• 59°

Havard: Being off death row not enough; new trial warranted

 

NATCHEZ — A man convicted of capital murder in the death of a 6-month-old girl in 2002 is not content with being taken off of death row, where he has resided for 16 years.

Just days after the State of Mississippi decided to drop its pursuit of the death penalty in his case, Jeffrey Havard maintains his innocence and wants a new trial.

In a recording shared by Havard’s family, Havard questioned Sixth Circuit District Attorney Ronnie Harper’s decision not to pursue the death penalty again after a judge ruled earlier this month that Havard should receive a new sentence after a supreme court ruling that caused the judge to reconsider the case.

“Remember this DA told the media and jury back in 2002 that if any case deserved the death penalty it was this one,” Havard said. “Back then (the DA) also told the media and jury that the evidence against me was the most overwhelming he had seen.”

In the recording, Havard read from a statement he prepared after the state announced its decision to drop pursuit of the death penalty. Havard is currently housed in the Adams County Jail awaiting sentencing scheduled for Nov. 19.

Harper told the court on Nov. 6  that the passage of time has made it difficult to find out what evidence, if any, might be available and what witnesses might be available.

Havard said Harper’s statement was confusing to him in light of forensic evidence that was used in his trial.

“If any evidence, especially forensics is obtained it should hold forever, unless of course it never existed and/or has evolved in my favor,” Havard said. “As far as the witnesses go, to my knowledge, every one of the witnesses are in the area still. Therefore in the interest of justice, they all should be ready and willing to testify as before unless there is a problem.”

In September, Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson ordered Havard’s death sentence vacated after the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a hearing to determine if a new trial was needed due to changes in medical beliefs surrounding shaken baby syndrome.

Johnson declined to order a new trial for Havard but did order a new sentencing hearing for a jury to determine if Havard should receive the death penalty or life in prison without the chance of parole.

On Nov. 19, Johnson will sentence Havard for a second time in the case.

Havard said on the recording he believes much of the evidence has been “tainted” and “disproved” by forensic science and objective arguments.

Havard said the state got the jury to believe that there was an intentional and abusive death that occurred while committing sexual battery on his girlfriend’s 6-month-old daughter Chloe Britt.

“During the discovery process material facts came to light by my experts and the state’s experts that in fact the sexual battery never occurred, thus proving my innocence there,” Havard said. “But the state fought to keep this issue closed  and the trial court agreed to close this issue and kept these material facts from being considered.”

“This was highly unfair, because this was the difference between guilty and not guilty in my case. The state argued it was the motive why the death occurred at all,” Havard said.

The court closed the very thing that will determine his innocence or guilt, Havard said.

“After considering all of this, I know I have shown that I deserve a new trial,” Havard said. “The fact that the DA has essentially said he doesn’t believe he could present this case again, that in and of itself shows there would be a different outcome by a new jury.

“How could anyone be alright with someone being incarcerated when so-called overwhelming evidence from before doesn’t exist anymore?”

When asked about Havard’s criticisms of the DA’s office and the court, Harper said it would not be appropriate to talk about a pending case awaiting sentencing.

Attempts to reach Havard’s lawyers were unsuccessful.

News

Photo gallery: Natchez Mayor signs lease for historic train depot

News

Damaged utility pole causes 200 customers to lose power

News

Judge denies second request to revoke murder suspect’s house arrest order

News

City Hall painted purple with lights in support of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

News

Natchez Early College Academy names STAR Student, STAR Teacher

News

Teen arrested in ongoing investigation of double homicide

News

Revamped Crime Stoppers program helps area law enforcement solve crime

News

President Felecia M. Nave launches Inaugural President Lecture Series at Natchez campus

News

Natchez hotel catches on fire

Business

Natchez officials host closed meeting concerning potential land donation to the city

News

‘Slave Dwelling Project’ stirs up conversations about history

COVID-19

Adams County officials to lift mask mandate on May 1

BREAKING NEWS

Hank Williams Jr. to play Natchez 4th of July Celebration

News

Law officials arrest 3 in connection with automobile burglaries

News

Master Gardners host spring plant sale at Co-Lin

News

Security officer enjoys building relationships with students

Business

Jobs everywhere but few workers to fill them

Business

Natchez artist opens mobile-making studio amid pandemic

News

Concordia Parish jury finds Clayton man guilty in killing of his wife, 12-year-old boy

News

International investors from India visit Natchez on economic development trip

News

Donations of items needed for 3rd Gayrage Sale

News

City approves final lease for historic train depot on Broadway Street

News

Lt. Gov. Hosemann addresses American Rescue funds in Natchez, Adams County

Business

Hosemann won’t close door to Medicaid expansion in Mississippi