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Judge issues gag order in hearing involving woman convicted of killing toddler

PORT GIBSON — A woman convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the killing of her 14-month-old stepdaughter is seeking a new trial.

Attorneys for T’Kia Bevily, convicted of capital murder in January for the killing of 14-month-old Jurayah Smith, were scheduled to hold a press conference Monday at the Claiborne County Courthouse, following a hearing where they will ask for a new trial. But, following the hearing, the judge in the case, Judge Tomika Harris-Irving placed a gag order on the proceedings preventing anyone involved from commenting on the hearing or any rulings in the hearing. 

According to a release from The Cochran Firm, based in Jackson, attorney Terris Harris, who is representing Bevily, was expected to discuss the team’s plans to overturn the conviction. 

“Bevily’s legal team alleges significant misconduct occurred during her trial, which necessitated the request for a new trial,” the firm said in its release Monday. 

Jurayah Smith was killed on Oct. 22, 2017, and her death was ruled a homicide.

Bevily was convicted at the end of a five-day-long trial, in which evidence was presented showing the baby sustained multiple “blunt-force trauma” injuries to her head, resulting in her death.

According to Claiborne County District Attorney Daniella Shorter, these injuries occurred while the child was in the sole custody of the defendants, T’Kia and Morris Bevily. Morris Bevily is the baby’s father.

“I could not be prouder of my prosecution team which brought Jurayah’s murderer to justice,” Shorter said in January following the conviction. “Now Jurayah’s family can finally have some peace knowing that T’Kia Bevily will be in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.”

Morris Bevily, the child’s father, is also charged with murder. His trial has been postponed.

The child’s mother, DeDreuna Smith, released the following statement after Bevily’s conviction:

“I’d like to thank God, along with the District Attorney & the state of Mississippi for pursuing Justice on behalf of my 14-month-old daughter,” DeDreuna Smith said in January. “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. Receiving this guilty verdict is only the start of the healing process for my family, our friends, loved ones and myself. We’re grateful for the outcome and we’re hopeful for the peaceful closure that this process has brought.”

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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