The appeal hearing has begun of three people found guilty of murdering Jim McFadden in Derry in May 2007.
Lawyers for James Meehan, who was convicted along with his wife Brenda and her son Sean Devenney, told the Court of Appeal that a judge's interventions confused jurors.
Brian McCartney QC told the court he was not implying any bias or partiality on the part of the trial judge.
However, he questioned the level of judicial detachment in their trial.
Brian McCartney QC told the Court of Appeal that he was suggesting the judge may have "strayed" from the detachment required by a judge into a more adversarial role.
42-year-old Jim Mr McFadden, died of a ruptured heart caused from blows inflicted outside his home in Shantallow.
He was beaten after returning with his family from a wedding reception in Donegal also attended by the Meehans and Devenney.
41-year-old Meehan, was jailed for a minimum of 14 years, his 42-year-old wife given at least five years in prison, and 23-year-old Devenney, was ordered to serve nine years.
The trial judge said Mr McFadden had been a defenceless man whose killing deprived a devoted wife and four young children of a loving husband and father for the rest of their lives.
The appeal continues.