Court reverses death penalty conviction in toddler's death

Justin Blakeney (Source: Mississippi Department of Corrections)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned a 2014 death penalty conviction, saying the defendant was improperly disadvantaged by last-minute evidence, jailhouse informants and a prosecutor's disposal of other evidence.

The court ruled 9-0 Thursday that Justin Blakeney of Laurel should get a new murder trial. He's accused in the 2010 death of Victoria Viner, the daughter of his then-girlfriend.

An autopsy found the 2-year-old died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Evidence presented at trial included two inmates who testified that when Blakeney sought to join the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang, he said he had killed the child.

Justices, though, say the state was wrong to use the jailhouse informants as agents because Blakeney had already been indicted and should have been assisted by a lawyer.