Tag Archives: Jeffrey Havard

New Cases Keep Coming, And So Do the Appeals

brianPeixotoThe action in the shaken baby arena seems to be ramping up, maybe because a few successful appeals have breathed new hope into old cases. This site is receiving not only the usual traffic from newly accused families looking for answers but also messages from supporters on the outside renewing their commitment to prisoners convicted years ago—like Brian Peixoto, who has been such an exemplary inmate during 18 years of incarceration that he was chosen to train service dogs at one facility, although he’s since been transferred.

Brian’s most recent appeal was turned down this past fallbut his case has been taken on by both the innocence arm of his state’s public defense committee and the New England Innocence Project, and his supporters have just this winter put up an ambitious web site.

Closer to the public eye, judges have granted new hearings in two old cases, reopening the convictions of child care providers Jennifer Del Prete in Illinois, whose case I looked at in a posting last month, and René Bailey in New York, featured briefly in a posting last summer. In Bailey’s case, the appeal brief offered a new report from a child care provider who said she had seen a 2-year-old boy who was at Bailey’s home on the crucial day re-enacting with stuffed animals a sequence that matched Bailey’s description of an accidental injury to a little girl. Both that boy and another child had confirmed Bailey’s report at the time, but were deemed too young to be reliable witnesses.

ReneeBaileyThe decision in Bailey’s case, issued by Monroe County Court Judge James J. Piampiano, limits the new hearing to the question of whether the defense has really produced “new evidence” with its proffered testimony from experts about a change in medical thinking regarding shaken baby syndrome and from the boy’s care provider about her observations.  Reporter Steve Orr wrote in the Democrat Chronicle:

At the time of her conviction, nearly all physicians and other experts believed that symptoms such as those displayed by [the toddler] could be caused by violent shaking, and conversely that nothing other than shaking or throwing a child could cause them.

But some experts now argue that those conclusions were based on shaky science. They say new research shows falls or illnesses can cause some of the symptoms traditionally ascribed to shaking.

The Criminal Justice Center Blog at Pace Law School posted this commentary on the case.

jhavardIn Mississippi, meanwhile, where Jeffrey Havard waits on death row, his supporters have created a thorough new web site that includes the text of his most recent appeal, filed in November of 2013. The appeal is based on both a new set of expert opinions and the 2009 recanting by the state’s star witness, Dr. Steven Hayne, of the sexual abuse diagnosis that made Havard eligible for the death penalty. Arguing that testimony about shaken baby syndrome at Havard’s 2002 trial has also not withstood the test of time, attorney Graham P. Carner quotes, among others, the affidavit of biomechanical engineer Chris Van Ee, PhD:

It would be biomechanically incorrect to dismiss the history of fall as a causal factor resulting in the findings described at autopsy. Shaking is a less likely explanation for these findings…
The rotational forces attained in manual shaking cannot be equated to those occurring as a result of a multistory fall or a high speed motor vehicle accident. To suggest otherwise is without scientific foundation.

amandaRallyFeb2014And in Florida, friends and family are regrouping in support of Amanda Brumfield, convicted in the 2008 death of her best friend’s one-year-old daughter. Brumfield reported that the baby had fallen and hit her head while climbing out of a portable playpen. Supporters are launching their new campaign with a rally next Friday at the church Amanda attended before her incarceration.

Supporters of child care provider Marsha Mills in Ohio have had their site up since 2007, within months of Mills’ conviction in another toddler-fall case. The site shows fundraisers for her defense as recently as November of 2013. They are now awaiting the results of the most recent appeal.

Finally, in Canada, Onatario Court of Appeal Judge Marc Rosenberg has authorized appeals by two shaken baby defendants who have already served their time but want to clear their records. The decision cites the lessons of the Goudge hearings in 2012.

All of this appeal activity would feel like progress, except that the other kind of story keeps coming as well. Just in the past two days I’ve seen news reports of shaking allegations against a father in Wisconsin, a young mother in Pennsylvania, and the boyfriend of the child’s mother in Ohio.

Note:  A number of support sites have remained in place for years but are not mentioned in this posting because they are holding steady, not surging. Still, it feels incomplete not to mention here the The Amanda Truth Project, which contains many family vignettes. For a  list of individual support sites, petitions, and Facebook pages, please see the lower portion of the Cases page on this blog.

If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this blog.

copyright 2014, Sue Luttner


Filed under abusive head trauma, AHT, Brian Peixoto, Falsely accused, Jeffrey Havard, Jennifer Del Prete, Renee Bailey, SBS, shaken baby syndrome

A Critical Look at a Key Witness

Photo by Cheryl Havared Harrell

Photo by Cheryl Havard Harrell

The case of Jeffrey Havard in Mississippi could be the tip of a wrongful-conviction iceberg, according to an excellent in-depth report by Radley Balko at the Huffington Post.

Havard has been on death row since 2002, convicted of murdering the 6-month-old daughter of his girl friend. Havard said he was lifting the little girl from the tub after a bath when she slipped from his hands, hitting her head on the toilet as she fell. Private medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne, however, concluded the girl had died of shaken baby syndrome. The Mississippi Innocence Project has been fighting the conviction.

The reporter calls SBS “a diagnosis that comes with the implication that the last person to be alone with the child was the one who killed her,” observing:

“Because the symptoms can only be produced by violent shaking, the diagnosis also comes with a built-in indictment of the suspect’s state of mind. It’s a diagnosis that does much of the prosecutor’s work for him.”

Balko has written about Hayne several times over the past decade, as the medical examiner has become more controversial. Hayne has apparently been the favorite pathologist of Mississippi prosecutors for years, reliably providing autopsy reports and testimony that work in the courtroom. New information about Hayne is now available—ironically, through the discovery phase of a defamation suit Hayne pressed against the Missippi Innocence Project after they started questioning his work. Balko writes:

“What they’ve found since implicates not only Hayne, but a host of police officials, prosecutors, even judges who knew Hayne was deficient and offering dubious testimony, but did nothing to stop it. ‘We’ve known for a while that there was a problem here,’ says Tucker Carrington, the director of the project. ‘But I really had no concept of the depth and breadth of the malfeasance. This isn’t just Hayne. It’s … well, it’s almost everybody. The state has known all along that it was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.'”

According to Balko, Hayne was already under a serious cloud at the time of Havard’s trial, yet the court refused Havard the money to pay for a second opinion. The story is astonishing, and I recommend reading it:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/radley-balko/steven-hayne-jeffrey-havard_b_2213976.html


Filed under abusive head trauma, AHT, Innocence Project, SBS, shaken baby syndrome

Cases, Cases, and More Cases

More bad news than good lately from the front lines in the SBS struggle. Fathers and men watching other people’s children have been especially in the headlines this month.

In the one positive development, a Michigan jury has acquitted a man who was watching his employee’s 3-month-old son so the boy’s father could work. The prosecution had applied the theory of immediate but subtle symptoms to target the babysitter, although the serious problems emerged later, while the child was with relatives. The defendant’s damning act was apparently asking his mother-in-law to check on the baby, as he thought the child was having trouble breathing. See the coverage in the Pestosky News.

A 42-year-old  man in Oklahoma has entered an Alford plea, which is not strictly a confession of guilt but an acknowledgment that the prosecution would probably win at trial. The original charge was first-degree murder, reduced to manslaughter with the plea. According to the story in the Enid News, the defendant  called 911 when a 7-month-old boy in his care seemed to choke on a bottle and quite breathing, in September of 2009.

A terrifying case is heading toward the death penalty in Mississippi, where a man claims to have dropped his girlfriend’s daughter after giving her a bath. He was convicted of capital murder after prosecutors argued he had both battered and raped the girl.  A rape kit administered at the time showed no signs of semen, but the child’s dilated anus—a normal finding near or after death—convinced the doctors that she’d been sexually abused. You can read about this case in the Clarion Ledger coverage. In light of the prosecution of Ernie Lopez, one has to wonder if misdiagnoses of sexual abuse will now start showing up routinely in child-death cases.

In New Hampshire, meanwhile, on-line comments have been especially venomous against a young father accused of shaking his son while the child’s mother was in another room drawing a bath. I admit the young man looks like trouble in the published photographs, but the facts as reported in the Eagle Tribune coverage sound like the same old story to me.

A judge in Colorado has sentenced a father to 20 years in prison after he confessed to shaking his 2-month-old, as reported by their local channel 9 news, and a father in New Jersey has been charged in the death of his 11-week-old daughter, as reported by abc news.

A day care provider in Missouri is scheduled for trial this fall, accused of hitting and shaking a girl in her care. According to an article on Connect MidMissouri, the babysitter says she tripped over another child and dropped the baby.

And finally, an appeal in Britain has hit the usual wall, as reported in Family Law.


Filed under abusive head trauma, AHT, SBS, shaken baby syndrome