The Jeff Havard case in Mississippi is attracting more international attention. Havard has seen support coming from a growing list of countries in recent years, including (but not limited to) Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, and the UK. He can now add France to the list. French anti-death penalty advocate, Louis Richard, has taken great interest in Havard’s case and is leading a call to action.
Havard has served nearly thirteen years on death row in Mississippi for the sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter, Chloe Britt. Havard has strongly proclaimed his innocence from the time of his arrest, and his supporters will tell you that he was wrongfully convicted for a crime that never happened.
Havard has stated from the beginning that the infant slipped from his arms while lifting her from the tub, causing her head to hit the bowl of the nearby toilet. The infant’s death was an accident, not the heinous crime the State claims it to be.
Richard reviewed the evidence of the case, concluding that Havard is innocent. He has now set out to deliver a message of support through social media, encouraging people to write letters on Havard’s behalf. Supporters in the US are thrilled to see Richard’s efforts and are hoping his involvement will encourage more people worldwide to speak out in support of Havard’s innocence.
Havard’s supporters believe that anyone who reads the facts of his case will conclude that he should be granted a new trial. They are confident that new expert evidence has clearly established that a sexual assault never occurred and that the injuries to the infant resembled that of a short fall.
Multiple experts have now reviewed Havard’s case and their findings all support Havard. In fact, there are now five experts that refute the prosecution’s case. Dr. Stephen Hayne, the State’s only expert to testify at trial, has gone on record declaring that the State got it wrong. There are currently no experts who support the State’s theory of the accused crime.
The defense learned in January of 2014, 12 years after the conviction, that Hayne had looked at tissue sections under a microscope and found definitively that there was no evidence of sexual assault. In a case where suspicion of sexual assault only arose when ER doctors and nurses noticed what they believed to be physical evidence of sexual abuse. Hayne’s microscopic findings were clearly exculpatory, and would have positively shown that the doctors and nurses had simply misinterpreted what they saw.
Hayne has now stated that he told the State before trial that he saw no sign of a sexual assault. The state withheld this evidence from the defense and also failed to tell the doctors and nurses who testified.
The State of Mississippi chose to ignore their expert’s findings, and pushed forward to prosecute Jeff Havard for murder during the course of a sexual assault. As a result, an innocent man now sits on death row for a crime that never took place. Chloe Britt’s death was tragic, but it was not a murder.
In April of this year, the Mississippi Supreme Court finally granted Havard permission to request an evidentiary hearing based on new evidence. This is good news for Havard and his supporters, and may very well be the reason why the case is now catching the attention of advocates like Louis Richard.
Here is the letter campaign being promoted by Louis Richard on Facebook:
(View Louis Richard’s original post here)
Voici une lettre modèle que vous pouvez utiliser telle quelle ou modifier à votre goût (English translation: Here is a sample letter that you can use as is or modify to your liking):
Office of the MS Attorney General
ATTN: Hon. Jim Hood
P.O. Box 220
Jackson, MS 39205
Formulaire de contact électronique (English Translation: Electronic contact form): http://jimhood.org/contact/
Subject: Grant a new trial for Mr. Jeffrey Havard
Attorney General Hood,
I am writing to you regarding a statement your office made on your behalf to CNN on February 20, 2012:
“Our office has the singular responsibility to not only ensure that the guilty are punished but that the innocent are set free.”
If that is the case, here is my question to you: what happened with Jeffrey Havard?
Mr. Jeffrey Havard, as you know, has been on your Death Row since 2002, however, there are significant problems with his conviction.
- State and Federal laws regarding cases that involve the type of accusations leveled at Mr. Havard, mandate that all evidence is to be reviewed by experts qualified in child sexual abuse. This was not done.
- The State tried Mr. Havard without ever attempting to establish sexual assault with expert testimony on forensics.
- The standard of proof for sexual assault, according to the law, was never met.
- The prosecution tried this case, never establishing “to a degree of medical certainty” that a sexual assault had occurred.
- Dr.Steven Hayne had informed the District Attorney’s Office, prior to trial, that there was not enough evidence to conclude a diagnosis of sexual battery.
- The autopsy, which was never introduced into evidence, states that the child’s body “was unremarkable” and makes no reference to sexual assault whatsoever.
- Despite the law requiring the standard of proof, prosecutors put Mr. Havard’s life in jeopardy based only on unqualified and faulty observations, since the charge was predicated on injuries that did not exist.
- Based on the above, this shows that no scientific methodology (differential diagnosis) was ever performed, since the so-called injuries did not exist.
- Dr. Haynes testimony only rose to the level of possibility which did not meet the standard of proof in court, which is a “degree of medical certainty.”
- Emergency room staff (State’s witnesses) claims to have seen rips, tears and bleeding in the anal area. Steven Hayne observed nothing of the sort in his autopsy report, and photographic evidence indicates no such thing.
- Still, the ER staff gave this testimony in court and it was never challenged or objected to by the defense. Their “invalid testimony” was/is the State’s “case in chief.”
- This further underscores that none of the witnesses were qualified. “Observations” are not tests or forensic reviews.
- Mr. Harvard’s trial attorneys did no independent investigation of any kind, which the law requires in a capital murder case. Attorney Sermos admitted in open court that he did not understand the autopsy and had no medical knowledge.
- The Court wrongfully denied Mr. Havard’s request for his own medical expert. Instead, the Court recommended that his attorneys contact the State’s expert (Hayne).
- Mr. Havard’s attorneys did not contact Dr.Dr. Hayne or anyone else with the medical expertise they admittedly lacked.
- The State and the Court improperly placed the burden of proof on Mr. Havard to explain the anal dilation (the ONLY binding factor in the case).
- A study at Duke University estimated that death penalty cases take three to five times longer than a typical murder trial (http://fds.duke.edu/db/attachment/301).
- Jury selection for this capital murder case took one day (12/17/02), and the prosecution presented their case in one day (12/18/02), leading the trial judge to remark: “the case has been moving along quite satisfactorily.”
- Mr. Harvard’s trial took just 48 hours from jury selection to sentencing.
There are other factors, too numerous to mention, however, I would like to bring a few other things to your attention;
This is a direct quote from the prosecution (Mr.Rosenblatt)to the jury during closing arguments: “This case I cannot possibly understand. Please don’t try to understand this case.”
Additionally, Mr. Havard was told at the police station that Chloe Britt died due to a vicious sexual assault. Mr. Havard couldn’t explain it because it never occurred. He did not know that she had died from a closed head injury until he saw it on the arrest warrant, at which time he immediately asked for Detective Manley, telling him that Chloe had accidentally fallen.
Mr. Havard used bad judgment by not telling Chloe’s mother Rebecca Britt immediately upon her return from the store that Chloe had accidentally fallen, and he was wrong to think he knew how to care for the infant after her fall. The situation was new to Mr. Havard as the child and her mother had only been living with him for three weeks.
Mr. Havard’s bad judgment in a time of crisis does not equate to murder and sexual assault. Being guilty of bad judgment does not make Mr. Havard death penalty eligible. It merely makes him human, capable of making an honest mistake.
Mr. Havard waived his right to an attorney and fully cooperated with the investigation.
Mr. Havard requested a polygraph but was refused.
Mr. Havard refused a plea agreement and based his decision not to testify in his own behalf on his attorney’s advice that the taped interrogation spoke for itself, although they had told him that he would be permitted to testify until just prior to trial.
Mr. Havard refused the plea he was offered because,being innocent, he believed in the sanctity of the Judicial System in this country. He believed that truth and justice would prevail.
This case MUST be reviewed by your office since your job is to “ensure the innocent be set free.”
The State of Mississippi has done Chloe Britt’s family and Jeffrey Havard a grave injustice.
For all those reasons, I respectfully ask you to grant Mr. Jeffrey Havard a new trial.
I look forward to your response.
(Name and Address)
Merci d’adresser une copie de votre lettre à l’Ambassade des États-Unis de votre pays (English Translation: Please send a copy of your letter to the US Embassy in your country):
Ambassade des États-Unis d’Amérique au Canada
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Vous pouvez également signer cette pétition en ligne demandant un nouveau procès pour M. Havard (English translation: You can also sign this online petition demanding a new trial for Mr. Havard):
Informations supplémentaires (en anglais) (English translation: Additional information (in English)):
1. In November of 2013, Mr. Jeffrey Havard filed a motion for relief from judgment based on newly discovered evidence. The newly discovered evidence includes affidavits from four of the nation’s leading medical and bio-mechanical experts, all of whom reviewed the evidence in his case and all of whom expressed opinions that the child Jeffrey was convicted of murdering most likely died from an accidental fall and NOT from shaken baby syndrome, just as Mr. Havard has always maintained.
2. Dr. Hayne, who testified as the only expert for the State at the time of trial also submitted an affidavit. Dr. Hayne testified at trial that the child died due to shaken baby syndrome; in his affidavit; however, Dr. Hayne stated that due to recent advances in bio-mechanical science, he now believes that the child died by either “Shaken baby plus impact or blunt force trauma.” In other words,the child’s injuries could not have occurred by shaking alone, but would’ve had to have involved some sort of impact to her head. Dr. Hayne explained his new opinion to Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion-Ledger, and acknowledged that there is “growing evidence” the diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome “is probably not correct.”
3. On February 5, 2014, the State filed a response to Jeffrey Havard’s motion for relief from judgment based on this newly discovered evidence. The state argued that all of the affidavits that has submitted– every single one of them including Dr. Hayne’s – are not “new evidence” under the Mississippi code, and, therefore, the court cannot even consider them. Mr. Jeffrey Havard time barred and procedurally barred from challenging the child’s cause of death because he somehow should have been able to find these experts sooner. He somehow should have been able to get Dr. Hayne to change his mind sooner. The state simply doesn’t care that currently, not a single expert who has reviewed this case believes that a crime was even committed; Jeffrey Havard is out of time so Jeffrey Havard must die.
4. Despite his affidavit and despite what Dr.Hayne told Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion ledger, the state insists that Dr.Hayne’s opinion has not changed. According to the state, “Dr. Hayne’s July 22, 2013, statement is consistent with his 2002 autopsy report findings and trial testimony.” With respect to the four other experts who submitted affidavits, experts including Dr. Michael Baden, Dr. Janice Ophoven,Dr. George Nichols and Dr. Christopher Van Ee (a Dr. of bio-mechanics) the state does not attempt to discredit their opinions or question whether they are qualified to render those opinions. Instead, the state claims that all of those experts have either testified in other trials or have authored Journal articles around the time of Jeffrey’s trial or shortly thereafter, and their testimony and writings were based upon studies which were completed prior to the time of Mr. Jeffrey Havard trial. The experts, argues the state, have held their opinions about the validity of Shaken Baby Syndrome – or invalidity I should say – for many years. Therefore, this is not new evidence.
5. The State argues that courts have held that“[W]here a party fails to call a witness who was available during trial, the testimony of that witness cannot be considered newly discovered evidence.”
The state makes this argument despite the fact that the Trial court denied Havard’s request that an independent medical expert be appointed to assist in his defense. The trial court refused to appoint an independent expert and Jeffrey simply did not have any money with which to hire one.
6. Apparently the state is arguing that Mr. Jeffrey Havard should have been able to find nationally renowned experts like Dr. Baden, Dr.Ophoven, Dr. Nichols and Dr. Van Ee, from his jail cell, (because the state successfully argued in previous motions that Jeffrey’s lawyers were not ineffective for failing to secure an independent expert) and Jeffrey should have been able to convince them to review his case, render an opinion,and come in and testify at his trial, despite the fact that Jeff had no money to pay them. According to the state, these witnesses would have been able to provide the same opinion back in 2002 that they have provided in their affidavits today. For this reason, Jeffrey is time barred and procedurally barred from submitting those affidavits to the court today and the court simply cannot consider them.
The only reason Jeffrey was able to get those experts to look at his case, render an opinion and submit an affidavit is because they agreed to look at his case pro bono, in all likelihood because he is on Death row and his life hangs in the balance. Dr. Baden agreed to first look at the case free of charge when a Clarion-Ledger reporter investigating the case asked him to.
7. Why would the State want to actually kill a man when all of the experts have opined he shouldn’t even be in jail? The following quote from the State’s written reply to Jeffrey’s motion may offer some insight into that question of why: “In the interest of finality, a balance has been struck. Justice does not require petitioner Jeffrey Havard to be permitted an opportunity to impeach the evidence supporting his conviction and sentence when that opportunity has been extended multiple times. The State submits that granting relief will lead to injustice in this case and in other cases while undermining the public’s confidence in the judicial process.”
8. So there you have it –adherence procedural rules and time limitations, as well as the state’s interest in judgments being final, are more important when weighed against the value of a man’s life (a man who even the state’s own pathologist doesn’t think committed a crime). If the public’s confidence in the judicial process is undermined, it won’t be because relief was granted to a man who by all expert accounts has been wrongfully convicted. It will be because the state would rather kill a man than admit they made a mistake.
9. On January 19, 2014, Jerry Mitchell published an article in the Clarion Ledger about Jeff’s case. Mitchell spoke to Hayne as well as the attorney that prosecuted the case, Ronnie Harper, prior to writing his article. Both Haynes and Harper are quoted numerous times in the article. Dr. Hayne revealed new information to Mitchell that had never been disclosed to the defense, not before trial, at the time of trial or anytime during the post-conviction litigation of this case. Essentially, what Hayne revealed was that as a part of his autopsy, Hayne had microscopically analyzed sections of anal tissue, and he had been able to come to a definitive conclusion – that Chloe’s anus had NOT been ripped, torn, or lacerated in any way whatsoever. The Emergency room doctors and nurses who treated Chloe for the head injury all testified that they had observed significant injuries to her anus, and that it was torn, which caused them to suspect she had been sexually abused. At trial they all testified that Chloe’s rectum had been penetrated and that she had been the victim of sexual abuse. Unbeknownst to Jeff or his legal team, Dr. Hayne knew that all of the doctors and nurses were mistaken about what they thought they had seen; Hayne knew this because it is physically impossible to have a tear to anal tissue without evidence of injury upon microscopic examination. (In 25 pages Of medical records, there is not one mention of blood being physically present.)
10. When Hayne was called to testify at trial,the prosecutor conducted a very limited direct examination of Hayne regarding the sexual abuse allegation, which is extremely odd in a capital murder trial where sexual abuse is the central issue of the case. Instead the prosecutor elicited the opinions and observations of Emergency room doctors and nurses with no documented training in the diagnosis or treatment of child sexual abuse, all of whom claim to had observed the injuries while they were frantically attempting to treat the child for a life-threatening head injury. Havard and his legal team had no idea that Dr. Hayne had told the prosecutor prior to trial that he “didn’t think there was a sexual assault in this case”because he “didn’t see any evidence of that.” During closing arguments, Prosecutors stood up and told the jury that Dr. Hayne and the emergency room doctors and nurses were in agreement. “Everyone has agreed on what happened. Every one of our witnesses…” Said the child was violently and brutally sexually assaulted, and then she was shaken to death.Prosecutors knew this wasn’t true. Unfortunately, the jury didn’t.
11. On May 30, 2014, Jeff filed a Motion To Amend his November 25, 2013 petition seeking relief, essentially the Motion to Amend is a request to add an allegation that the prosecution withheld critical exculpatory information from the defense in violation of Jeff’s due process right to a fair trial. The State has objected, of course, claiming that they have not withheld anything, and also claiming – incredibly – that the information that Jeff accuses them of withholding is not “favorable” to Jeff’s case. It’s not exculpatory,they claim.
12. The State’s only expert witness who is qualified to render an opinion on sexual assault told prosecutors before trial that he did not think there was a sexual assault in this case because he didn’t see any evidence of it despite a thorough autopsy.
That’s not favorable to Jeff’s case??? Really?
13. What I have attached is Jeff’s final Rebuttal to the State’s Response to his Motion to Amend –Jeff’s Argument is referred to as a “Brady argument” because Jeff is alleging that the prosecutors violated the landmark United States Supreme Court Case, Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense any time and every time they learn of it –even if the defense doesn’t ask for it. It is something that the US Supreme Court has unequivocally held is essential to a fair trial.
Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted,but when criminal trials are fair; our system of the administration of justice suffers when any accused is treated unfairly. An inscription on the walls of the Department of Justice states the proposition candidly for the federal domain: “The United States wins its point whenever justice is done its citizens in the courts.” A prosecution that withholds evidence on demand of an accused which, if made available, would tend to exculpate him or reduce the penalty helps shape a trial that bears heavily on the defendant.That casts the prosecutor in the role of an architect of a proceeding that does not comport with standards of justice.
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 88 (1963)
It is a requirement that cannot be deemed to be satisfied by mere notice and hearing if a state has contrived a conviction through the pretense of a trial which, in truth, is but used as a means of depriving a defendant of liberty through a deliberate deception of court and jury by the presentation of testimony known to be perjured. Such a contrivance by a state to procure the conviction and imprisonment of a defendant is as inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of justice as is the obtaining of alike result by intimidation.
Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U. S. 103, 294 U. S.112 (1935)