remove her child from her care.
Her lawyer Brian McConnachie QC told the jury earlier on Thursday: “By failing to get medical help, Rachel Fee committed an unforgivable crime and in due course she will be rightly and justly punished for that.
“That does not make her a murderer.
“Tragedy is an overused word in this court but the death of Liam Fee is a real, genuine tragedy.”
He told the jury: “Do not compound that tragedy by convicting Rachel Fee of the murder of her son when there’s not a shred of evidence to support that contention.
“The Crown case is one of illusion, of smoke and mirrors.”
Mr McConnachie also urged members of the jury not to let any emotional feelings way their judgement, telling them: “This is as harrowing a case as any jury is likely to have to listen to.”
He said video interview evidence given by two boys which was led by prosecutors was “contaminated” because of the way the interview process was carried out, and that there was no direct evidence that Trelfa ever assaulted Liam.
Both defence counsels say there is a case for Liam having been assaulted by another boy who they claimed had shown sexualised and violent behaviour towards the toddler in the past.
Mark Stewart QC, defending Fee, told jurors on Wednesday: “He (the boy) was the one, and only him, who was responsible for harming Liam that day.”
Prosecutors say that while the case against the pair is circumstantial, there is “clear and compelling” evidence against the women, including that given by the two boys in video interviews.
Alex Prentice QC has asked the jury to find the pair guilty of what he described as “a course of violent and cruel treatment towards the children” and an escalation of violence towards Liam leading up to his death.
The women are accused of eight charges in total, including the ill treatment and neglect of the children, assault, and murder.
They are also accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by falsely incriminating another boy for Liam’s death.
Lord Burns will continue directing the jury on Friday before releasing them to consider a verdict.