- Associated Press - Friday, April 3, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court is allowing death row inmate Jeffrey Havard to go back to Adams County Circuit Court to argue for a new trial.

The Supreme Court’s order released Thursday limits Havard’s new arguments to the now-disputed issue of Shaken Baby Syndrome. An Adams County judge will determine if Havard’s arguments have any validity.

Havard was convicted in 2002 of capital murder and sentenced to death in Adams County for killing a 6-month-old Chloe Madison Britt of Ferriday, Louisiana, the daughter of his girlfriend. Prosecutors say the infant’s injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Havard said the girl had fallen.

For decades, Shaken Baby Syndrome was widely accepted, diagnosed through a triad of symptoms: subdural bleeding (blood collecting between the brain and the skull), retinal bleeding (bleeding in the back of the eye) and brain swelling.

In the years since, medical belief that these symptoms provided iron-clad proof of homicide has begun to crumble with several studies raising doubts.

In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the syndrome diagnosis be replaced with “abusive head trauma.”

Havard argued that he didn’t know anything about such arguments or he would have had his attorney investigate.

State prosecutors said the information was readily available if Havard had only looked.

“Havard’s conviction and sentence have been reviewed, in depth, by a jury and by this court, multiple times. Given that Havard has had ample opportunity to raise this accidental fall theory - on multiple occasions - the State submits there are no facts indicating the presence of any injustice,” Special Assistant Attorney General Brad A. Smith argued in briefs.

Havard’s attorney, Graham P. Carner of Jackson, said there was insufficient scientific and medical evidence to support Havard’s conviction.

In our system of justice, convictions and sentences that involve insufficient and flawed scientific proof and significant changes in crucial expert testimony cannot stand because they violate fundamental rights,” Carner said in briefs.

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