This article was originally published in the Injustice Anywhere 2016 Winter Newsletter.
2015 was a difficult year for Jeff Havard but it was not a year without hope. Jeff currently sits wrongfully convicted on death row in Mississippi for the sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter, Chloe Britt. The truth is the infant slipped from Jeff’s arms while lifting her from the tub, causing her head to hit the toilet. New expert evidence supports Jeff’s claims. Improper accusations of a sexual assault were the result of a rush to judgement by ER staff. Is has now been proven that no sexual assault of any kind ever took place. Chloe’s death was a tragic accident, not a murder.
After nearly 13 years, the Mississippi Supreme Court finally granted Jeff permission last April to request an evidentiary hearing based on new evidence. The process to request an evidentiary hearing is not a speedy one. The defense filed their request to the court in June of 2015. The State responded in opposition to the defense petition in October, leading the defense to file their response to the opposition this past December. The next step is for the judge to make his ruling on the defense request for an evidentiary hearing. Jeff continues to wait, hopeful that he will eventually have his day in court.
Unfortunately, Jeff’s good news was sandwiched between two traumatic events in his life. One month prior to the news that he may finally get a hearing, Jeff suffered the loss of his grandfather. In March of 2015, Billy and Ruby Havard set out to make the 2 ½ hour drive to Mississippi State Penitentiary to visit their grandson, Jeff. The drive had become a regular part of their lives over the past 13 years, as they cherished their visits with Jeff. Jeff’s relationship with his grandparents has been a special one. Jeff went to live with them when he was 13-years-old, spending his crucial teen years gaining positive influence from two people that he cherishes. Sadly, Billy fell ill shortly after the visit and was admitted to the hospital the next day. That visit would be the last time that Jeff would see his grandfather. The man who was like a father to him was dead. Jeff was forced to mourn his devastating loss all alone in a cage. He was not there to pray for his grandfather at his wake, he was not there to attend funeral services, and he was not there to hug his grandmother to help bring her comfort and express his gratitude for all that she has done for him. Those crucial moments were stolen from Jeff by the state of Mississippi.
Jeff’s second traumatic event occurred in May of 2015. During a visit with his grandmother, their conversation was shockingly interrupted when Jeff was attacked by another inmate while he was shackled to his chair unable to defend himself. The attack was a horrifying moment for his grandmother who watched helplessly from the other side of the glass.
Jeff described the moment of attack on his blog: “I was having a great visit with my grandma, as always. We were talking about old times with my grandpa. As you can imagine, the grief we share is still very raw, even at this moment. Towards the end of our visit, I saw an inmate lunging at me out of the corner of my eye. Keep in mind that as a death row inmate, though wrongfully, I am in full restraints – both wrists and ankles chains and on top of that, the ankle restraints are chained to the stool I am sitting on. Every death row inmate is supposed to be restrained this way, except this inmate was completely out of his restraints, free of custody and barreling towards me. My first thought was to wonder if he was coming at me or someone else. A nano-second later, I realized it was me. He cocked his fist back as he was running towards me to punch me. I was a sitting duck with no range of motion, no way to defend myself or fight back, so all I could do was duck and turn my head so that I wouldn’t get punched in the face. I looked up through the glass at my grandma and saw something I never want to see again. There are no words to describe the look of horror on her face mixed with her screams for help.”
Jeff goes on to write about the thoughts that went through his mind as he remained shackled to his knocked over chair, sustaining punch after punch. He imagined that his life may have been coming to an end when he wrote: “I felt a calmness come over me. I thought about Pawpaw and how I may be meeting him on the other side sooner than I thought. I guessed I’d be buried right beside him in a few days. A part of me resigned myself to the situation and was accepting of it, and a huge part of me just wanted to be with my grandpa again, either in this temporal realm or the spiritual realm. I didn’t want to die, but if I did, I’d see my grandpa again. I was okay with it, either way.”
Guards finally arrived to stop the beating after being alerted by screams from visitors on the other side of the glass in the visitation room. There was no reason for another inmate to be unrestrained in that area, and it was completely unacceptable for the area to go unmonitored. To date, Jeff has received no explanation from the prison regarding the unrestrained inmate or the lack of monitoring that day.
Jeff’s story is one which highlights the fact that wrongful convictions cause irreparable damage. It is now crystal clear that Jeff Havard sits on death row in Mississippi for a crime that never happened. Five experts have reviewed the case who confirm that a sexual assault never took place and that the evidence shows the cause of death was a short fall. The State’s only expert is also on record stating that a sexual assault never took place and that he no longer believes the prosecution’s claim that the infant’s death was the result of Shaken Baby Syndrome inflicted throughout the course of a sexual assault. There are currently no experts who support the prosecution’s claims. Most shockingly, it is now proven that the prosecution knew before trial that a sexual assault never took place.
Jeff Havard has waited far too long. Jeff must be granted a new trial so that he can be given a legitimate chance to prove his innocence. The truth is that the State no longer has any case at all against Jeff, that’s why they are pushing so hard to avoid a new trial. This very point should be extremely disturbing to everyone. Jeff’s supporters are hopeful that 2016 will be a very good year for Jeff Havard.
Please visit these websites to learn more about Jeff’s case: