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Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood Files Motion Attempting To Seal Jeffrey Havard Case

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Jeffrey Havard

Update 8-30-2013: The State’s motion was just denied outright by Federal Judge Kieth Starrett. You can view the denial here: http://www.injustice-anywhere.org/denial.pdf

The State of Mississippi filed a motion on Monday requesting that the Jeffrey Havard case be sealed. If this request is granted, it could limit or prohibit a non-party’s remote electronic access to case documents that would normally be public record.

The motion filed by the office of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, cites a message posted on a Facebook page by one of Havard’s attorneys as the reason for the filing of the request. The problem is that the State’s request attempts to go far beyond the prevention of an attorney speaking publicly about the case on social media websites. If granted, this motion will prevent the public from seeing the injustice currently being committed against Jeffrey Havard. The public has a right to know the facts of this case.

Jeffrey Havard 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 Jeffrey’s arms while lifting her from the tub, causing her head to hit the toilet. Chloe’s death was a tragic accident, not a murder. According to two national leading experts, Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. James Lauridson, the evidence supports Jeffrey’s claims. Jeffrey Havard is innocent.

The State seems shocked that Havard’s case is receiving any public attention at all:

“Additionally, although the State has no knowledge of how this case has become such a public one, the State directs this Court to Exhibit B. Routinely, the State receives letters from across the country, from concerned citizens pleading for the life of Jeffrey Havard. See Exhibit B. Curiously, each of the letters (submitted herein as examples) contains detailed factual allegations about this case: that the victim, Chloe Britt, died as the result of an accidental fall; that the victim’s autopsy made no reference to sexual assault; that the only binding factor in this case was anal dilation of the victim; that Mr. Havard requested a polygraph test; that Mr. Havard refused a plea agreement. Moreover, some of these letters are identical in their wording, leading the State to believe the writers are procuring their information from the same source.”

The motion goes on to say: “The State is not suggesting that Petitioner or his legal team have disseminated such information; indeed,  he State has no evidence to support or infer such a claim and would go so far as to suggest habeas counsel have had no involvement whatsoever with respect to these letters. However, the facts being as they are, this case has become a public spectacle; and Mr. Carner’s Facebook posting has only added fuel to the fire.”

It is odd that the State is claiming not to know how Havard’s case has become a public one, when a simple Google search for “Jeffrey Havard” provides the answer. Freejeffreyhavard.org, a website owned and operated by Injustice Anywhere, currently occupies the top two entries on Google for Jeffrey Havard.

The letters mentioned in the motion are the result of a letter writing campaign that was started by Havard’s supporters. The letter campaign is detailed on the home page of freejeffreyhavard.org. Visitors will also see that the site provides public case documents and expert analysis in support of Havard’s innocence. Every detail cited by the State can be found in public documents. It makes no sense to speculate that Havard’s attorneys are making an effort to leak public information to the public.

There should be absolutely no confusion as to why this case is getting public attention. In addition to the ongoing advocacy efforts for Havard, there have also been several  news reports on Havard’s case that question his conviction.

Radley Balko, a senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, stressed the need to take another look at Havard’s case in his article titled:  Despite Evidence From Discredited Medical Examiner, Mississippi’s Jeffrey Havard Nears Execution.

Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz has repeatedly voiced his opinion on the case. In an interview with Jerry Mitchell from the Clarion Ledger, Diaz said the prosecution’s claims went unchallenged because the public defender couldn’t afford a second exam. “He was denied the use of his own expert in that case” said Diaz, who was one of two justices who voted to throw out Havard’s conviction in a 2006 appeal.

Diaz was recently a guest on the Injustice Anywhere internet radio program, where he discussed his concerns about Havard’s conviction. Diaz informed listeners that he believed Havard was the victim of ineffective counsel. According to Diaz, Havard’s attorney failed to file the proper request for an independent expert, leaving the defense with the burden of paying for an expert they could not afford.

The Mississippi Attorney General has made it known that he does not approve of the attention Havard’s case is receiving. The motion filed Monday makes it quite clear that the State would like concerned citizens to keep their opinions to themselves:

“In light of the sensitive nature of this case, the State has no choice but to move to protect the victim and her family from informal slander and snooping in the name of protecting the Constitutional rights of Jeffrey Havard. The State cannot retract information which is already before the public; but if the State can prevent a single “concerned citizen” or angry lawyer from discussing, publically, how a six-month-old child was anally battered and murdered, then this motion will have served its intended purpose.”

The advocacy efforts on Havard’s behalf do not “include informal slander and snooping” as the motion suggests. Havard’s supporters are providing the public with factual information about the case that has been provided to them by multiple experts. All documents presented by Havard’s supporters are public record. It is incorrect to claim that Havard’s supporters are snooping by obtaining public documents from Pacer.gov.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, should be making no attempt to silence concerned citizens. If you agree, please feel free to send a letter to his office voicing your opinion.

Please visit www.freejeffreyhavard.org to learn more about the Jeffrey Havard case.