Former Jones Co. DA speaks out on reversed capital murder conviction

Victoria Viner
Victoria Viner

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - A Laurel man is being given a new murder trial for the 2010 death of his then girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter, Victoria Viner.

Current Jones County District Attorney Anthony Buckley said his team is hard at work preparing for this new trial.

During 2014 testimony, one person testified, "He had taken the phone book and placed it on top of Victoria Viner's head and hit her with it."

Disturbing descriptions of how Justin Blakeney is said to have killed innocent little 2-year-old  Viner.

Jurors will once again have to re-live this horrible crime. That's because the Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned Blakeney's 2014 death penalty conviction, saying the defendant was improperly disadvantaged by last-minute evidence.

"My initial reaction when this capital murder death penalty case was reversed, I was not surprised because most, if not all death penalty cases, are reversed one time at least," Buckley said.

Medical evidence showed Victoria died from blunt force trauma to the head. Justices said the state was wrong to use the jailhouse informants because Blakeney had already been indicted and should have been assisted by an attorney. And, the information was given to the defense at the last minute.

Former Jones County Assistant District Attorney J. Ronald Parrish, who tried the case three years ago, weighed in on the decision.

"Well, if you were involved in it that's sort of ridiculous if you know the facts," Parrish said. "Because you can't give people things you don't have. When evidence comes from the defendant at the last minute, well then you have to give it to the other side at the last minute. That's basically what happened with some of the evidence."

Buckley said his team has a lot of work to do, but he wants to assure the public Blakeney will not be released on bail when he's brought back because it is a capital murder charge.

"Losing the appeal at the state supreme court level in the death penalty is just losing a battle," Buckley said. "The war is still to come. We feel confident we will win the war."

Buckley said you can expect an August 2018 trial date.