Jeffrey Havard was 22 years old, working on an oil rig, and doing very well in life. He had plans of going to college, and making an ever better life for himself, but all of that changed when Jeffrey did something most of us parents have done many times. Give a baby a bath.
The day 6 month old Cloe Madison Britt passed away, Jeffrey's girlfriend, Rebecca Britt, picked Cloe up from the day care, and rode around with her for a few hours. When she finally made it home, Jeffrey gave her some money, and sent her to buy some groceries, while he watched the baby. She bought groceries and then returned home for a few hours. Rebecca then left the house and went to the local video store to rent a video for them to watch at home.
What happened next would change both of their lives forever, and result in the death of a precious 6 month old baby girl, Chloe Madison Britt.
According to Paige Sullivan, Jeffrey Havard's sister, Jeffrey had dated quite a few girls that had children, and had never had a problem. "When Jeffrey met Rebecca, she and little Cloe were living in a Meth house (the mother denies this), and although they had not been dating long, Jeffrey was ready to settle down, so he moved Rebecca and baby Cloe in with him, and gave the baby her own room."
A month before the accident, Jeffrey took Rebecca and Cloe to Tennessee with him to visit his sister Paige and her newborn baby, and celebrate New Years with his family.
"He wanted to make a family video of all of us celebrating New Years together, and he brought Rebecca and Cloe along", says Paige. "The first thing I noticed was that Rebecca was really stressed, uptight and fidgety. They were at my house for two days, and Jeffrey primarily took care of the baby; changing her diaper and such, and Rebecca did very little, and acted like she didn't want the baby around. The baby seemed a little sick, and Rebecca gave her some benadryl".
"When we got ready to do fireworks Cloe started crying. Jeffrey took her, and sang to her, as he walked her back and forth to calm her. He then laid down on the couch with her, put her on his chest, and they both ended up going to sleep. As long as Jeffrey was holding Cloe, she wouldn't cry." says Paige. "Cloe was just an adorable baby."
"Imagine my shock", says Paige, "When Rebecca Britt, Cloe's mother, looked at me and told me she and Jeff wanted to go to the mountains, and leave 5 month old Cloe with me. I had just given birth to my second child, who was only a day old. Jeff insisted on keeping Cloe with them, and said there was no reason anyone should keep Cloe, that she could just go with them."
"Jeffrey, Cloe and Rebecca left my house and went to get a hotel room in Chattanooga to watch the fireworks from up on the mountain, and that was the last time I would see my brother outside a prison cell."
After Jeffrey and Rebecca returned to their home, according to Paige, Jeffrey was giving the baby a bath inside the garden tub, inside another baby tub. As Jeffrey was bringing her out to dry her off, 26 pound Cloe wiggled and slipped from Jeffrey's hands, and hit the toilet tank with her head. She gasped for a minute, but seemed fine so he put lotion on her, patted her, and loved her all up for a few minutes. When Rebecca returned, about half an hour later, and went to check on Cloe, she found her blue, but still breathing. Rebecca tried to give her CPR.
Jeffrey and Rebecca rushed little Cloe to the hospital where Rebecca's mother worked. She or one of the other nurses noticed baby Cloe's anus was dilated.
This started the investigation and charges against Jeffrey for rape and murder.
Police went in and searched the home and found sheets in a basket near the washing machine. Jeffrey told them he was washing the sheets because they were dirty and had food on them. The police took the sheets into evidence and presented them in the court room to show what a vile person Jeffrey was, insinuating the stains were semen, and the baby died from Shaken Baby Syndrome, in the process of a rape. However, when the lab did test on the sheets the stains came back from the lab as Gerber bananas.
Although Jeffrey could afford a lawyer, he said he was innocent, and wasn't worried, so he let a public defender represent him. (After trial the public defender was arrested for Cocaine possession.)
Paige says, "Jeff had no defense what so ever, not even an objection, and none of the witnesses on his behalf were allowed to testify. He had a public defender and that is where it all went wrong. no criminal record. He was a very loving and giving person."
Paige says, "The hospital said the baby's anus was dilated, but there was no tearing, no blood, no DNA evidence in the swabs they took. My brother ask for a lie detector test, but was denied. Although rape charges against Jeffrey were dropped, because there was no evidence a rape occurred, they brought it up at trial, and used it against him, and he was given a capital offense, because they said he committed murder in the process of another crime, rape. There was a 1 centimeter bruise, on the baby's leg on the back side, they wanted Jeffrey to explain how the bruise got there."
The family of Jeffrey requested James Lauricson of Alabama to look over the autopsy, and he found absolutely no evidence of a sexual assault or Shaken Baby Syndrome.
In addition to his findings, The Clarion Ledger of Jackson Mississippi requested world-renowned pathologist Dr. Michael Baden of New York city to review the autopsy report filed by Mississippi Medical Examiner, Steven Hayne, and he said he does not believe a sexual assault or a murder took place. That there was no shaken baby syndrome and the bruising on the head and other areas is totally consistent with the baby having been dropped.
Baden also stated that a dilated anus can occur during a coma or death, and Cloe's eyes were fixed and dilated when she arrived at the hospital. Since the trial, Hayne has acknowledged in a sworn statement that dilated anal sphincters also may be seen on a person prior to death without significant brain function.
"My brother told me when I visited him, "I just want my freedom back, if they can just admit they were wrong, that is all I want, I don't care about money or anything else."
No defense, no objections, an uncertified medical examiner; the same medical examiner that has testified in another case that the cut marks on a man's hands were from defensive wounds, and totally ignored the fact that the guy had just busted a beer bottle over a man's head and ground it into the victim's face, the same medical examiner that has sent at least three Mississippi men to death row, that were later proven innocent, the same medical examiner that does three times as many autopsy's as is recommended, and some say testifies to whatever the police tell him happened.
"A CSI investigator said he did not see any evidence of sexual abuse either, and got very upset when he saw the autopsy report. A blind man can see my brother is innocent, and this is ridiculous. If they have done this to my brother, they have done it to many others", says Paige.
" It was really sick, how they did things, and things they said in court with no evidence."
"This was the first capital murder trial in Natchez Mississippi in ten years. The public defender had never tried a capital murder defense before. It was all about the good old boy system, it didn't matter what the evidence said, they decided he was guilty without any evidence and proceeded that way. The public defender that represented Jeff was busted for cocaine right after the trial, and the mother of the childs' brother was busted for his meth lab."
"The only witness against him were the people at the hospital, the grandmother and others that were with the baby at the hospital. People drop kids and all kinds of accidents happen. The garden tub has two steps and the toilet is right there, and they are so close, and slippery, and she was a large baby, and her wiggling around, it all happened so fast. The jury was prejudiced by the rape that was brought up that didnt' occur." says Paige.
In this case absolutely no evidence exist to show that Havard sexually abused Cloe or murdered her.
If Jeffrey's post-conviction appeal is denied by the Supreme court, he will most assuredly be put to death by execution. One appeal has been denied on ineffective assistant of council, the constitution just guarantees you can be represented by a lawyer, it doesn't mean he has to be a good lawyer, and if he fails to object when he should, that is just your tough luck.
When I first looked at this case I read the appeal, and based on what I read about the sheets, I was hesitant to write this story, just the evidence that was presented in the appeal against him, like the sheets being changed, made me leery. However, once I heard the rest of the evidence, or lack of evidence, I changed my mind. If a two year old child was raped by a grown man, I would think there would be sever internal injuries, and there is absolutely no evidence that a rape or murder occurred.
Cases like this have made me against the death penalty. I tend to agree with John Adams, one of the founders of our great constitution, "It is better that three guilty men go free than one innocent man be sent to prison."
To sentence a man to death without any evidence of guilt, a lousy public defender, and junk science, should turn the stomach of any human being that values life. All of us, as citizens of this great country, should demand better from our court systems. If we do nothing, then the blood of innocent men is on our hands, as well as the hands of any person in our judicial system that withholds evidence of innocence, or denies turning over a ruling of guilty, when there is evidence that says otherwise.
You never know, it could be you on trial, totally innocent and sentenced to death.
For more on this story check out The Clarion Ledger's link to the story on Jeffrey below, and Jeffrey's website, where you can sign a petition.
Jeffrey's appeal has been denied, you can read about it further at: http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20120314/NEWS/203140329