GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A state appointed appellate attorney for Doug Stewart argued Wednesday that his murder conviction was unjust.
The appeal focused on five main issues, but Wednesday morning's appeal focused mostly on whether or not a conversation between the prosecuting attorney and judge on the case was improper.
Stewart was convicted last year of killing his estranged wife Venus. Venus Stewart was last seen April 26, 2010. Though her body was never found, Doug Stewart was convicted of killing her in an elaborate scheme that included a Delaware man as a doppelganger for Doug at his Virginia apartment while he drove to Michigan to kill Venus.
"I don't think a day goes by I don't have a breakdown," said Venus' mother Therese McComb at the Wednesday appeal. "It never goes away. It's not getting better with time. I just miss her more."
McComb said she tries to stay strong for Venus' two daughters, to whom she is now guardian.
"That's what my whole life is about trying to be strong for the girls and my kids," said McComb. "Those little girls light up my life... You can't help but love 'em. They're just so stinkin' cute."
Oral arguments at the Michigan Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids centered on the objection concerning a discussion that took place in 2010.
As 24 Hour News 8 first reported in November 2010, Stewart's defense attorneys asked Judge Paul Stutesman to recuse himself after they claim they overheard a conversation between Stutesman and prosecuting attorney John McDonough.
Court documents stated the phone call started as a conference call between the defense, prosecution and judge. After the call was over, the defense attorneys stated they heard Stutesman and McDonough discussing the case, and even claimed the judge offered McDonough help with the case.
Both men denied any wrongdoing and several courts agreed that nothing improper happened. Stutesman went on to preside over the case.
State-appointed appellate attorney Susan Meinberg said that the judges who decided nothing improper happened didn't have all the facts. Meinberg said that the appeals court judges should rule that the conversation was improper. That could potentially mean a new trial or overturned verdict for Stewart.
Usually, a court won't rule again on something that's already been decided -- but defense attorneys said the judges didn't initially have the full story and they should reverse the decision.
"In a perfect world, the remedy on issue two I would like to see is not to let [McDonough and Stutesman] play together," said Meinberg. "I don't think they can be trusted to re-try this case. So either disqualify both of them, or do not put them together if you plan to reverse."
The judges didn't rule out reversing the decision and wanted to know what the Attorney General's office had to say about it.
"The argument was litigated previously during the interlocutor's appeal," said Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Clark.
"I understand, but you're in front of us today," responded Judge Douglas Shapiro. "We may absolutely agree with you, but if don't, we will have to render a decision. Do you want to weigh in on it or not?"
After stating that it would be improper to discuss the specifics, Clark eventually said that the Attorney General's stance was that nothing improper happened.
The court of appeals made no decision Wednesday. Generally, the court issues a ruling within two to four weeks.
After hearing Wednesday's arguments, McComb told 24 Hour News 8 she's confident Doug will stay behind bars.
"It seemed petty -- just little things. I don't know how they could determine to let somebody who's killed somebody loose. I don't see how that could go," she said.
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A fire damaged three garages and some homes in a Grand Haven neighborhood early Thursday morning.
The suspects stole cash and fled the scene.