A mother jailed for life for murdering her 21-month-old daughter has launched an Appeal Court bid to clear her name.
Kathryn Helen Smith, 23, beat and stamped on Ayeeshia Jane Smith at their home in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, causing injuries which resembled those of a car crash victim.
She was found guilty of murder at Birmingham Crown Court in April and ordered to serve at least 24 years behind bars before she can apply for parole.
Her partner, Matthew Rigby, also 23, was cleared of the toddler’s murder, but found guilty of causing or allowing her death and jailed for three-and-a-half years.
By its verdicts, the jury decided Smith delivered the fatal blow, described during the trial as ‘probably a stamp’ which tore the toddler’s heart.
Smith, of Overseal, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, today challenged her conviction at the Appeal Court, in London, with her lawyers arguing it was ‘unsafe’.
Her barrister, John Butterfield QC – who also represented her at trial – argued that an interruption by the trial judge as he made his closing speech in Smith’s defence caused ‘prejudice’ in the minds of jurors.
He said Mrs Justice Andrews’ intervention had the effect of painting him as someone who was ‘sly enough’ to make points he shouldn’t have been making.
The barrister added: ‘The judge weighed in and weighed in in a way that was wrong, I say, on a number of different levels, in the middle of defence counsel’s closing address.
‘It is hard to understate just how devastating this was to the credibility of the defence case.
‘To trespass on the closing remarks at all was a risk and was likely to have consequences.
‘But to trespass on them to the extent and degree that was done here was dramatic and it cannot be said that the conviction is safe, I’m afraid, because of these matters.’
Christopher Hotten QC, who acted for the prosecution at trial, argued the judge’s interruption did not render the conviction unsafe and urged top judges to uphold it.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Wyn Williams and Mr Justice Goss, said the court would take some time to consider all the arguments before reaching a decision.
He also said that, in the event her conviction appeal does not succeed, they will review the minimum jail term handed to Smith.
Their judgment will be given at a later date.