Isaiah Givens was convicted of a 1982 double murder in Philadelphia, and has been actively fighting for his innocence since. Isaiah is writing a guest blog series for the jury room, describing his experience with being wrongfully accused, arrested, tried, convicted, and incarcerated for murders that he did not commit.
Saturday, September 4, 1982, I awoke early in the morning out of the clear blue. Not tired nor restless. From the bedroom window of my Aunt Neicy’s house on Collum Street in the Germantown section of the city of Philadelphia, where I had been staying since Saturday, August 28, 1982, in an attempt to get away from the madness that occurred in my own neighborhood on August 26, 1982 inside a courtyard of the Richard Allen Homes Projects which is alleged to have occurred at or about 6:30 P.M., in which a couple of close childhood friends were being accused of the random shooting murders of two (2) individuals [One being a 7-year old boy] and the wounding of six (6) others, I took notice that the skies were overcast, which was of no meaning at the time, then the telephone rang!
I reached over to answer the phone as quick as possible so as to not awaken my four (4) young female cousins who were perhaps still asleep, put the receiver to my ear and said: “Hello?” The voice on the other end of the phone replied: “How we doing this morning?” I recognized the voice I had heard since birth as being my Mother’s [Joyce B. Givens]. I informed her that I was ok. She informed me that the police had been to our residence. I thought nothing of it since the police had paid a few visits to my residence inquiring about my co-defendants, never inquired about me, and had been doing so since the late evening of the incident. Then she went on and further stated very calmly that: “They have a warrant for your arrest for the project shooting!” My mind went completely blank. Now that I think of it, I guess my mind went into a momentary shock. I asked my Mother did SWAT come into the house all crazy? I asked such question due to concern for my 7-month old sister. My Mother response was: “No, just two (2) homicide detectives came. They were real nice. They didn’t search the house for you. They went upstairs & opened one (1) out of three (3) bedroom doors and looked in and closed the door. They came back down the stairs and complimented us on how neat and clean the house was and told me to tell you that they had a warrant for your arrest for the project shooting. That they were very kind and respectful.” I blurted out: “Ok, I’m going to Cleveland!” And I hung up the phone and just laid there in a trance. My mind seemed to be frozen in time with no thought about anything. A blank slate. I didn’t know anyone in Cleveland and had never even been to Cleveland. Don’t even know why I said Cleveland out of all the places in the world. Even today I cannot even tell you why I said such.
As I laid there, I heard the bedroom door open and my Aunt say: “Baby you alright?” I responded: “Yes ma’am.” Just then, the phone rang again and I immediately answered it. It was my Mother, and before I could say hello, she stated: “Boy what are you running for? Everyone knows that you weren’t there! Look, this is what I’m going to do; I’m going to call “Seal” [Attorney Salvatore J. Cucinotta] and I want you to go down there and turn yourself in with him so that this matter can get straightened out. Sit tight and I’m going to call him and I’ll call you right back!” I hung-up the phone and my Aunt asked me what was going on? I explained everything to her and she starts to cry. I hug her and told her that everything will be ok. My Mother eventually calls back with “Sal” on the line. He informed me that if this is what I want to do, that he already contacted homicide and informed them that we would be at the Police Administration Building after 1:00p.m. and he would come pick me up by taxi cab before then. I told him ok. I took a shower and got dressed.
My mind was so dumbfounded and confused how did this happen to me?
Written by Isaiah Givens for the jury room on August 7, 2017
To contact Isaiah with messages of support:
P.O. Box 1000
209 Institution Dr.
Houtzdale, PA 16698-1000