Mississippi Supreme Court Denies Jeffrey Havard

Havard is on death row in Mississippi after being convicted of killing and sexually abusing his girlfriend’s infant daughter. The sexual abuse charge was essential to Havard’s murder conviction. The child died from a blow to the head. Havard says he dropped her while taking her out of the bathtub. The state argued he killed her. But because there were no witnesses or other evidence to support the murder charge, an odd twist in Mississippi law allowed them to argue that the sexual abuse was the underlying crime leading to the murder. I guess the thinking is that if he sexually assaulted her, he must have killed her, too.

I wrote a bit about Havard in my October reason piece on shady medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne. Hayne’s testimony about finding evidence of sexual abuse was critical to Havard’s conviction.

During his trial Havard asked the court for funding to hire his own expert to review Hayne’s autopsy. The court turned him down, ruling that Dr. Hayne, with his thousands of appearances in Mississippi’s courts was sufficient. After Havard’s trial and conviction, Mississippi’s post-conviction relief office was able to get former Alabama state medical examiner Dr. Jim Lauridson to review Hayne’s work. Not surprisingly, Lauridson found it lacking.

Hayne and several hospital workers testified at trial that the baby’s anus was dilated, indicating sexual abuse. Lauridson reviewed Hayne’s autopsy report and photos, and concluded that the evidence didn't support Hayne’s conclusion. The anus wasn’t torn or lacerated, and Lauridson says it can often dilate naturally in such cases. Lauridson also noted that hospital staff had inserted a thermometer into the child’s rectum in the frenzy to revive her. Tests showed no trace of Havard’s DNA in or on the child.

On Havard’s first appeal, the state supreme court refused to even consider Lauridson’s testimony, arguing that it was new evidence that should have been introduced at trial—a nifty little Catch 22.

Last week, the court turned down his second appeal. The vote was 7-2. The opinion didn't address the recent revelations about Hayne's work load, allegations of bias and corruption, exonerations of defendants he has testified against in the past, or his lack of board certification.

It would be presumptive to say that Havard is innocent of killing the child. Because there were no witnesses, it’s impossible to know. He had no history of child abuse or violent behavior. Unlike in the Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer cases, no DNA test is going to point to another killer. The question is whether the child's death was an accident or intentional.

But it is clear that there wasn't sufficient evidence to convict Havard, and that the trial judge was wrong to deny him funding to hire his own expert. In turning down Havard’s latest appeal, Mississippi’s Supreme Court has decided that even after all of the questions raised about Dr. Hayne’s methods, practices, and credibility, they’re still willing put their faith in him, even in a case where his testimony was critical to securing a death sentence, and even when that testimony has been challenged by a medical examiner who, unlike Hayne, has the respect of his peers, isn’t seen as a hack for the state, and is actually board certified in forensic pathology

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  • ||

    The last thing the Mississippi Supreme Court wants is to show a legal weakness in the med examiner's office. That would create a shitstorm that even Mississippi can't cover up.
    I believe it will take a significant amount of pressure from the feds to crack this nut.

    Nobody circles the wagons like old mississippi money.

  • ||

    Mississippi judges supporting other Mississippi judges. Did you really expect something else? Mississippi has allowed Haynes to do buisness for years, and he does the kind of buisness that favors good ole boy justice. Good old boy justice is not going to stab themselves in the back.

    Thanks for the update.

  • ||

    Seven-ninths of the Mississippi Supreme Court is cordially invited to DIAF.

    Miserable fuckers. I think it's time for a costumed vigilante to rise to the occasion. I'd do it, except I don't look that good in spandex.

  • ||

    Please God tell me this can be appealed to SCOTUS. Sickening.

  • ||

    You can't introduce new evidence in an appeal? That makes absolutely no sense to me.

  • Radley Balko||

    Pinette,

    Not if it's evidence that should have been discoverable at the time of trial. Of course, that's sort of the point. Havard didn't have the money to discover it at trial.

    The court did consider (and roundly reject) Lauridson's affidavit in this second appeal, though. I'm not sure if the standard changes after the direct appeal, or if the court just felt obligated to address it so as not to appear completely cold and callous.

    The reasoning in rejecting Laurdison's affidavit is pretty awful, though.

  • Rimfax||

    Well, Bob Barr advises us that since this guy isn't a hero and he at least accidentally injured a child, he doesn't deserver our attention or sympathy and we should just quietly leave it to due process to duly execute him.

    [/sarcasm]

  • Rimfax||

    Pinette,

    It is a prudent measure to prevent gaming the system by defendents. (Imagine a rich defendent unconstrained by this.) The appeals process is primarily intended to consider process flaws and secondarily for considering evidence that wasn't possibly available for the first trial.

    That said, it is hard to imagine how they would not consider the recent revelations about Dr. Hayne as legitimately new evidence.

  • Mr. Obvious||

    Are there any nice, good people who come out of the south? Is it the heat, or the kudzu?

  • pet payve||

    "Good old boy justice" is what Bo and Luke delivered to Sheriff Coltrane right before he'd slap Enos with his hat.

    "Old boy justice" is what Boss Hogg owned.

    This is not an example of the former.

  • ||

    Mr. Obvious, the nicest goodest folks I have met in Ms. and Al. have all been non-caucasians. But that's just my personal experience.

  • ||

    uRimfax, Balko,
    what an absurd distinction. "should" have been discovered during the original trial is ultimately meaningless. I don't see what the defendants wealth has to do with it. So someone has enough money to investigate the matter thoroughly themselves and come up with new evidence and that is a bad thing? Why can't the judges consider the evidence on it's own merits?

  • ||

    It would be presumptive to say that Havard is innocent of killing the child. Because there were no witnesses, it's impossible to know.

    Yes it would be presumptive to say he is factually innocent. But it would not be presumptive at all to say the state did not meet its burden by proving him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There's no way that burden was met here. Thus he should be acquitted. Maybe he's not innocent, but he is not guilty. There's a huge difference between innocent and not guilty.

  • ||

    Are there any nice, good people who come out of the south? Is it the heat, or the kudzu?



    I guess I should ask the same about whatever shithole you crawled out from.

    Mr. Obvious, the nicest goodest folks I have met in Ms. and Al. have all been non-caucasians. But that's just my personal experience.



    Yay, more bigotry.

  • dee||

    The South is full of nice and good people! Unfortunately, only the most sensational bad apples make the national news -- and the Weather Channel has the horrible habit of finding the most stereotypical Southern redneck to interview every time there is a tornado or hurricane below the Maison-Dixon line. We also have indoor plumbing, electricity, and higher education.

  • ||

    Shame on you Mississippi. Shame on you. The folks in the so called justice system down there should hope and pray I'm right about that God thingee. Because if he does exist and judges you,

    BURN, BABY, BURN!!!

  • ||

    Well, Bob Barr advises us that since this guy isn't a hero and he at least accidentally injured a child, he doesn't deserver our attention or sympathy and we should just quietly leave it to due process to duly execute him.

    you're a jerk.

    we discussed that Barr never pronounced whether the sentence on Winslow was just. taking a completely off-topic cheap shot (that's a mischaracterization)is a new low.

    not only that, but Winslow's case didn't have a due process issue; this one does.

  • ||

    The Supreme Court's opinion is at http://www.mssc.state.ms.us/Images/Opinions/CO32002.pdf . It presents a more balanced view of the facts of the case than this post does and would be worth reading before coming to a conclusion.

    Also, I don't think "Felony Murder" is an "odd quirk" of Mississippi law -- in every state, if someone dies in the commission of a felony and that death was at all foreseeable, then the person who committed the felony is guilty of Felony Murder.

  • ||

    Jordan,

    Why so defensive? FWIW, I live in Mississippi for 14 months (Gautier, just west of Pascagoula) and found the locals to be generally pleasant and uneducated. Mote that that's a generaliztion, and doesn't necessarily include all Mississippians.

    One other point, I live in Detroit, Michigan and some fairly uncomplimentary things are said about it in the blogosphere. Daily. I try not to take it personally.

  • ||

    Why so defensive? FWIW, I live in Mississippi for 14 months (Gautier, just west of Pascagoula) and found the locals to be generally pleasant and uneducated. Mote that that's a generaliztion, and doesn't necessarily include all Mississippians.



    I don't appreciate being stereotyped and lumped in with the assholes who Radley rightly chooses to focus on. I assumed Mr. Obvious was another bigoted prick like "shrike", except one who hates southerners instead of Christians. It appears I was mistaken. My apologies.

  • Radley Balko||

    The Supreme Court's opinion is at http://www.mssc.state.ms.us/Images/Opinions/CO32002.pdf . It presents a more balanced view of the facts of the case than this post does and would be worth reading before coming to a conclusion.

    I linked to the opinion in the post.

    And I'd hardly call the opinion a "more balanced view of the facts," given that offers no discussion about Hayne's lack of certification, that he was complicit in two recent exonerations, and that there are serious questions about his workload, practices, and credibility.

    In a case where Hayne's opinion of cause of death is being weighted against the opinion of another doctor, you'd think Hayne's credibility would be a pretty critical issue that would merit some analysis in a death penalty opinion.

  • ||

    Jordan, we're cool then.

  • ||

    One other point, I live in Detroit, Michigan

    *snickers*

  • ||

    Brings to mind a song I heard on the radio today...Phil Ochs's Here's to the State of Mississippi:

    And, here's to the judges of Mississippi
    Who wear the robe of honor as they crawl into the court
    They're guarding all the bastions with their phony legal fort
    Oh, justice is a stranger when the prisoners report...

    Whole thing's fantastic...lyrics here, and song available on iTunes or you can get it for free by downloading the 5/30 Fred Dicker Show podcast here and fast forwarding to I'd guess around the 20-25 minute mark..maybe 30..

    Should be the Radley Balko theme song, if I may be so bold as to suggest one.

  • ||

    Awww..Those LITTLE RASCALS, Porky and OUR GANG…tsk tsk…As long as Hayne (Porky) serves up the dishes the DA's (Alfalfa, Buckwheat and Spanky) want…he will be a LIFETIME member…Geez, at $550.00 a WHACK, HAYNE is making a KILLING. (in more than one sense of the word). The Innocence Project has filed a formal complaint against Hayne with the State Board Medical Examiner's Office, demanding the REVOCATION of the license he does hold yet cannot recall WHO certified him. That is because he is NOT certified and either cannot pass the test or has walked out on it. There has NOT been a LICENSED State Board Medical Examiner in Mississippi since 1995. He CLAIMS to do in excess of 1500 -1800 autopsies a year and testifies at 2-4 trials a week. When does this man have a bathroom break? You do the math. He also TESTIFIES UNDER OATH that he is BOARD CERTIFIED…hmmm…isn't that PERJURY? In the Devin Bennett case (he is also on DEATH ROW), Dr. Emily Ward disputed fully…Dr. Hayne's autopsy findings and testimony, she was petitioned against by a Dr. West…who also came under scrutiny on 60 Minutes…and ousted. Seems that is you DISAGREE with the LITTLE RASCALS, you cannot get into the CLUBHOUSE! My question is…WHEN are these people in Mississippi going to wake up from the FOG they are in? Truth is..they KNOW but are afraid to admit that Hayne is unethical, unqualified and incompetent since this would obviously open the floodgates on re-trials and wrongfully convicted lawsuits. Who would've thought? Time to tear the CLUBHOUSE down… and if the 'powers that be' don't have the gonads to do it, I'll see if Walmart has a few left over.

    I truly do NOT believe The Innocence Project would be intervening had there NOT been OVERWHELMING AND TANGIBLE EVIDENCE against Hayne. Other people like former police Chief J.D. Sander tried to call attention to Hayne's escapades as well as others. Already there have been overturned convictions and exonerations from Porky's…er…I mean Hayne's testimony. What the hell is it going to take? A federal court judge's INNOCENT KID strapped on an execution gurney with a needle is their arm? Yours? Ask yourself this question…if YOU were on trial, would YOU want your FATE to DEPEND on Hayne's testimony, knowing what we ALL know? Jeff was never afforded…if you will…an expert to offer an opposing view. Also during the Voir Dire one of the jurors that was eventually selected by Jeff's OWN attorney attorney to sit on the jury (what was HE thinking?) that decided his fate said the following: (Trial transcript, pg.136) [quote]"I don't know him, but I had a niece to be raped-you know- I don't think I could be fair about it, too."[unquote] DUH! That statement even without Hayne's BS should have been enough to overturn the decision.

  • Geotpf||

    Note to self:

    Avoid Mississippi.

    Hell, avoid the entire South. This is an example of why people on the West Coast and in Yankee territory think the south is full of stupid inbred rednecks who have barely discovered the flush toliet.

  • ||

    To Geotpf:

    I am from North Carolina and I can assure you that I am not inbred, rednecked or a hillbilly.

    I am not a scholar but I consider myself a fairly educated and articulate person who has an immense compassion for my fellowman.

    I agree however, that the south has a self-inflicted stigma attached and that some of the people in Mississippi are living in the 19th century when it comes to justice and equality.

    The issue here is to save innocent people's LIVES before it is too late.

    We can comment, blog and write articles all we
    want to. No one is going to listen until as I stated before...a federal judge's INNOCENT KID is strapped to an execution gurney with the needle in his arm...

    Frustrating as it is, I am still fighting with everything in my power and then some. I correspond personally and have talked via the telephone to Devin Bennett who is also on DEATH ROW and INNOCENT.

    I keep close TABS on Jeff Havard also through his friends and family.

    I want to form a RALLY and appear in PERSON on the steps of the FEDERAL COURTHOUSE in Mississippi any time! The sooner, the better.

    Everyone keeps blabbling but the chin music isn't cutting it. They need to SEE the people and that KNOW that WE the PEOPLE, are not going to accept their ignorance or refusal to take action against Hayne.

  • Jeffrey Keith Havard||

    Web posted on behalf of Jeffrey Keith Havard

    Jeffrey Havard Friday,
    As well, I'm blessed to have your continued support, even though the court system would lose a race with cold molasses. Collectively, your patience is greatly appreciated. As for myself, I am doing as well as can be expected here. Sometimes, the difficulties here on death row seem almost greater than my struggle for justice, but I persevere. I have no choice, really, nor do I see any other option. As most of you know, "primary evidence" was recently obtained by my side (for the first time) and tested. Part of the evidence consisted of x-rays which conclusively answers the State's primary question, i.e., why does there appear to be anal trauma (dilation), their contention for the underlying felony? The x-rays (essentially photographic evidence) confirm large amounts of air in the stomach and bowels. Combine this with the "flaccid" condition and abdomen "distension" (noted at the ER the night this tragedy happened) and the anal tissue samples which are negative for trauma (laceration or contusion), and then the answer becomes quite clear as to why medical personnel observed this dilation. Conclusively clear that NO "foul play" (crime) occurred. I just wish this had been THOROGHLY investigated, instead of a rush to judgment. What has it cost both families in this matter? For Chloe's family to be told this horrible thing had happened and, NOW, to find out there was a MEDICAL explanation that should have been told to them before I or my lawyers found out… even before I was charged. This family believed the worst possible thing imaginable…due to a rush to judgment. Forget about my ordeal and what it is costing me. This is about the truth coming out. Finally, what about the waste of tax payer's money for the trial and the long process of costly appeals? A proper investigation would be cheaper in all aspects, don't you think? There are TWO things I'm sure of about the investigation because this "primary evidence" was in the possession of the State: (1) The State DID test or KNOW of this evidence and failed to disclose its exculpatory value (i.e.) proof of innocence, or (2) The State, did NOT bother to test this evidence because of a rush to judgment. I tend to believe in the latter. The former, in my opinion, is much worse. Either way, neither one is proper. I believe in the latter because I sincerely believe they made a mistake because they had "blinders" on. Their minds were set, and they felt they could gain a conviction based on speculation. Their case was essentially: he was there that night, so he had to have caused this some kind of way. In closing arguments, the ADA's statement to the jury: "Ladies and Gentlemen, don't try to figure out what could've caused it" support this. Now, if the State is interested in justice, they have the chance to show that Mississippi is fair and moving in a positive direction. I will close with quotes I draw strength and inspiration from, and I sincerely hope the "deciders) of my fate have read the same and/or share a similar mindset. James Jones wrote in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: "Strength bred of necessity which is the only real strength". Nietzsche said, "Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies", and Marx is quoted as saying, "If the appearance of things coincided with their essence, all science would be superfluous".
    Thanks again for your support,
    Jeff

  • Jack Blake||

    First of all I want to say thank you to Radley for all his support as well as the many others.
    This is all about politics with the election coming, they want the good people of Mississippi to thank they are really do something.
    Not everyone in Mississippi is corrupt, one person that people seem to leave out is the prosecutor for Mississippi and that is Ronnie Harper. He was asked why he is doing this to Jeffrey when he knows he is not guilty and his reply,"Because I know I can."
    From the US Supreme court to all the sectioned parties in the Mississippi government there has to be a change an it all starts with every voter. You have the right to elect whom you want to, know that person and do some investigation.
    Numerous times the governor has had letters sent to him as well as faxes, Ronnie Harper as well. To this date they have not even had the time to respond to the many letters. They sit on their butt and at the tax payer's expense continue to play God with people's life.
    The state kept bringing up about a 1 centimeter bruise on the baby in question, but x-rays show no sign of tears or a bruise.
    In the latest statement by the US Supreme Court thy had the nerve as judges to say that the hospital indicated that the x-rays did not do justice to what they found. What they are saying is all the wounds that the baby was suppose to have got healed on their own in a matter of days.
    Governor Barber is a person that could if he really wanted to check into this case even without being told. As a leader of Mississippi he continues to collect the paycheck for a job that he is not performing.
    You need to focus on one person, sure Hayne does not have his license and should not have been allowed to work in the position that he does, but think about who hired him, they are as much to blame as he is.
    With all the proof that has been brought forth Mississippi has not replaced him and they will never admit they did anything wrong, but they will.
    From Ronnie Harper all the way to the governor's office they will have to answer for all that they have done but could have to set not only Jeffrey but others like Devine Bennett free.
    If I was a resident of Mississippi I would be ashamed of the lack of carelessness they your government has shown.
    It appalls me to think that Jeffrey is sitting in there for something that he has not done and that lies that was told to the family. They have chosen to believe what they have heard not what they actually know. The judges and various other governments as well as the media have brain washed them into thinking that he is a killer.
    I encourage everyone to flood the governor, Ronnie Harper, the Mississippi Supreme Court as well as media with letters, emails, faxes, telephone calla and even visits (If you can get an appointment) about their miscarriage of justice that they continue to let prevail of their lack of thinking.
    If this was someone in their family or a personal friend I can assure you that this would not have gone on this far, they would have got off their lazy butts and done something.
    To them Jeffrey Keith Havard is just another number that they would rather not deal with.
    I personally invite Ronnie, the judges or even the governor to contact me and tell me that they are looking into this or that they are doing their job, because they do not have the balls to stand up for what is right and myself and many others are not going anywhere and we are not backing down.
    I want my email left in so that anyone can contact me.

    Jack Blake
    jblake04@gmail.com

  • Jeffrey Keith Havard||

    Check out the web sites for Jeffrey Havard.

    www.myspace.com/jeffreykeithhavard

    http://www.mississippi-justice.com/Jeffrey_Havard.html


    Please pass them on.
    You need to keep the pressure on by writing,email, faxes, telephone calls, and even one on one talking to people like the governor of Mississippi, newspapers, Missippi Supreme Court, the little evil man that has been one of the many that has lied on Jeffrey Ronnie Harper, television stations, the media.
    Thank you for your continued support.
    Jack Blake
    jblake04@gmail.com

  • ||

    Jack wrote: [excerpt][quote]To them Jeffrey Keith Havard is just another number that they would rather not deal with.[unquote]

    That's alright Jack...I have THEIR NUMBER too!

    And I am a force to be reckoned with...

    Got your e-mail also...thanx!

    As you can see, there are a lot of people who are on his side...the side of truth and justice. Now if we can just see how well everyone can 'back their words' up.

  • Jack Blake||

    Rimfax, you are an idiot like those so called judges in Mississippi that does not know what they are talking about. To you he may not be a hero but for what he has gone through he is in many people's eyes.
    God help anyone in your family or your friends if they make a mistake cause they will be dead.
    Or does this only apply to other people talk about something that you know and less about something that you do not know.
    You would make a good team with the low life cowards like Ronnie Harper, Haynes and some of these other people.
    You without a doubt have no clue only what you have heard so get of your high horse and come back to earth because nobody is perfect on earth.
    jblake04@gmail.com

  • ||

    Tell them the truth....all I can say is you are soooo right Jeff didnt do this.I have known him for years and it isnt in him to do some thing like that and like I told the other person on here if he HAD done it the little girl would have been torn from butt hole to belly button as he is well endowed in that area of his body. Trust me I KNOW from experience. :)

  • ||

    Jack Blake you stated above:

    Not everyone in Mississippi is corrupt, one person that people seem to leave out is the prosecutor for Mississippi and that is Ronnie Harper. He was asked why he is doing this to Jeffrey when he knows he is not guilty and his reply,"Because I know I can."

    I have followed this case and I don't recall Ronnie Harper making that statement. Could you please refresh my memory and tell me when, where, and to whom he made that statement?

  • ||

    Jeff Havard never mentioned he had dropped the child while bathing her. He was taking a bath and washing the bed linens when the mother returned from the store. She found her child blue and not breathing in her crib. Havard did not tell her or ER personnel he had dropped the child. The childs heart rate was returned once she was intubated in the ER. The bruies and anual dilatation were noted once she pinked up with o2 and a heart rate. No rigor mortis had occurred to cause anal dilitation and a rectal thermometer will not cause a nine month old childs anus to become quater size. After all this time Mr. Havard has now come up with a story to fit the crime. I don't know if I believe in the death sentence in any case, but I know I don't believe in Havard's innocence.

  • ||

    I dont know where you got this info as it is very incorrect. I have read ALL court papers (originals) from Jeff himself. I have known him for years on end and he has even kept my son for me from time to time and he would never I mean NEVER do some thing like that. And to be honest and frank about it if he had sexually assulted her then she would have been tore from butt hole to belly button. He is well endowed so if he had done this there would have been proof.
    I can give more info if you would like email me at Mrs_JenniferLuttman@hotmail.com

  • ||

    I am sorry Chloe Britt was only six months old when she was killed. Also not mentioned or explained she had a torn frenum (small ligament holding the upper lip in place). But I suppose this occured as she slipped in the tub. Come on people a lot more occured here than a slip in the tub. This child was sexually assualted and then shaken to death because she was crying and would not stop. Where is the justice for this truely innocent child.

  • ||

    It's almost 3 years later and still no answer to my question Jack Blake. I take it that you can't prove that Mr. Harper ever made such a comment.

  • ||

    I can promise you that Jeff didnt do this. It was an accident. He has watched my kids for me and never have the ever came back with a hair crossed wrong. Jeff if you hear of this I am thinking of you all the time. Just put faith in God for the truth will eventully set you free even if it is in the promise land. I Love You
    Jennifer (Hayes) Luttman

  • دردشة يمنية||

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