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Tkia Bevily’s personal “Dream Team” is becoming a nightmare for her defense counsel, the justice system, and Judge Tomika Irving. The lead member of this group, Christopher Smith, who is Mrs. Bevily’s brother, along with their mother Audrey Smith Gray, and others could face possible contempt of court charges in their apparent efforts to influence the jury pool in Monroe County, Mississippi.
Judge Tomika Irving has ordered an emergency hearing in Jefferson County tomorrow morning after the prosecution filed a motion which accused Ms. Bevily’s mother, Audrey Smith Gray, and others affiliated with a support page, of boosting a post that is targeting residents of Monroe County. The post purports that Mrs. Bevily passed an optical lie detector test given by Clayton Polygraph Services. Polygraphs are not admissible in court due to their level of unreliability. According to Mr. Clayton, who is listed on the purported test as the examiner,
“(A) Polygraph is noT a substitute for a thorough investigation.”
Mr. Clayton was contacted by HPNM to authenticate the report, but he could not provide a comment due to state law prohibiting him from discussing polygraph examinations without a release by the parties involved.
T’kia Bevily’s attorney, Dennis Sweet III, who has a history of influencing jurors outside of
court proceedings in civil cases, now has a client and her family whose certainly appear to be attempting to influence jurors in Monroe County, while in the process of violating a gag order. This could land Mrs. Bevily back in jail pending trial or even land those responsible for the publication in jail. Judge Irving has a wide latitude of options to enforce a gag order.
Mrs. Bevily’s attorneys are the very ones who requested the change of venue, saying Bevily cannot get a fair and impartial jury in Claiborne County. Attorney Dennis Sweet IV filed the change of venue motion April 9 in Claiborne County Circuit Court. The motion states that Jurayah’s death has brought “sympathy, outrage, and interest” from almost all residents of Claiborne County and nearby areas. You can read the motion at the bottom of the page.
During a hearing on the matter Tuesday, April 19, Circuit Court Judge Tomika Irving granted the change of venue. The judge also ruled on a number of other motions. She denied a request for a continuance, denied a request to exclude video of two interrogations of Bevily, and postponed ruling on whether her gag order on interviews and social media posts has been violated until a formal motion has been filed. In addition, she deferred ruling on a motion to exclude testimony from specific expert witnesses of the state until the trial takes place and ordered defense attorneys to provide information to prosecutors as to the nature of testimony expected from fact and character witnesses.
A LITTLE CASE HISTORY
Bevily was convicted of capital murder in late January 2021. Judge Irving sentenced Bevily to life in prison with no parole February 4, 2021. Less than two weeks later, Bevily requested a new trial. Hearings held in April and May, 2021, disclosed that one or more jurors failed to provide critical information during jury selection. Because of this jury misconduct, Judge Irving scheduled a new trial for May 2, 2022. She also issued an order prohibiting trial participants from granting interviews and making posts on social media. Her husband, Morris Bevily, Jurayah’s father is also facing Capital Murder Charges. His trial is scheduled for May 9th in Claiborne County Mississippi.
“The case is well known in the community and has been the subject of numerous publications and social media posts,” the motion states. “Many community members have expressed ill-will toward the Defendant and have pre-judged the Defendant’s guilt.”
Mississippi’s change-of-venue law requires a written request, sworn to by the prisoner, to the court or the judge that the defendant cannot have a fair and impartial trial in the county where the crime was committed due to “prejudgment of the case, or grudge or ill will … in the public mind.” The request must include affidavits of support from two or more credible people. (Mississippi Code of 1972, Ann., Section 99-15-35)
HPNM obtained the interrogation videos of T’kia Bevily and Morris Bevily and published them
on HPNM’s Facebook page. Prosecutors allege that Mrs. Bevily harmed fourteen-month-old Jurayah Smith after which stemmed from a deep seeded resentment, a daily reminder, that her husband Morris cheated on her and conceived a child while they were dating. Mrs. Bevily learned of Jurayah from Mr. Bevily’s cousin three months after her wedding that Jurayah was born two days after the ceremony. Ms. Bevily stated in interrogation videos that she had a difficult time accepting a baby that “just came out of nowhere,” but that through counseling, she was ultimately able to accept Jurayah.
Jurayah was injured multiple times while visiting the Bevily’s household, and while in the sole care of Mrs. Bevily. On one occasion, Jurayah was raced to the hospital with a forehead contusion. On another occasion, Jurayah received a black eye. DHS got involved and investigated the Bevilys for child abuse. Three months later, On October 22nd, 2017. Jurayah was found dead in her crib in the Bevily’s home. The Mississippi Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide, with blunt force trauma as the cause of death.
PREJUDGMENT, ILL-WILL AND THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
T’Kia Bevily asserted in her motion to change venue that both prejudgment and ill-will exist. Her attorneys note that publicity alone does not merit a change of venue; rather, they say, the defendant can seek relief when there is widespread publicity combined with a community “saturated” in knowledge about the case. Relief can be provided by either postponing the case until community hostility has lessened or by moving the case to another venue.
The motion included case law on the influence of social media on public opinion and references to studies reporting that the majority of American adults rely on social media for news. In Bevily’s case, there have been “innumerable social media posts and articles written concerning the Defendant, theories of how and when the minor child died, and other speculative assertions,” the attorneys say.
“Many social media posts feature photos of the deceased minor child seeking to evoke sympathy and outrage against the Defendant. Other social media posts include Court documents and other items which may or may not be considered by a jury.” The motion also says that Bevily has been called names and continues to receive threats.
“This case has produced unprecedented publicity and unbridled hostility toward the Defendant who is on trial for her life.” The attorneys concluded with a request that the court take measures to see that prejudicial publicity does not compromise Bevily’s right to a fair trial.
What wasn’t mentioned by the defense was the defendant’s family has been driving interest in the case, in violation of a gag order.
HPNM will report the results of tomorrow’s hearing in Jefferson County outside the courthouse. Judge Irving is not allowing cameras in this hearing.
CONTEMPT OF COURT FILING AGAINST THE DEFENSE AND RELATIVES OF THE DEFENDANTT’kia Bevily Contenpt of Court
T’KIA BEVILY MOTION FOR CHANGE OF VENUEBevily Motion for Change of Venue