Of all the wrongful conviction cases I’ve covered, the Jeffrey Havard case has been the most difficult for me to write about. Not because I don’t believe in his innocence; quite the contrary. It is a challenge to discuss it because I believe that as soon as people see that the case involves the death of a 6 month old baby and alleged sexual assault, people shy away from it. It’s important for people to understand this case so I’m going to try to describe it in the simplest form possible – how this could happen to anyone who has ever cared for a child. This case is unique in the fact that no crime occurred. As an advocate for the wrongfully convicted, I typically write about murder cases in which the State convicts the wrong person and much research goes into what really happened to the victim(s) and who may have been responsible for the crime. I do this because the cases are questionable, the evidence doesn’t add up, too many things indicate that the wrong person was convicted of the crime so I (and others) relentlessly pursue all avenues that can potentially free the person. The Havard case is different. It was a devastating tragedy…the loss of a baby girl. When something like this happens, people want answers, people want someone to be held responsible. It’s a way of coping with the tragedy, but in this case there was an irresponsible rush to judgement that has resulted in an innocent man being sentenced to death. It doesn’t get any more serious than that. We can’t let this happen and once one takes the time to look at the facts of this case, it is clear that Chloe’s death was the result of an accidental drop, a slip while being lifted out of the bathtub. It could happen to any one of us.
Imagine what it felt like from Jeffrey’s perspective:
- Imagine holding a baby and experiencing an accident that causes an injury to the child. Chloe hit her head on the toilet after her bath. He dried her, dressed her and she appeared to be fine so she was placed in her crib.
- Imagine a short time later, having to rush the baby to the hospital because she wasn’t breathing.
- Imagine being at the hospital when the hospital staff comes in and tells you the baby died.
- Imagine the shock of being arrested – for murder and taken to jail that night.
- Imagine sitting in court and listening to people accuse you of horrific things – sexual abuse of a baby.
- Imagine that the trial is only two short days and your defense attorneys don’t do anything to counter these outrageous claims.
- Imagine that there isn’t even a defense expert to testify on your behalf.
- Imagine that the jury is only out for a few short hours and returns with a guilty verdict and death sentence.
This is the nightmare that Jeff Havard was subjected to 12 years ago and still he remains on death row in Mississippi. People are fighting hard for him and recently his attorneys filed a motion for relief from judgement. I don’t have a law background but I believe that could result in the reversal of the conviction. The State has been fighting this for years, rejecting his appeals despite many attempts to correct this injustice.
I believe the latest motion will be the one that will finally free Jeffrey Havard. Attached to this motion are the opinions of four medical experts – all with a list of impressive credentials. All concluded that Chloe was not sexually abused as the State alleged. The evidence is irrefutable.
An important note about how the State convicted Jeff:
I believe many are confused about how Havard was convicted of murder in what was alleged to be a shaken baby syndrome (SBS) case with little evidence to support it. I myself had trouble understanding how this happened. I would like to quote from Jeff’s website: Mississippi law allowed the prosecution to argue that the sexual abuse led to the murder. In the court’s view, if Jeffrey committed the abuse, he must be guilty of the murder.
Now that it’s clear that no abuse occurred, the State of Mississippi must grant Jeffrey Havard a new trial or release him. If a jury had been able to hear from these experts at his trial, he would never have been convicted. A tragedy occurred with the death of this child but another tragedy was added to it by placing an innocent man in prison on death row for the past 12 years. It affects so many people – family, friends, the entire community.
The current status of this case is that the State requested another delay to respond to the motion earlier this week. Let’s hope that this is the last delay and that they accept the obvious truth from all of the experts and set Jeffrey Havard free. A lot of people are watching this closely. You can learn more about this case at the website.