Jeffrey Havard

This Man Is on Death Row for Killing a 6-Month-Old. But What If We're Wrong About Shaken Baby Syndrome?

A controversial medical examiner, exaggerated testimony, and bad forensics branded Jeffrey Havard a rapist and a baby killer.


Jeffrey Havard's story began the evening of February 21, 2002, when the Mississippi man was keeping an eye on Chloe, the 6-month-old daughter of his girlfriend, Rebecca Britt. According to Havard, Chloe had spit up on her clothes and bedding, so he gave the girl a bath. As he pulled her up out of the tub, she slipped from his grip and fell. As she fell, her head struck the toilet.

Havard would later say the bump on Chloe's head didn't appear serious, so he dressed her in clean clothes and put her to bed. Not wanting to worry Britt (or perhaps not wanting to anger her), he said nothing about the incident when she returned. When she did get home, Britt checked on the baby, who seemed fine. So she and Havard ate dinner and went about their evening.

Later that night, Chloe stopped breathing. Havard and Britt rushed her to a hospital. She died shortly thereafter.

When the emergency room doctors examined Chloe, they discovered that her anus was dilated—which isn't uncommon in infants shortly after death. It's also common in infants who are still alive but have lost brain function. Unfortunately, though, even trained medical staff sometimes mistake it for sexual abuse.

Medical examiner Steven Hayne performed an autopsy the following evening. In his write-up, he noted a one-centimeter contusion on Chloe's rectum, which he documented in a photograph. The report did not mention any evidence of sexual assault, but Hayne did find symptoms he said were consistent with "shaken baby syndrome."

Havard didn't admit that he'd dropped Chloe until a video-taped interview two days after her death, which meant his story had changed. That, plus statements E.R. staff made about possible sexual abuse and Hayne's shaken baby diagnosis, were enough for local officials to arrest Havard and charge him with capital murder. The district attorney said he would seek the death penalty.

* * *

The concept of shaken baby syndrome has, in fact, come under scrutiny over the last decade. It's obviously true that shaking too hard can kill a fragile newborn—that's not disputed. But prosecutors have become reliant on the idea that if a trio of specific symptoms are found in a dead child, the death could only have been caused by violent shaking. Those symptoms are bleeding at the back of the eye, bleeding in the protective area of the brain, and brain swelling.

This is a convenient diagnosis, since it provides prosecutors with a method of homicide (shaking), a likely suspect (the last person alone with the child), and intent (it is assumed that babies only die this way after exceptionally violent shaking). Yet new research has shown that falls, blows to the head, and even some illnesses and genetic conditions can cause the same set of symptoms. Many medical and legal authorities have therefore concluded that the trio of symptoms shouldn't be the sole basis of a conviction. Even the doctor who first came up with the theory has now expressed doubts about it.

In most shaken baby syndrome cases, prosecutors would first file murder charges, then later allow the defendant to plead down to a lesser charge like manslaughter. But sometimes they've gotten a murder conviction.

In recent years, thanks to increasing doubt around the diagnosis, a number of these shaken baby convictions have been overturned, and many more are under review. A 2015 study by The Washington Post and Northwestern University's Medill Justice Project found more than 2,000 cases in which a defendant was charged with shaking a child. Of those, 200 have either been acquitted, had the charges dropped, or had their convictions overturned. The National Registry of Exonerations lists 14 people convicted because of a shaken baby diagnosis who were later cleared.

Without DNA testing, however, it can be nearly impossible to overcome faulty forensic testimony—even when, on close examination, it turns out the courts went out of their way not to see problems with the arguments they were accepting.

* * *

After Jeffrey Havard was arrested, the court assigned him a public defender. His attorney asked the district court judge for funds to hire his own forensic pathologist, but the judge turned him down, finding that there was no need for a separate pathologist when Hayne was available.

Hayne has since come under intense scrutiny for taking on improbable workloads and for giving testimony that at times has stretched the bounds of science. In fact, courts have thrown out his testimony in several cases, and he has been barred from doing autopsies for the state of Mississippi. In another shaken baby syndrome trial six years after Havard's conviction—well after the problems with the diagnosis were known—Hayne cited a study that does not appear to exist, and referred to a forensic pathology textbook that says the precise opposite of what he claimed in court. "I don't know how he could have honestly misread it," the textbook's author would later declare.

Even at the time of Havard's trial, there was good reason for the defense attorney to want a second opinion. In other cases, Hayne had admitted under oath to doing 1,500 or more autopsies each year—nearly five times the absolute maximum recommended by the National Association of Medical Examiners. But the state's courts and prosecutors had been relying on Hayne for 15 years. Havard would have to rely on him, too.

Though he had no prior history of abusing or molesting children, by the time Havard's trial began 10 months later, word had spread around Adams County, Mississippi, that he was a pedophile and baby killer.

Studies have shown not only that an eyewitness's memory can change over time, but that memories can be significantly altered with the acquisition of new information. Research supporting the idea of "reconstructive memory" in fact goes all the way back to the 1930s and the work of cognitive psychology pioneer Frederic Bartlett.

This appears to be what happened in Havard's case, as some witnesses' memories grew considerably more vivid by the time of his trial. Jurors heard the sheriff, the coroner, and the hospital staff describe "tears," "rips," "lacerations," and other injuries to the child's anus. Some claimed to have seen blood. Two nurses said it was the worst example of anal trauma they had ever witnessed. Yet once the infant had been cleaned off, Hayne's autopsy photos showed no rips, tears, lacerations, or similar injuries anywhere on the girl's rectum—only the dilation and small contusion.

Even the doctor who first came up with shaken baby syndrome has now expressed doubts about it.

Despite his own photos, and despite the fact that his autopsy notes made no mention of sexual abuse, Hayne played up the bruise at trial. He told the jury that it was an inch long rather than a centimeter, as his report had said. While he conceded that he had found no tears or lacerations, he speculated that rigor mortis (the tightening of muscles after death) could have caused the girl's rectum to close and that this could have hidden any tears or cuts from his view. If he had really believed that, Hayne could have accounted for the possibility in his autopsy and looked more closely. He did neither. When asked what might have caused the small bruise, Hayne volunteered, "penetration of the rectum by an object."

The examiner also testified that he'd found the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome and could conclude that Chloe had been "violently shaken" to death. To emphasize the point, Hayne and the prosecutor exchanged the phrase "violently shaken" an additional six times.

The defense attorney wasn't exactly aggressive. The prosecution called 16 witnesses, whose testimonies comprise 261 pages of the trial transcript. Havard's lawyer called a single witness, a nurse at the E.R., whose testimony takes up three pages. The state didn't even bother to cross-examine him.

It's hardly surprising, then, that the jury convicted Havard and sentenced him to die. The entire trial, deliberation, guilty verdict, sentencing trial, deliberation, and death sentence took two days.

* * *

Havard's case was taken up by the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, an institution the state had set up to guarantee that indigent defendants in death penalty cases receive adequate legal representation. That office had funding to hire its own experts, so Havard's new attorneys asked former Alabama state medical examiner James Lauridson to review Hayne's autopsy and trial testimony.

Lauridson found a number of problems. Most notably, he found no evidence of sexual abuse at all.

His report pointed to medical literature documenting the fact that the anus often dilates in infants shortly after death, and that this is often mistaken for sexual abuse. It disputed Hayne's contention about rigor mortis and speculated that the E.R. staff likely mistook the exposed lining of the girl's rectum for blood. Lauridson initially had difficulty getting his hands on the slides containing the tissue samples Hayne had taken; when he did receive them, after his initial report had already been submitted, he found nothing to suggest sexual abuse.

None of these opinions mattered for Havard's direct appeal. In a 2006 ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court delivered a brutal one-two punch. The justices first upheld the trial judge's decision to deny Havard funds to hire his own forensic pathologist, finding that the defense attorneys had failed to show why an independent medical examiner was necessary. They then explained that because Lauridson's affidavit wasn't submitted during the original trial, they were barred from considering it. Thus, the court unanimously upheld Havard's conviction and death sentence.

Havard's first post-conviction appeal came two years later. In these proceedings, a defendant has more leeway to introduce new evidence, but the bar to be granted a new trial is also set much higher.

This time, the court had to at least consider Lauridson's affidavit. And it did—but not all that carefully. In his majority opinion, Justice George Carlson wrote that Lauridson "opined in his affidavit 'that there is a possibility that Chloe Madison Britt was not sexually assaulted.'" Carlson then wrote, "Taking this statement to its logical conclusion, this leaves open the possibility that she was."

In reality, the phrase "there is a possibility," which Carlson put in quotes, doesn't appear anywhere in Lauridson's affidavit. What the examiner actually wrote was: "The conclusions that Chloe Britt suffered sexual abuse are not supported by objective evidence and are wrong." He did add that he couldn't definitively say there were no signs of sexual abuse, because that would require examination of Hayne's tissue slides—and at the time of his original report, he still didn't have access to them. When he finally saw the slides, however, he was much more conclusive, writing that there was "no histological evidence of contusion or laceration" on the child's colon or anus and that "these findings further strengthen the conclusions of my report."

Nonetheless, Justice Carlson mischaracterized Lauridson's report throughout his opinion. It was arguably a more forceful brief for the state than those submitted by the prosecutors themselves. By an 8–1 vote, Havard's appeal was denied and his conviction and sentence were upheld.

* * *

In late 2011, Havard's attorneys asked for a new trial. In the intervening years, Hayne had carefully changed his opinion: "Based upon the autopsy evidence available regarding the death of Chloe Britt," the medical examiner wrote in a declaration for Havard's lawyers, "I cannot include or exclude to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that she was sexually assaulted." He also acknowledged that a dilated anus is not in itself evidence of sexual abuse.

Even here, Hayne was hard to pin down, managing to reframe his trial testimony without directly contradicting it. He now claimed that he had never explicitly said Chloe was sexually assaulted—he'd merely said her injuries were consistent with that possibility, then speculated that one method of assault could have been "penetration of the rectum by an object." That wasn't entirely wrong, though the "penetration" line had to have been pretty damning for Havard. The prosecutor did do most of the heavy lifting to advance the assault narrative, often by citing the observations of the E.R. staff, sheriff, and coroner. For most of his testimony, Hayne merely acquiesced, even though he knew he'd found no biological material from Havard on or in the child, and even though the only anal trauma he'd seen was the small bruise.

A credible and conscientious medical examiner should have said at trial what Hayne said in his declaration a decade later. A credible and conscientious medical examiner wouldn't have allowed his own testimony to be used by a prosecutor to mislead a jury, even if that testimony wasn't technically false. But Hayne wasn't a credible and conscientious medical examiner.

The Mississippi Supreme Court again denied Havard relief. Justice Carlson again wrote the opinion.

Since Hayne hadn't explicitly testified at trial that Chloe had been sexually abused, Carlson argued, his 2012 declaration stating he had found no evidence of abuse wasn't really new evidence. Of course, in his 2008 opinion, Carlson had described Lauridson's conclusion that the dilated anus was not indicative of sexual abuse as "contrary to that of Dr. Hayne." Hayne may not have said the dilation was caused by sexual assault, in other words—but his testimony was so suggestive of it that even Carlson at the time seemed to think it was Hayne's position.

It took Havard's original jury less than two days to deliberate, convict him based on flawed evidence, hear arguments regarding the appropriate punishment, deliberate again, and sentence him to death. It took 13 years for the courts to admit that a small portion of the evidence might have been scientifically unsound.

In two rulings handed down just four years apart, the same state Supreme Court justice had found that Hayne's testimony supported the jury's finding of sexual assault and that Hayne never explicitly testified that a sexual assault had taken place.

Absurdly, Carlson additionally claimed that the examiner's 2012 declaration wasn't new evidence because it was "duplicative" of the Lauridson affidavit that the court had dismissed in 2008. Between the two opinions, then, he managed to assert that Lauridson's affidavit contradicted Hayne's trial testimony; that there was no substantial difference between Hayne's trial testimony and his updated declaration; and yet that Hayne's updated declaration duplicated Lauridson's affidavit.

Logically, these three things can't possibly all be true. Two affidavits can't be both duplicative of and contrary to one another. But Carlson stated exactly that, and so did his fellow justices. For the third time, Mississippi's Supreme Court denied Havard's petition.

* * *

Over the next several years, the state's case against Havard continued to deteriorate. Two more forensic pathologists reviewed the case and wrote scathing reports deriding Hayne's work, as did an engineer who had studied the mechanics of shaken baby syndrome. By 2013, Havard's situation had also attracted popular attention. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger and the Huffington Post had both published articles about him, and a website and Facebook page maintained by Havard's friends and family were generating outrage over his conviction.

Meanwhile, Hayne was garnering less-welcome attention. His testimony in several other cases had been criticized by fellow forensic pathologists. In 2008, he was effectively fired as the de facto medical examiner of Mississippi—partially in response to a 2006 investigation in Reason by Balko, a co-author of this piece. State officials including Attorney General Jim Hood were soon facing calls to review Hayne's work, although they steadfastly resisted.

Havard's attorneys were also pursuing his claims in federal court during this period. In August 2013, Hood's office filed a motion to seal that case—to prohibit the public from seeing any further filings or proceedings. The state claimed the motion was sparked by a Facebook post from one of Havard's lawyers, who had complained that Mississippi didn't "want to be bothered by actually responding to his claims of innocence." But the state's brief itself revealed the real motivation: Havard's case "had become a public spectacle."

Hood said his office had received letters from Havard's supporters and expressed concern that the letters were similarly worded, which he claimed showed the authors had all gotten their information from the same source. Why this was a grave matter isn't exactly clear. There's nothing inherently wrong with citizens petitioning their elected officials. In the end, not only did the federal court reject the attorney general's motion but the motion itself became a news story, fueling speculation that the state had something to hide.

In 2014, Hayne appeared to walk back his trial testimony even further. In an interview with the Clarion-Ledger, he said he'd never believed Chloe Britt had been sexually assaulted. The following July, he filed another affidavit with Havard's trial attorneys, this time claiming he had explicitly told prosecutors on more than one occasion that he could not support such a finding. Havard's attorneys said this information was never turned over to them.

Someone wasn't telling the truth. At Havard's trial, the prosecutor had informed jurors that Hayne would "testify for you about his findings and about how he confirmed the nurses' and doctors' worst fears—this child had been abused and the child had been penetrated." Now, all this time later, Hayne was claiming he'd told prosecutors precisely the opposite.

If true, that would be a major violation on the part of the state. Hayne's statement would have been exculpatory information, and prosecutors would have been obligated to share it with the defense. Hayne was the only medical examiner to testify, and the alleged sexual assault was a major part of the state's case and the aggravating factor that allowed Mississippi to seek the death penalty.

It's hard not to wonder: If Hayne really knew all along that the state had persuaded a jury to convict someone of an assault he never believed happened, why did he wait 13 years—and until three other forensic pathologists had filed affidavits for Havard's defense—before speaking up?

* * *

In April 2015, Havard finally caught a break. Justice Carlson had retired, and the Mississippi Supreme Court gave Havard's lawyers permission to request an evidentiary hearing on the scientific validity of shaken baby syndrome.

The court still rejected Havard's challenge to the allegations of sexual abuse. The ruling wasn't an exoneration, and it wasn't a new trial. It was a three-paragraph order allowing Havard to ask a trial court judge to hold a hearing about the soundness of the evidence that had been used against him. It was a modest win, but it at least put his execution on hold.

In June 2016, a circuit court judge granted his request. If Havard could convince the court that shaken baby syndrome is not a scientifically reliable diagnosis, he would finally get a new trial.

Public Affairs

That hearing occurred in August 2017. Hayne testified that he no longer believed in the shaken baby diagnosis. The renowned forensic pathologist Michael Baden also testified for Havard's defense, saying he didn't believe Chloe Britt had been shaken. In keeping with the state supreme court's ruling, the judge refused to allow any testimony casting doubt on the alleged sexual assault.

It took Havard's original jury less than two days to deliberate, convict him based on flawed evidence, hear arguments regarding the appropriate punishment, deliberate again, and sentence him to death. It took 13 years for the courts to admit that a small portion of the evidence might have been scientifically unsound. It took another 14 months for the trial court judge to agree to hold a hearing on the matter, and 14 months more until the hearing itself. As of press time, the judge had yet to issue a decision.

It's often said that the wheels of justice grind slowly. That isn't always true. When it comes to convicting people, they can move swiftly indeed. It's when the system needs to correct an injustice—to admit and address its mistakes—that the gears tend to sputter to a halt.

For now, Jeffrey Havard remains on death row.

This article has been adapted from their new book, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South, by permission from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group Inc. Copyright © 2018

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  1. Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne

    Mississippi “medical examiner” Steven Hayne. The guy’s a crook and a liar and a fraud, he’s no medical examiner.

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  2. The dilated anus that is American justice.

  3. Interesting article. However nothing in the article indicates that Havard was not accused of a sex crime in addition to shaking the baby. Since accusation is equivalent to guilt in sex crimes committed by men, the whole point is moot. Refer to Title IX.

    1. Yeah, the title is misleading. The shaken baby syndrome doesn’t really get overturned that I can see and wasn’t exactly misdiagnosed.

      The allegation that the child was sexually assaulted seems unplausible, completely fabricated, and to have significantly influenced the escalation of the child’s death from manslaughter/negligence/wrongful death to capital murder.

  4. I’m supposed to believe this motherfucker not only raped a baby but that he then he shook the baby to death all in an afternoon. I’m sorry but it’s just not credible. They either do one or the other.

    1. Maybe it was rough sex?

      1. Aren’t you disgusting.

    2. Unfortunately, in the past 10 years I have taken care of 3 infants in the pediatric ICU who were all raped and shaken. I agree that most commonly it is one or the other and to see both is rare, but it does happen.

      1. UGH. What the ever-living f*ck? Why would anyone ever do that to an infant? I read stories, but I just can never understand how it’s even physically possible, or why the thought would cross the mind of even the most deviant human being.

  5. new research has shown that falls, blows to the head, and even some illnesses and genetic conditions can cause the same set of symptoms. Many medical and legal authorities have therefore concluded that the trio of symptoms shouldn’t be the sole basis of a conviction.

    Should it be the sole basis of a conviction even without the new research?

    1. Should it be the sole basis of a conviction even without the new research?

      Well, while he didn’t exactly confess to murder, there is apparently a confession from the suspect as to having caused or been responsible for a short fall and/or blow to the head.

      The sexual assault rap is completely bogus and capital murder is exceedingly trumped up. However, my heart doesn’t bleed for a caretaker who drops an infant and doesn’t seek medical intervention or inform the parents.

      1. As a dad, I can say that it is very easy for a wet baby to slip out of your hands. If the girl didn’t cry much, he might have thought the fall was not a big deal. But prosecutors, as perhaps the most power-mad of all politicians, want to get re-elected, and sending a baby rapist and killer to the chair is pure gold for this.

        1. As a dad, I can say that it is very easy for a wet baby to slip out of your hands. If the girl didn’t cry much, he might have thought the fall was not a big deal.

          I’m a father of three and an older brother. Six stitches personally and my brother has had at least half a dozen concussions and more stitches than I can remember. Both of us have scars from wounds that probably should’ve been sutured. So far for my broodlings, a total of 18 stitches across all three of them. The youngest was 3 when he, repeatedly and despite our warnings and protests, insisted on standing up in the bath tub. He didn’t shed a tear from the time he fell until after the 6th and final suture was in his chin. He only complained once that his tongue hurt where he bit it. The very next night, he was standing up in the bathtub again.

          I’m not complaining that the child fell. I’m complaining that someone was charged with the care of a child and that, even with the questionable diagnosis (that doesn’t exactly refute anything), admitted to both being the cause of a/the fall and then somewhere between simply omitting and lying about it. It’s pretty clearly somewhere between wrecklessness and negligence.

          1. I don’t know. I can see how someone would initially think the fall wasn’t a big deal. The baby cried a bit then seemed fine. She had a bottle and got sleepy so he put her to bed. Mom checks on her later, she seems fine. Then she dies. I can see how someone would be both devastated but also afraid that they caused the death by dropping and not immediately admit to it. It sucks, but that is human nature. You realize you screwed up, but really it was an honest screw up and you just don’t want to take the heat for an honest screw up when you thought you were doing everything right at the time. I can see someone doing that and not really blame them for it.

            Besides, have you seen the kinds of people who are allowed to have kids these days? They aren’t always that bright. I’m surprised we don’t have many more cases of just borderline negligence and manslaughter like this seems to have been.

            1. Mom checks on her later, she seems fine.

              Distinctly without the knowledge that she’d been dropped.

              I can see someone doing that and not really blame them for it.

              Great, convince 11 of his peers that should be the case and the matter is resolved. As you say, we’ve all heard enough cases where kids have ‘accidents’ repeatedly until somebody dies or winds up in jail. I don’t mean to assume the guy’s guilty or predispose anyone to a conviction but we do have a body as evidence.

      2. I have four kids, and they each have fallen and bumped their heads multiple times. A couple of times they have slipped from my hands. Each slip and bump is different; I have called 911 (which is a scary proposition, by the way: there’s the fear that the emergency responder might report it as child abuse, or decide that because the home isn’t perfectly spotless, there’s neglect), and I have taken kids to the ER or at least to InstaCare. More often than not, I evaluate the situation and decide that the bump doesn’t warrant medical attention.

        Yes, I generally try to tell my wife, and I’m sure she generally tries to tell me, when these things happen. But they happen often enough that there are probably times that I haven’t told her, and probably times she hasn’t told me.

        1. More often than not, I evaluate the situation and decide that the bump doesn’t warrant medical attention.

          Again, between my wife and I (older brother, farm kid, wrestler/boxer/football player) I’m very much the ‘rough and tumble’ father and wholly agree with you. We’ve been to the emergency room for diagnoses that I’ve made at home and I’ve waved off trips because of injuries that the ER or urgent care “won’t treat”.

          My point is, they guy was charged with her care and it’s not very questionable that his actions contributed to her death (Is there another COD on the table? Is there an assertion that some *other* fall led to the ‘shaken baby’ result? We aren’t just pretending the kid’s eyes/brain started spontaneously swelling and bleeding, right?). The very sort of act that very well may be judged as wrecklessness/endangerment/negligence. This isn’t our usual libertarian victimless crime.

          1. Your statements make no sense. “The very sort of act that very well may be judged as wrecklessness/endangerment/negligence.” No. Dropping a wet baby is not negligence. He checked on her, she seemed ok. The mother looked at her, she seemed ok. Head injuries are sometimes more serious than they initially appear. It doesn’t matter that he was “charged with her care.”

            1. He checked on her, she seemed ok.

              So, are you arguing that this was the correct diagnosis or good judgement?

              The mother looked at her, she seemed ok.

              The mother, presumably, looked at a sleeping baby; not the victim of head trauma.

              You people seem to be conflating something that is actually a bit of a repugnant outcropping of what Balko and Carrington (and their sources) are saying/advocating. There are cases where baby’s brains swells and bleeds for ‘natural’ reasons. This isn’t one of them. There are cases where shaken baby syndrome is used to convict the closest person to the child at the TOD whether they dropped or shook the kid or not. This isn’t one of those.

              The guy dropped the kid, didn’t tell anyone, and the kid died. If you asked me to watch your car, jumped it off a railroad overpass such that it tore a hole in the oil pan and, the next time you started it, the engine seized, it would certainly be a civil issue and the idea that it’s a criminal issue isn’t unfounded either. Especially if I told you nothing happened.

          2. This is not a case of negligence or reckless endangerment, it was an accident, plain and simple.

            As to cause of death, this was not a healthy child, she had a myriad of health issues that have been shown in other cases to present as Shaken Baby Syndrome.

            The poor little thing had two brain bleeds that had not healed from a vacuum birth. She was also on a medication that causes excessive bruising and bleeding, that to this day is not approved to be used for children under 12.

            This was a monumental screw up in the ER that was compounded by a malicious prosecution.

            1. As to cause of death, this was not a healthy child, she had a myriad of health issues that have been shown in other cases to present as Shaken Baby Syndrome.

              The poor little thing had two brain bleeds that had not healed from a vacuum birth. She was also on a medication that causes excessive bruising and bleeding, that to this day is not approved to be used for children under 12.

              This was a monumental screw up in the ER that was compounded by a malicious prosecution.

              Weird that the article would leave all this out. Got a link?

              1. Matter of fact, administering medication unapproved for children under 12 to a baby with brain bleeding six months after a vacuum delivery (our third son was delivered similarly) itself sounds criminal.

                1. Agreed. I think the pediatrician is guilty of malpractice.

                  The medication is called trimethoprin.

                  The child’s head was in the 95 percentile, which is scary large, and there is no indication in the medical records that she had referred the baby to a specialist.

                  The child had thrush in he mouth that she had since she was two months old that never cleared up until her death. Have you ever seen a kid with thrush? It’s so painful that they can’t eat. It usually clears up with medication in a day or two. This poor child got used to the pain.

                  Chloe was never “well.” Read Dr. Janice Ophoven’s opinion.

                  All this, aside from the fact that the trial he received was not even close to fair, should give anyone pause.

              2. Not weird, this is not an article, it’s an excerpt from a book.

                All original case documents and expert opinions, medical records, autopsy report, including Haynes slow revelations are available on

                Radley Balko has written much about this case before, you could google, The Clarion Ledger and Natchez Democrat archives if you prefer. Either way, the truth is out there.

      3. However, my heart doesn’t bleed for a caretaker who drops an infant and doesn’t seek medical intervention or inform the parents.

        Happens a lot more than you think, often by one of the parents (ahem – the dad).

        The question you should ask yourself is if this unfortunate situation should be punishable by the state by caging and torture. That’s the current standard.

        1. I take care of a lot of kids who get dropped, usually onto the floor which would be a longer fall than to the toilet seat, and they do not have the type injuries described. The article was short on details but for a fall of 2-3 feet to result in anything other than some superficial swelling (or at most a skull fracture) is extremely unlikely.

          The sexual assault seems like garbage based on the information provided, but the head trauma is what killed this child.

          Testing is possible for the genetic causes and the number/distribution of retinal hemorrhages are key to identifying shaken babies, none of which are mentioned but are definitely needed when assessing these cases.

      4. There was no confession in his statement.

        The State tried to advance that at Havards ridiculously insufficient trial in 2002, but the judge ruled the statement was not a confession.

        No, it hasn’t been overturned, the circuit court judge will be ruling shortly.

        Jeff Havard did not violently shake or abuse Chloe Britt in any way, and the evidence confirms that.

        1. There was no confession in his statement.

          So the statement Havard didn’t admit that he’d dropped Chloe until a video-taped interview two days after her death is a lie and there is no video tape? Again, cannot render judgement on evidence not possessed, got a link?

          1. Sure, I just gave you links.

            There was no confession to “violent shaking” that the prosecution tried to advance at trial.

            He said the baby slipped out of his arms.

            If you’re really interested, check out the mothers statement compared to her trial testimony.

  6. I, for one, appreciate the death penalty: sometimes the evidence is clear enough, and the crime is horrendous enough, that it is clearly justified. Being the so-called anarcho-capitalist type that I am, though, I’m inclined to think that in such cases, the murderer shouldn’t be executed by the State, but be let free, with the understanding that it is now legal for the families of the murdered victims (and any advocates for the murder victim, an organization for helping the homeless, say, for those who are drifters and have no family) to do anything, up to and including murder and torture, to the person convicted.

    Having said that, this is the type of case that anti-murder-penalty types like to hold up and say “See, we might execute innocent people!” And I can’t help but think, “you know, you’re right: but you seem to only care about this case because the guy is on death row. What would have happened to this guy had he been given mere life with no parole? Would he be getting your attention?”
    (to be continued…)

    1. (…continued)
      And cases like this disgust me. Sure, the guy wasn’t executed. Hooray that he didn’t get murdered in prison, too, or that he didn’t get sick and die. But now he’s had 13 years (more, because the ordeal isn’t over) taken away from him. While it’s impossible to say how he’s been treated in prison, there are many people who are happy that it isn’t uncommon that pedophiles get raped while there. When he’s released, he’s going to have to deal with the reputation of a guy who has raped and murdered a 6-month-old girl, because an exoneration isn’t going to clear out the allegations that have been made in the media.

      My concern about the Innocence Project is that they seem to be focused on only one thing: get rid of the death penalty, pretty much at all costs. (There’s evidence that “at all costs” has even included framing someone else to get someone off death row.) Where is the concern about how these convictions happened in the first place? How many other innocent people are languishing in prison, serving life without parole, or 20-year sentences, or even having to deal with the aftermath of a 1-year misdemeanor or felony charge, despite the flimsy evidence from the State and the corrupt plea-bargaining used to obtain convictions (which as often as not are used to make charges go away, rather than to truly admit to guilt)?
      (to be continued…)

      1. (…continued)
        Our “justice” system is seriously screwed up, but not enough people (me included, despite this rant) seem to be willing to dig into the nitty-gritty details to determine how these screw ups are happening, and how we might fix the system to keep them from happening.

        (I, for one, would be happy to get rid of plea bargaining altogether — although not a factor in this particular miscarriage of justice — because for all intents and purposes, it nullifies our right to a trial by jury.)

        1. “I, for one, would be happy to get rid of plea bargaining altogether”

          I’ll join you on that one.

        2. I certainly appreciate your position. However, because time and resources are limited can we really complain that people focus on the death penalty rather than all wrongful convictions? There are orgs out there that work to help correct wrongful convictions that aren’t bound for capital punishment. If I were to try and undo one particular bad law, isn’t that a net positive even in the face of the bad laws I am not focused on?

          Granted, if what you say regarding the framing of others is true, that in and of itself is bad. But it doesn’t undermine the sentiment of trying to end capital punishment.

          Think of it like triage. Death row inmates have much less time to be “treated” before death sets in than lifers. That doesn’t mean lifers can’t and aren’t victims of injustice. But there is a larger margin of error (generally… I suppose they could be old) in terms of how quickly they need attention.

          In a better world both sets of wrongfully convicted (Death row and lifers or even limited sentences) would have large amounts of resources deployed for their cause. In a perfect world they wouldn’t even exist. Unfortunately we don’t live in either of those scenarios.

          1. The thing is, by focusing on the death penalty (which as I said before, I’m actually partial to), we’re losing track the bigger issue at hand: the degree to which we suffer injustice in general. We would do far better to root out and expose the causes of this injustice, and to fix those, particularly since death penalty cases for even the obviously guilty are typically drawn out.

            What good does it do us to get rid of the death penalty (which is what the “Innocence Project” is out to do) if all that does is shift the innocent to life sentences, who then languish in their cells for the rest of their lives? Shouldn’t we be spending resources on figuring out how we can keep the innocent out of the nets of prosecutors in the first place?

            1. I agree that more resources need to be used for better services to initially acquit the innocent, though I must disagree with you about the “Innocence Project.”

              The Innocence Project began taking cases that were DNA based, not death row cases alone.

              According to The National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 2177 exonerations in the US. Since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in the late 1970’s, there have been 106 death row exonerations, 47 of those were DNA based.

              There have actually been, I believe,162 people released from death rows across the country, the difference being that not all were declared innocent (for example Arkansas’ Damien Echols took an Alford Plea).

              The Innocence Project does take some cases that are not DNA based.They are not just an organization out to save wrongfully convicted Death Row Inmates.

              For the record, Jeffrey Havard has court appointed attorneys.

              Also, the number of exonerations, obviously, are not all from The Innocence Project.

        3. I can answer the question pretty easily for you. It *can’t* be fixed. If you’re an “anarcho-capitalist” type, you probably realize that.

          Can less damage be done by the criminal justice system? Probably. That would require that they prosecute and convict fewer people generally. It’s a basic numbers game. If your criminal justice system sucks balls (and every criminal justice system in the history of the world has…), then the less you apply it to stuff the less damage it will do.

          I say the same thing about sports. People complain about the refs all the time. But then these leagues go and implement MORE rules with MORE complexities. The people who are instituting new rules think they’re improving the game, but they’re almost invariably not improving it. They live in a theoretical world where human error can be “fixed”. Once we acknowledge that you can’t fix everything, then we’ll accept that making the rules more overbearing and more complex is almost universally a bad idea.

          1. Indeed.

            I have personally toyed with the idea of getting rid of prison altogether, probably in favor of a fine-based system, where the funds of the fines go to the victims, or in some cases, the victims of their families. (As I said before, for “death penalty” cases, I believe that it should be legal for the families/advocates of the victim to perform the deed themselves.)

            For that matter, I would go above and beyond getting rid of civil forfeiture, and require that *none* of the fines go to the State, that all fines should go to funds supporting victims related to the crime. (I would say “related” because it’s not clear how parking tickets should go to all the people who couldn’t get a parking space; however, it would make a certain amount of sense to give those funds to those who were injured or killed in car accidents in general). Having the State profit from fines is a clear conflict of interest. We shouldn’t be comfortable with a government that profits from our “wrongdoing”…

            Of course, if I tried to propose such things to a city council, or a State legislature, people would wonder what planet I came from, and where I was hiding my second head and my tentacles…

            1. I think this idea might work for more minor offenses or some types of crimes, particularly non-violent crimes, but most people still feel that it’s best to get some people who are a true danger to others off of the street. I don’t think a fine-based system would deter a wife beater or child molestor, or a gang member.

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  8. I have seen an unfounded action by a local sheriff. I guess he knew better than us doctors who cared for the baby. I think it is difficult to say it is shaken baby after CPR induces changes in the brain! But, we should always respect the diagnosis of the untrained LE!…(;-P

  9. The judges just want to make sure that no one questions the infallibility of incompetent judges, incompetent prosecutors, and incompetent medical examiners.

  10. So a man shacks up with a single mother and then gets the death penalty. Talk about a cuckold!

  11. Okay, serious question. Is “the shaking babies” or “the shaken babies” a better band name? Thats a local issue where I could affect real change.

  12. Radiology has some findings considered as highly specific for child abuse. This includes “corner fractures” a type of metaphyseal growth plate fracture of long bones. In general fractures in this age group are common.

    Another is posterior rib fractures, anterior costochondral rib fractures, or multiple rib fractures of varying age.

    In any case underlying conditions such as osteogenesis imperfecta or rickets must be ruled out and the reported mechanism of injury must be considered as to to pattern.

    In head injury it is more ambiguous. Striking the head such as from a fall or dropped child can produce skull fractures, or any number of bleeding patterns which are not in themselves indicative of abuse. Multiple bleeds of varying age is suspect and again underlying pathology or other explanation must be explored.

    Head injury severity is difficult to diagnose especially in young children. It is a big deal in medicine as to what to do with a child with symptoms of concussion.

    Published review here

    Thing I see here without the medical evidence is that the defense was not given the opportunity to produce expert witnesses who may have been able to contradict the coroner.

    1. Just to add. Key in this case is from the article linked to.

      “The term shaken baby syndrome has become entrenched and comes all too easily after 30 years of use. Although shaking is likely to be an important factor in abusive head injury, contact injuries and injury during the acceleration that accompanies impact are often found but are not strictly consistent with the diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome. Physicians who use the term shaken baby syndrome must understand both the foundation and the controversies surrounding the shaking hypothesis. Additional injuries not explained within the shaking hypothesis must be explained by additional or alternate diagnoses. It is important that abusive injury be recognized as abuse independent of the biomechanical controversies.”

    2. The child had no skull fracture, neck injuries or fractures associated with grip marks.

      She wasn’t shaken, and she wasn’t sexually abused.

      She had two unhealed and one partially healed cephalohematomas from a vacuum birth, among a myriad of other medical issues.

      Havards trial defense attorneys not only did not go speak to Hayne, as the judge instructed them, they consulted no one with medical knowledge at all, (in fact, none of the attorneys representing Havard spoke to Hayne until 2009, seven years after trial).

      Dr. Janice Ophoven said at the evidentiary hearing in August 2017, …when you read the reports it sounds bad, but when you look at the baby, she looks fine. A little baby that has been manhandled doesn’t look like that…

      Dr. Michael Baden said at that same hearing that when the person who was with the baby gives an early account that matches the autopsy, it gives great credibility towards innocence, in his opinion.

      The trial attorneys reliance on the State for the facts of the case allowed the State to elicit testimony they KNEW TO BE FALSE from Hayne and from others.

      The loss of a child is a horrible, unthinkable thing, but in Havards case, the crime was committed by the State.

    3. Boy, things really go downhill during the weekend here.

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  15. Gods, what happens in the world! The story is worthy of the police series. Sincerely sorry for the child.

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  17. “I notice waning interest on the gun-printing forums.”

    That’s because 3D printing wasn’t the revolution the media made it out to be. It was an evolutionary step, not so much a revolutionary step. I’m not suggesting it was an insignificant evolution, but all it did was bring technology that had long been available in the industrial sphere to the home user.

    And like any technology that becomes affordable from the industrial sphere that trickles down to the home users fear, the quality and precision of materials you can craft are commensurate with the price.

    I’m not saying the 3D printing in the home has no value, I believe it has all the potential value that Cody Wilson says it does, but it’s going to be a few years before people are cranking out high-quality items, be they guns or whatever.

    1. Not sure how I ended up posting on this forum, but I blame Android.

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