Jeffrey Havard currently sits wrongfully convicted on death row in Mississippi for the sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter, Chloe Britt. The truth is the infant slipped from Jeffrey's arms while lifting her from the tub, causing her head to hit the toilet. New expert evidence supports Jeffrey's claims. Chloe’s death was a tragic accident, not a murder. Jeffrey Havard is innocent.
On the evening of February 21, 2002, Jeffrey Havard's live-in girlfriend went to a store to buy groceries, leaving her six-month-old infant, Chloe, in Jeffrey's care. Chloe spit up on her clothing and bedding. Jeffrey gave her a bath, and he accidentally dropped her. Her head struck the toilet.
Chloe did not seem to be seriously injured, so Jeffrey changed her into clean clothes, put her to bed, and said nothing about what had happened. When the baby’s mother first checked on her that evening, she seemed fine. A short time later, however, she discovered that Chloe did not appear to be breathing. She and Jeffrey took the baby to a hospital emergency room, where she died after attempts to resuscitate her failed.
There is no question that Jeffrey exercised bad judgment that night. He should have explained what had happened right away. But he did not want to admit he had dropped the baby, so he said nothing. It was a big mistake. Medical personnel did not know what had triggered the emergency, and they misunderstood what they saw. Serious brain damage often causes a patient's sphincter muscle to relax, so the anus becomes dilated. That was what happened to Chloe. The doctors and nurses treating the baby thought it meant she had been anally raped.
They were not the first medical professionals to misread this condition. Similar allegations have arisen in enough cases to warrant a systematic study of accidental deaths involving children. Researchers found that anal dilation in such cases is a common phenomenon. It is not an indicator of sexual abuse.
The hospital staff who treated Chloe, and the police who were called in to investigate, did not know this. Jeffrey was arrested and held in custody. Two days later, when he finally told police what had happened, the late disclosure only served to damage his credibility. By then, authorities believed he had raped and killed an infant.
This was the story that circulated through the community as well. Rumors took on a life of their own, blurring the line between fact and imagination. By the time Jeffrey was tried, in December 2002, witnesses who had seen the baby at the hospital were recalling injuries that are not shown in photos or recorded in the autopsy report. Defense attorneys did little to challenge these witnesses or explain the medical evidence, which they did not understand themselves. Jeffrey was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in a proceeding that lasted less than two days.
The jury may have reached the only decision they could, because the trial did not clarify the facts of the medical report or what these facts really mean. Two forensic pathologists examined the medical report after the trial, and both concluded that Chloe’s death was accidental. Her autopsy revealed none of the injuries that would surely be present had she been sexually assaulted. Even the prosecution’s medical expert later admitted the evidence does not support a claim of sexual assault. A reasonable jury, presented with the expert opinion that has been gathered since the trial, would have reached a different verdict.
Jeffrey Havard is the first to admit he was guilty of bad judgment on the night Chloe died. He was 22 years old, and he was scared. But he did not commit murder in the course of a sexual assault. He has spent more than a decade on death row, awaiting execution for a crime that never took place.
Death row inmate among many challenging pathologist's findings
Time is running out for Jeff Havard, who is sitting on death row convicted of murder. But now, the man who helped put him there is under fire. "I'm not one to usually use the language, but it's pure hell knowing that unless something comes about, that he could by laying there, you know, and put to death for something that didn't happen," said his Havard's mother, Cheryl Havard Harrell.
What really happened in this case?
Our mission is to add Jeffrey to this photo collage
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood: Please grant Jeffrey Havard a new trial to prove he was wrongfully convicted!
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood Files Motion Attempting To Seal Jeffrey Havard Case
The State of Mississippi filed a motion on Monday requesting that the Jeffrey Havard case be sealed. If this request is granted, it could limit or prohibit a non-party’s remote electronic access to case documents that would normally be public record. Continue reading →
Rethinking Shaken Baby Syndrome
The dispute over shaken baby syndrome is a bitter civil war. On one side, doctors, lawyers and other experts say the diagnosis is key to winning convictions of people accused of the most horrible acts of child abuse. Opponents say the diagnosis is used too freely and that sometimes, innocent people go to prison. Continue reading →
100% of the money collected will be used to support the advocacy efforts for Jeffrey Havard.
Let's Rally for Jeffrey Havard!
New Expert Evidence Could Lead To New Trial In Jeffrey Havard Death Penalty Case
Jen Fitzgerald recently discussed this new evidence with Bruce Fischer on the Injustice Anywhere radio program.
You can listen to the show in the Injustice Anywhere radio archive.
January 20, 2014: The Death of Chloe Britt: Capital murder or accidental fall?
Thousands of Americans are behind bars, convicted of shaking babies to death — and some experts now say the science that put them there is blurry. Continue reading → This article was also featured in the USA Today