It is unthinkable that a modern democratic state would act the way that Mississippi did in the handling of the Jeffrey Havard case. Months ago, I published a blog on Jeffrey Havard, a wrongly convicted man currently sitting on Mississippi’s Death Row. Since then, there have been a few new discoveries that make Havard’s future a little less bleak.
If you did not read my prior blog on Havard it can be viewed here: Jeff Havard. A full description of the case and its defenses can be found there.
In 2002, an Adams county Mississippi Jury convicted Havard of capital murder of his ex-girlfriends 6-month-old daughter, Chloe Britt. In my previous blog, I explained a number of defenses that should have been used to prove the innocence of Havard, many of which were either denied by the court, or not implemented by the defense team.
According to former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, one of two Justices that ruled to throw out the case in a 2006 appeal, Havard was misrepresented by his public defender because he could not afford a second exam.
Havard was denied his own expert autopsy and forced to use the autopsy of Steven Hayne, a self reported expert in sexual assault and the main expert for the state of Mississippi for the years between 1987 and 2008.
Hayne’s practice and “expert” opinion has recently come under fire, giving Havard a small but strong fighting chance.
Between the years of 1987 and 2008 Hayne claimed that he performed 1,700 autopsies a year. 1,700 autopsies a year means that he would have had to perform 4.5 autopsies a day, seven days a week, with no vacation for 21 years straight. The National Association of Medical Examiners forbids anyone from performing more than 325 autopsies in a year.
Why this was overlooked and not accounted before is unknown.
Two cases similar to Havard’s were thrown out, because Hayne’s testimony was proved to be untrue.
Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer both spent more than 15 years in prison for a conviction based on Haynes testimony.
Brooks was convicted in 1990 for rape and murder of his ex-girlfriends 3-year-old daughter and Brewer was also convicted of rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1995.
In both Brooks and Brewer’s trials, Hayne and forensic dentist Michael West testified that they found men’s teeth marks on the victims. However, the Innocence Project uncovered DNA evidence that proved Hayne and West were both incorrect.
Following the findings and exonerating of Brooks and Brewer, the State of Mississippi removed Hayne from his post as state pathologist. Which now strikes the attention of hundreds of other convictions that are now in jeopardy of credibility.
The clock is still ticking, Havard has been on death row for 10 years now and his execution date is steadily creeping closer and closer.
According to Diaz ,the Mississippi Justice System in the last couple years have taken steps in the right direction to fix the problems left behind by Hayne. However, it is evident that the problems lie much deeper than just what the surface entails. There could be hundreds of innocent inmates in the Mississippi Justice System that are simply victims to the malpractice of one individual pretending to play doctor.
What do you think about the Havard case? Is there a more clear-cut case of innocence on death row today?