Former death row sentence changed to life without parole

Published 11:52 pm Monday, December 17, 2018


NATCHEZ — A man who spent 16 years on death row after being convicted of capital murder was re-sentenced Monday to life in prison without eligibility for parole.

Jeffrey Havard, who was convicted in 2002 of murdering his girlfriend’s 6-month-old daughter, Chloe Britt, has maintained that he is innocent of the charges.

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Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson ordered Havard’s death sentence be vacated last September 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, which was pivotal in the conviction and original sentencing.“The court ultimately entered an order affirming his conviction of capital murder in all respects,” Johnson said Monday. “However, because of the new evidence, the court did set aside the sentence of death and ordered a new sentencing hearing. … The only option in the proper sense would be life imprisonment without parole.”

Havard has already filed an appeal of the court’s decision on the stance that the new evidence surrounding Shaken Baby Syndrome merits a new trial, according to defense lawyer Graham Carner, who is representing Havard with Mark Jicka.

“We’ve already filed an appeal … and we will go forward on that, but as far as for today’s purposes we have set forth our position,” Carner said.

Havard was handed back into the custody of the state Monday after Johnson ordered a new sentence.

“It is the sentence of this court that the defendant, Jeffery Havard, be sentenced to prison for life in the state penitentiary, which under current law is without eligibility for parole,” Johnson said. “Mr. Havard, I’d like to say again that your attorneys have worked tirelessly for a number of years … but that will be the sentence of the court and the appeal has already been processed.”