Support for death row inmate Jeffrey Havard continues to grow as his federal appeal awaits a decision from United States District Judge Keith Starrett. Jeffrey Havard currently sits wrongfully convicted on death row in Mississippi for the sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter, Chloe Britt. Chloe’s death was a tragic accident, not a murder. Jeffrey accidentally dropped Chloe after giving her a bath. According to Jeffrey, Chloe slipped out of his hands and hit her head on the toilet. The evidence in the case supports his claims.
Jeffrey’s conviction was secured on the false premise that he sexually assaulted his girlfriend’s infant daughter Chloe, which resulted in the infant’s death. Shaken Baby Syndrome was suggested as the cause of death but no specific cause of death was ever determined in court and was not needed to secure a conviction. The law states if a person dies during the course of a felony, it does not matter how the person dies, only that a person did die during the course of the accused committing a felony.
In Jeffrey’s case the jury was told that Chloe died from injuries sustained during a sexual assault. The prosecution’s case was built on the testimony of the hospital staff that treated Chloe on the night of her death and on the uncontested testimony of former Mississippi medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne.
Every medical witness for the prosecution testified it was their opinion that Chloe was sexually abused based on the condition of the infant’s anus. The conclusions of these witnesses were based on a rush to judgment in the ER that led to a group think scenario. None of the prosecution’s medical witnesses were qualified to give an opinion regarding sexual abuse. Every single one of them made the same mistake when misdiagnosing the condition of Chloe’s anus.
Jeffrey’s court appointed public defender sat silent allowing unqualified people to testify about their opinions regarding a sexual assault without making a single objection. To make matters worse, no real effort was made to cross examine these witnesses regarding their qualifications. The court should have never allowed their testimony to be heard. The medical witnesses were unqualified and their testimony should have been deemed inadmissible.
There is not one single shred of evidence that Chloe was ever sexually assaulted, by Jeffrey or by anyone else. There has never been a single person to come forward to say that Jeffrey acted inappropriately around Chloe or any other child. Not before the trial and not afterward. Sexual assault only became an issue when a nurse noticed the condition of the infant’s anus in the ER and drew a conclusion right then and there.
Dr. Hayne’s testimony played a major role in Jeffrey’s wrongful conviction. Dr. Hayne did not find evidence of sexual assault while conducting the autopsy, even though he was told to look for it. Hayne gave the prosecution what they needed when he testified that a one centimeter contusion in Chloe’s anus could have resulted from penetration with an object. Hayne also suggested that symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) were present but the actual cause of death was never definitively argued by the prosecution.
Jeffrey asked the court during his trial to provide the means to hire an independent expert to review Hayne’s findings, but the court denied his request stating that Hayne was well qualified. The court neglected to take into account that Hayne was not a certified pathologist when assessing his qualifications.
In a recent interview with WAPT News, former Mississippi State Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz discussed the fact that Jeffrey was denied an independent expert. Diaz said Hayne’s testimony that Jeffrey shook the baby to death went unchallenged because the public defender couldn’t afford a second opinion. “He was denied the use of his own expert in that case, but they allowed the state to proffer Dr. Hayne as an expert for the state,” said Diaz, one of two justices who voted to throw out Jeffrey’s conviction in a 2006 appeal, with the majority voting to uphold the death sentence.
Since the time of Jeffrey’s trial, Hayne has been discredited for submitting faulty work on multiple cases and no longer performs autopsies in Mississippi. Hayne continues to come under fire and now has a major legal fight on his hands. Hayne’s misconduct threatens the validity of thousands of cases which will no doubt lead to extensive investigations which could end up costing the state of Mississippi millions of dollars.
Radley Balko, Senior Writer and Investigative Reporter for The Huffington Post, has done extensive research on Hayne and recently published a scathing article detailing Hayne’s misconduct titled: Despite Evidence From Discredited Medical Examiner, Mississippi’s Jeffrey Havard Nears Execution.
In his article Balko reports that Hayne performed 80-90 percent of the autopsies in Mississippi from the early 1990s until 2007, amounting to 1,200 and 1,800 per year. According to Balko, The National Association of Medical Examiners suggests that medical examiners perform a maximum of 325 autopsies per year.
There’s no doubt Hayne was favored by prosecutors in Mississippi because he provided the testimony they needed. In a recent interview with WAPT News, Jeffrey’s mother Cheryl reiterated those feelings. “They just wanted a conviction and I feel like they used Dr. Hayne to get their conviction,” Cheryl said.
The truth is now clear. Jeffrey Havard was wrongfully convicted based on false claims that have now been fully discredited. Nobody ever saw Chloe sexually assaulted; nobody suspected in the days and weeks prior to Chloe’s death that she was being abused. Jeffrey has never admitted to any such conduct. A nurse with no specific training in the detection of sexual assault in children saw the infant’s anus and made an uneducated guess. That guess led to a massive rush to judgment by other medical staff members which in turn negatively influenced the investigation.
The forensic evidence suggests that no sexual assault occurred. The rape kit showed zero DNA belonging to Jeffrey. There was no semen, no saliva, no blood, and no hair. There was no biological evidence of any kind belonging to Jeffrey.
When law enforcement was given the forensic results they should have considered the possibility that there was an alternative reason for the condition of the infant’s anus. Unfortunately that was not the case. Instead the police immediately concluded that a foreign object must have been used, even though a foreign object was never found. No foreign object was ever seized as even a possible instrument of the crime. There was no blood evidence of any kind found at the scene to suggest that Chloe was sexually assaulted with an object. There is no evidence whatsoever that Chloe was sexually assaulted in any way.
If there was no sexual assault, why was Chloe’s anus dilated?
After Jeffrey’s conviction, Mississippi’s post-conviction relief office obtained the services of former Alabama state medical examiner Dr. James Lauridson to review the autopsy findings. Lauridson concluded that the evidence failed to confirm that a sexual assault of any kind had taken place. There was no sign of any tears or lacerations in Chloe’s anus and it is not out of the ordinary for dilation to occur naturally. He also noted that a thermometer inserted into the Chloe’s anus at the emergency room could have caused the small bruise. You can view Dr. Lauridson’s full report here.
At The Clarion-Ledger’s request, Dr. Michael Baden agreed to review the evidence of the case. According to Baden, it is common for the anus to dilate in a coma or after death. You can view Dr. Baden’s statements here.
Anal dilation has given rise to suspicion of sexual abuse in other cases, and a clinical study was done to clarify the subject. Researchers found that anal dilation is a common artifact in accidental deaths involving severe brain injury. You can view that report here.
Unfortunately this expert evidence was not made available at Jeffrey’s trial leaving the jury to decide his fate based on unqualified witness testimony. The evidence now shows that Jeffrey’s conviction was secured based on a sexual assault that never occurred.
Jeffrey has maintained his innocence to this day. Jeffrey told the truth when describing the accident that led to Chloe’s death. Jeffrey told the authorities that he accidentally dropped Chloe after giving her a bath. When Jeffrey was removing Chloe from the tub she slipped out of his hands and hit her head on the toilet. The evidence in this case supports his claims. Unfortunately the evidence was ignored. Chloe’s death was a tragic accident, not a murder.
Jeffrey has spent ten years of his life on death row for a crime that never took place. Jeffrey’s conviction must not stand.
Please visit www.freejeffreyhavard.org to learn more about Jeffrey’s case.