A woman whose murder conviction went viral on social media is getting a new trial. T’Kia Bevily of Claiborne County, Mississippi was convicted in January of killing her stepdaughter, 14-month-old Jurayah Smith. Jurayah’s death was ruled a homicide by multiple blunt force trauma to the head. Bevily and Morris Bevily, Jurayah’s father, were charged in the case. The couple was taking care of Jurayah when she died on Oct. 22, 2017, authorities said.
Now WLOX reports that she’s been granted a new trial after a judge learned a juror was related to the victim in the case. On September 7, Claiborne County Circuit Judge Tomika Irving granted Bevily a new trial after the court learned that one juror was likely related to Smith.
“To prevent even an appearance of impropriety or unfairness, a new trial is required,” she wrote. Court records say that the juror in question, Juror No. 24, was the victim’s great uncle, even though he did not reveal that fact during jury questioning.
“If information is withheld by a juror and the evidence shows that any response would have provided a legitimate basis for (the) challenge, the trial court must grant a new trial and if it does not, the appellate court must reverse on appeal,” Irving opined.
Jurors were asked if they had any relation to the late child but the juror in question allegedly stayed silent. It was later confirmed that Juror No. 24 was related to Jurayah via the sister of the child’s biological mother, DeDreuna Smith, who has not been charged in the case, adds WLOX. DeDreuna’s sister Jonique Baker posted on social media that Juror No. 24 was her uncle and that she was the grandchild of Kenneth Odom Sr., Juror No. 24′s father, reports the local news source.
Upon learning of that information, the judge agreed with T’Kia Bevily’s legal team that she should have a new trial.
“If Juror No. 24 would have provided information about his niece being Jurayah’s aunt, questions about his possible partiality could have been cured,” Irving wrote. “Without responding to any questions asked by the attorneys and the court to elicit more detailed information, an appearance of personal interest, bias or prejudice in the prosecution of this case is presumed.”
T’Kia’s family recently held a balloon release to celebrate a new trial being granted in her case. Morris Bevily’s trial has been postponed.
Earlier this year supporters of the incarcerated mom started a “@IStandWithKia” page proclaiming her innocence and telling what they claim is the “true story.” The posts included allegations that the baby’s fatal injuries were sustained prior to her being in T’Kia’s care the night she died.
“No medical expert was able to clarify a specific timeline on when Jurayah’s fractures occurred but they all agreed that they were in the healing stages at the time of her death and could have been 2-8 days old,” alleges the @IStandWithKia page. “Also, our baby was fair skinned. If we had did the things we are accused of, there would have been clear markings and bruisings the night she died… the body cannot heal once deceased. One medical expert described that Jurayah could have been experiencing a lucid interval which is the lapse of time between a brain injury and death. Also, it was testified in court by one of the expert witnesses that when Jurayah passed away she was not in distress.”
You can read the “@IStandWithKia” thread HERE.
By contrast, another social media page alleges that the woman behind bars is guilty. The @iflywithjurayah page alleges that the child indeed died at the hands of her stepmom.
When T’Kia was convicted of capital murder, Jurayah’s mom DeDreuna Smith released a statement saying she was looking forward to beginning the healing process.
“Knowing that the person responsible for the homicide of my precious Jurayah is being held accountable for their actions brings a feeling of relief over my whole family,” Smith said in the statement.
She continued: “Receiving this guilty verdict is only the start of the healing process for my family, our friends, loved ones & myself. We’re grateful for the outcome and we’re hopeful for the peaceful closure that this process has brought.”
She also previously said that she just wants justice for her daughter.
What do YOU think about this T’Kia Bevily trial update?