T’Kia Bevily has been granted a retrial, scheduled for May of next year, on the grounds that the jury that convicted her in the murder of her 14-month-old stepdaughter included a relative of the deceased, compromising Bevily’s right to a fair and impartial trial.
Earlier this year, Bevily was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of her stepdaughter Jurayah Smith whose death in Oct 2017 was determined to have been multiple blunt force traumas to the head.
Circuit Court Judge Tomika H. Irving set new trial dates beginning May 2, 2022- May 6, 2022 at 9 a.m. for the first setting at the Claiborne County Courthouse. A status hearing and any motions will take place on Feb. 7, 2022 under this order. Pretrial will be held April 4.
In January, Bevily was found guilty of capital murder, after a five-day trial and was later sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. District Attorney Daniella M. Shorter chose not to seek the death penalty.
Last month, the court learned that one of the jurors that convicted Bevily was related to the victim. According to court reports, jurors were questioned as to whether or not they knew the victim’s mother, DeDreuna Smith. Juror number 24 was later found to be Jurayah’s great uncle, but he did not disclose that information to the court.
A social media post by DeDreuna’s sister, Jonique Baker, stated that Juror 24 was the victim’s uncle and the grandchild of Kenneth Odom, Sr., the juror’s father. Further statements from Baker on social media claimed she was the sister of Juror 24’s nephew, Anija Odom.
The juror then confirmed the relationship with his father and nephew but maintains that he does not know Baker, DeDreuna Smith or Jurayah Smith.
Judge Irving ruled that even if the juror didn’t have prior knowledge of the relation, the child’s death would have made him aware. The judge further ruled that, “an appearance of personal interest, bias or prejudice in the prosecution of this case is presumed.”
Vicksburg Daily News tried to reach out to District Attorney Daniella M. Shorter, but was declined for comment.
Kelley Branch contributed to this story.