Update on the Wrongful Conviction of Jeffrey Havard: Open Letter Calling for Miss. Attorney General to Review Case


May 18, 2013 | Lisa Dawson

Jeffrey_HavardJeffrey Havard currently sits in solitary confinement on death row in Mississippi, wrongfully convicted in 2002 of murdering and sexually abusing his then-girlfriend’s 6-month old daughter, Chloe Britt, who died from head injuries. While the state of Mississippi argues that Havard, 34, sexually abused and killed the child, Havard maintains that he accidentally dropped her while removing her from the bathtub. If you’re not familiar with Havard’s case, get a brief background here or check out this GroundReport article by Bruce Fischer. (Be sure to read last month’s post on Harvard, too.)

In his latest petition to the court, Havard asks for relief of the original conviction and sentence, also requesting “at the very least” permission to produce evidence raised in the petition during a proposed evidentiary hearing in federal court.

Read on for details on the latest efforts by advocates fighting to Free Jeffrey Havard.

An Open Letter Calling for Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to Review Jeffrey Havard Case

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Office of the MS Attorney General
ATTN:  Hon. Jim Hood
P.O. Box 220
Jackson, MS 39205
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Attorney General Hood,
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I am writing to you regarding a statement your office made on your behalf to CNN on February 20, 2012:
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“Our office has the singular responsibility to not only ensure that the guilty are punished but that the innocent are set free.”
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If that is the case, here is my question to you: what happened with Jeffrey Havard?
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Jeffrey Havard, as you know, has been on your Death Row since 2002, however, there are significant problems with his conviction.
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Mainly:
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  • 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.
  • Hayne’s 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) claim 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. Havard’s trial attorneys did no independent investigation of any kind, which the law requires in a capital murder case. Attorney Gus G. 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 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).
  • 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. Havard’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;
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This is a direct quote from the prosecution (Rosenblatt) to the jury during closing arguments: “This case I cannot possibly understand. Please don’t try to understand this case.”
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Additionally, Mr. Havard was told at the police station that Chloe Britt died due to a vicious sexual assault. Mr. Havard could not 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.
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Mr. Havard used bad judgment by not telling Chloe’s mother Rebecca Britt immediately upon her return from the store that Chloe had accidently 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 3 weeks.
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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.
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Mr. Havard waived his right to an attorney and fully cooperated with the investigation.
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Mr. Havard requested a polygraph but was refused.
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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.
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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.
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This case MUST be reviewed by your office since your job is to “ensure the innocent be set free.”
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The State of Mississippi has done Chloe Britt’s family and Jeffrey Havard a grave injustice.
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I look forward to your response.
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Sincerely,
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Lori Howard

A Concerned United States Citizen

Creative Commons License  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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Please take action to support Jeffrey Havard!
havard vs miss

Here are some ways you can support Jeffrey Havard in his fight to prove his innocence:
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►  Contact Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to ask that he review Jeffrey Havard’s case, either by sending a message here or to the address below. In writing the Attorney General, feel free to use Lori Howard’s letter (above) as a guide. Please be respectful in your communication.
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Office of the MS Attorney General
ATTN: Hon. Jim Hood
P.O. Box 220
Jackson, MS 39205
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►  Sign the Change.org petition calling for United States District Judge Keith Starrett to grant Jeffrey Havard a new trial so that he has an opportunity to prove he has been wrongfully convicted.
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►  Join the Jeffrey Havard letter writing campaign event on Facebook.
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►  “Like” the Free Jeffrey Havard Facebook page and follow @FreeJeffKHavard on Twitter.
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►  Learn more about the case:
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» View his profile on Lockup Reform.
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» Watch a video.
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» Listen to Tic Toc Tic Toc, Life or Death: The Jeffrey Havard Case, an interview with Jeffrey Havard (BlogTalkRadio). <>
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