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

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, November 13, 2018


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.

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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.