Woman accused of killing stepdaughter gets new trial after victim’s relative discovered on jury

T'Kia Bevily
T'Kia Bevily(Claiborne County SO)
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:38 AM CDT
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CLAIBORNE CO., Miss. (WLBT) - A Claiborne County woman convicted of killing her stepdaughter has been granted a new trial after a judge learned a juror was related to the victim in the case.

In January, T’Kia Bevily was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering her stepdaughter, 14-month-old Jurayah Smith.

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.

According to court records, potential jurors were asked whether they knew DeDreuna Smith, the mother of Jurayah, and whether that relationship gave them any intimate knowledge of the case.

The juror in question did not speak up. However, Irving noted that Jonique Baker, DeDreuna’s sister, 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. Baker also stated online that she was the sister of Anija Odom, Juror No. 24′s nephew.

When questioned, the juror acknowledged Kenneth Odom Sr. was his father and that Anija Odom was his nephew. However, he said he did not know Baker, DeDreuna Smith, or Jurayah Smith.

Irving disagreed. “From this information, it is clear that there is some form of relationship between Jonique Baker, the aunt of the victim, and Juror No. 24. Therefore, the issue becomes whether Juror No. 24 should have divulged such information...”

The judge further ruled that even if the juror did not know Jurayah was related, that he would have learned about it after the child’s death.

The cause of Jurayah’s death was multiple blunt force trauma to the head. Investigators had ruled the death a homicide and charged Bevily and Morris Bevily, Jurayah’s father, in the case.

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.”

It was not known if Bevily would be released. She is currently serving her sentence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ website.

Bevily’s brother, Christopher Smit’s, said family members are continuing to fight for her innocence, and this a only one step in that process.

”The facts clear T’Kia, and we know that Jurayah was not beaten the night she passed away,” said Christopher Smith, T’Kia’s brother. “T’Kia’s character speaks more than anything else. Who she is, what she’s done, the amazing mother she was to Jurayah speaks to everything that she is, and who she is. She loves Jurayah, we love Jurayah, and we are still seeking justice for Jurayah, and we’re going to get it and get the right person in jail.”

District Attorney Daniella Shorter released this statement:

“A new trial has been granted; however, a gag order is still in place. Consequently, I have no comment. The order granting a new trial is public record and is attainable to anyone seeking to view it.”

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