T’Kia Bevily is receiving a new trial after it was discovered one of the jurors was related to the victim. Bevily was recently sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of her toddler step-daughter, Jurayah Smith.
WLBT reports that the new trial was granted by Claiborne County Circuit Judge Tomika Irving. Judge Irving wrote, “To prevent even an appearance of impropriety or unfairness, a new trial is required.”
According to the report, jurors were questioned to whether or not they knew the victim’s mother DeDreuna Smith. Juror number 24 was the great uncle of the victim and did not disclose the fact.
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 confirmed the relationship with his father and nephew but held to the claim of not knowing Baker, DeDreuna Smith or Jurayah Smith.
Judge Irving ruled that even if the juror didn’t have 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.”
A delay in charging Bevily took place due to reports from the Mississippi Crime Lab taking 18 months before being returned to the district attorney and the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office.
Bevily was initially sentenced for the killing her step-daughter, 14-month-old Jurayah Smith in October 2017, who died of multiple blunt force injuries to the head. Bevily was charged with capital murder in April 2019.