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Changing science may give death row inmate new hearing

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Jeff Havard

Jerry Mitchell, The Clarion-Ledger

In a unanimous decision made public Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted death row inmate Jeffrey Havard permission to request an evidentiary hearing since science on shaken baby syndrome has changed.

At trial, the state’s then-pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne testified that 6-month-old Chloe Britt died of “shaken baby syndrome.”

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 ironclad proof of homicide has begun to crumble with several studies raising doubts. Read More »