Judge: Havard files to remain open

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, September 4, 2013

JACKSON (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request to seal documents in Jeffrey Keith Havard’s appeal of his capital murder conviction and death sentence.

The attorney general’s office made the request in complaint about a Facebook posting by Havard’s attorney. U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett denied the motion Friday

Havard was convicted in 2002 of capital murder and sentenced to death in Adams County for killing a 6-month-old girl.

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Havard was convicted of killing Chloe Madison Britt of Ferriday, La., the daughter of his girlfriend. Prosecutors say the infant’s injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome, but she also had suffered from sexual abuse.

Havard argues his trial in Adams County was flawed. He also argues a new forensic pathologist report suggests the girl died from a fall and not from being shaken.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has twice rejected post-conviction petitions from Havard.

Havard filed an appeal in federal court in Jackson in April.

In its motion, the attorney general’s office argued “Mr. (Graham) Carner’s inability to maintain his professional integrity could compromise a case which is sensitive in nature. The victim in this case is a minor, a 6-month-old girl who was sexually battered before she was murdered. Mr. Carner has already demonstrated he is unable to refrain from speaking about this case to the public.”

On Aug. 23, Carner posted on Facebook: “After responding to an asinine motion filed by the State, which not only wants to kill my client but doesn’t want to be bothered by actually responding to his claims of innocence, I am heartened by the following words penned by Kris Kristofferson.”

Carner then quoted these Kristofferson lyrics:

“And you still can hear me singin’ to the people who don’t listen, to the things that I am sayin’, prayin’ someone’s gonna hear. And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about, are things they could be changin’, hopin’ someone’s gonna care.”

Starrett said the record of the state trial is already available to the public at the courthouse and information on the case has been widely disseminated on the Internet.

“However ill-advised this (Facebook) post may have been, in terms of the standards of professionalism by which lawyers are encouraged to govern themselves, this statement does not give rise, in the Court’s opinion, to a need to seal this record,” Starrett wrote.