The Mississippi Supreme Court has granted a post-conviction motion, allowing an evidentiary hearing to move forward in the case of death row inmate Jeffrey Havard. So reports the Washington Post.
Havard was convicted of murder after a medical examiner diagnosed his girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter with Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). Steven Hayne, the medical examiner who testified at Havard’s trial, has been widely criticized for giving flawed testimony in similar cases. More about Hayne can be found here.
Havard’s attorneys argued that SBS diagnoses have been called into doubt since Havard’s trial in 2002. I wrote about the changing attitudes regarding SBS diagnoses here.
The supreme court agreed that there was at least a question whether SBS is a legitimate scientific theory—a question that the trial judge will have to answer. A favorable result in the evidentiary hearing could result in a new trial for Havard. It also could influence other courts to reduce reliance on SBS diagnoses in criminal trials, not just in Mississippi, but here in Washington State and throughout the country.
In the Seattle area and throughout Washington State, physicians who testify for the prosecution now prefer to speak of “Abusive Head Trauma,” but the gist of their testimony is usually the same.