Professional explanation of the current status of the Jeffrey Havard case
Written by Attorney Jennifer Fitzgerald, October 14, 2014
Jeff's attorneys just filed his “Rebuttal" to the "State's Response" to his "Amended Motion for Relief From Judgment or Leave to File Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief." In a nutshell, back on November 25, 2013, Jeff filed a Motion with the Mississippi Supreme Court asking them to grant him relief on the basis of newly discovered evidence: the newly discovered evidence being scientific advances made in the fields of medicine and biomechanics which have "debunked" the myth that shaken baby syndrome is a valid scientific theory. Jeff was convicted, in part, based upon the State's allegation that the child's cause of death was shaken baby syndrome, and that Jeff was responsible. Jeff's motion for relief has been pending since that time.
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 Hayne 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 any time during the post-conviction litigation of this case. Essentially, what Hayne revealed was that as a part of his autopsy, he 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).
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 have 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.
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 haven't 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. The state's only expert witness qualified to render an opinion on sexual assault told prosecutors before trial that he did not think there was a sexual assault because he didn't see any evidence of it despite a thorough autopsy. That's not favorable to Jeff's case???
What I have attached is Jeff's attorneys' final Rebuttal to the State's Response to his amended of argument –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.