Isaiah “Button” Givens was convicted of a 1982 double murder in the Richard Allen Projects of Philadelphia, but has wholeheartedly fought for his innocence and freedom since his arrest. Isaiah has become like an older brother to me, and his dedication to proving his innocence is inspiring. In his 35 years wrongfully incarcerated, he has done so much research, written an incredible amount of letters, and collected so much information on his case. His determination is incredible!
He just needs people to help him come home. He needs legal representation, a support network, and for his story to be shared. Isaiah’s story is all too familiar – a poor, young, minority kid from the projects who was victimized by the system.
I did a Q&A with Isaiah to shed some light on who he is as a person. He is not just a body behind a state imposed ID number. Isaiah is intelligent, well-read, persistent…and understandably frustrated with his situation. Isaiah Givens is an incredible human being with so much to offer our world, he just needs a chance at freedom.
What elementary, middle, and high school did you attend?
1st. Grade: M.C. Wister Elementary; 2nd. & 3rd. Grade: Thaddeus Stevenson Elementary then transferred to Longstretch Elementary; 4th. Grade: Lea Elementary & Middle School; 5th. & 6th. Grade: Randolph Elementary & Middle School. MIDDLE SCHOOLS: 7th Grade: Strawberry Mansion Middle & High School [Transferred] Stoddard Fleischer Middle School 7th. & 8th. Grade; 9th. Grade: Abraham Lincoln High School [1 of 20 African-American Students Enrolled That Year In A Segregated All-White School In NorthEast Philly.]; 10th. & 11th. Grade: Saint Gabriel Hall Catholic School [Maintained a 9.46 GPA While Enrolled In Phoenixville, PA.]; 12th. Grade: Benjamin Franklin High School [dropped Out] [Because I came From A Catholic School They Wanted Me To Repeat 11th. Grade!].
In 1989 While at Huntingdon Penitentiary [Before State Prisons Turned Into SCI’s] I acquired my G.E.D. without taking any warm-up classes prior to taking test; 1993 I acquired an ASSOCIATES DEGREE in ECONOMICS from Lehigh Community College with a 3.43 GPA.
IMPRISONMENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Certified Award Winning Illiteracy Tutor [Have Taught 100’s+ To Read & Write]; G.E.D. Math Teacher Aide; Certified Peer Facilitator & Certified Peer Facilitator Instructor in ‘Cognitive Restructuring’ & This Correctional Facility Lead Inmate Facilitator & Instructor [Have Facilitated 100+ Classes On ‘Behavior Modification’ (but was recently denied to become nationally certified to become a ‘Certified Peer Specialist’ in ‘Mental Health First-Aid’ because I lack a mental health history! – GO FIGURE?)] I wrote the proposal which the Department Of Corrections APPROVED which allowed this inmate population to have it first Inmate Organization captioned: “Journey For Change.” I’ve advocated for prisoner’s rights & have filed lawsuits in behalf of all prisoner’s, regardless of race or gender. I’ve also represented inmates at misconduct hearings for decades.
What was your favorite subject in school?
I didn’t have a favorite subject in school until I was enrolled at Abraham Lincoln High School. That subject was ‘Business Administration.’ That subject was very exciting to me & it introduced me to a hidden world of intrigue which was never considered by me prior to going to that school.
Where did you grow up?
Basically, I grew up in Richard Allen Homes Projects, primarily at ‘1101 “C” Parrish Place, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My Grandmother “Naomi Cain” moved into said area back in 1944 when it was a brand new development of low-income housing for minorities, along with her two-young sons. In 1945 my Mother “Joyce B. Cain” was born & brought from the hospital & raised at said residence & then my youngest uncle was born & raised within the same residence. The residence consisted of a second floor, two-bedroom residence. My Grandmother had her own room. My three-uncles shared the other room. My sister [Icealinda] slept with my Grandmother & my Mother slept downstairs on the couch. I slept with my youngest uncle. My Grandmother fixed us a hot breakfast each & every morning, except Saturday Morning. On Saturday Mornings, we were permitted to eat ‘Cheerios’ without any sugar. I hated it!☺🤔?
My Mother, Sister & I moved to different parts of the city for no longer than a year & always ended back at Grandmom’s. My Grandmother & youngest uncle were devout Jehovah Witnesses & regardless if we didn’t want to, my sister & I had to go to ‘The Kingdom Hall’ for worship without fault or failure as long as we stayed there. My Mother, Sister & I eventually moved to 1034 Cambridge Mall, a two-storied, 3-bedroom, single home, inside of the Cambridge Mall Public Low-Income Housing Project, adjacent to the Richard Allen Homes Project. At the time of my arrest, I was living at 1101 ‘C’ Parrish Place with then girlfriend ‘Sabrina Hall’ & her youngest daughter. I was on the lease under the name of ‘Isaiah Hall.’ My Grandmother moved into a wheelchair accessible unit on 13th. & Fairmount Avenue. 1034 Cambridge Mall became my mailing address so to speak because I was still on that residence least under my true name until everyone were made to relocate due to revitalization of the area.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
When I was 10 years old, my father’s second-wife’s oldest sister [Aunt Faye] brought me an electric race car track for Christmas!☺🤔?☠
What is your favorite food?
Anything other than prison food. I’m fond of the buffalo wings sold in the institution visiting room vending machine whenever I do get a chance to go on a visit, I am hopeful that whoever came to visit me, purchased a debit type card in the visiting lobby before coming up the ramp to visit me, so that I can acquire am few packs of this wings & a Cherry Coke Soda!☺🤔?☠
What were your hopes, dreams, and goals as a child?
With the exception of wanting to make the 1984 Olympic Boxing Team as a Junior Middleweight Boxer & I wanted to move far-far away from the projects & live a positive productive life. Ironically, three-weeks prior to the incident, while walking through the courtyard of City Hall, Philadelphia Police Reps had a stand with applications soliciting anyone to fill out an application to become a Philadelphia Police Officer. I endorsed an application & gave it back to the rep. About a month after my arrest, I called my Mother & she informed me that I had received mail from The Philadelphia Police Department. I requested of her to open the letter & read me its contents. As she began to read the contents she started laughing. She informed me that the letter was to inform me that I had a job interview at the Philadelphia Police Academy a week from the date of the letter to become a Philadelphia Police Officer. I asked my Mother why she was laughing? She said that it was ironic that they would want to hire me as a police officer after falsely accusing me of two-counts of murder. However, I would have gladly went to that interview if I had been given the chance. I could have transferred into some other department doing desk duty or something after being hired.
Tell us about your family?
The most honest depiction I could give of my family would be …. As Dysfunctional As They Come.
What do you like to do to stay positive during your fight for freedom?
I put my headphones on & listen to a lot of jazz music that I have on my tablet. As well as, Robert Glasper; Amel Larrieux; Niia; Mali Music; Jill Scott; Erykah Badu; Solange; Eric Benet; Ledisi; Avery Sunshine; The Floacist; Lalah Hathaway; Maxwell, just to name a few.
I read a lot of recent appellate court law decisions, assist others with filing Post Conviction Relief Petitions with Memorandum of Laws attached so that the attorney appointed to their case will not be able to file a Commonwealth vs. Finley letter against them claiming that they have no issues of merit, so that they [Court-Appointed Attorneys] do not have to amend their petitions.
I am a published writer of columns/editorials in two neighborhood grass rooted newspapers in Philly on social issues under my personal caption: “TO THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN & MINORITY INNER-CITY COMMUNITIES … BY: Isaiah Button Givens”. I read a lot of different books at one time. I just finished “Bedroom Bully” By: Trista Russell; Casanova & I’m halfway through “For Whom The Bells Toll” By: Ernest Hemingway. When I’m mentally frustrated or stressed, I reread for the thousand & one time “The 7 Habits Of Highly Successful People” By: Steven Covey. I also have been reading this college book titled: “Abnormal Psychology In A Changing World – 5th Edition.”
Basically I do anything to stay mentally sane. I believe that all we own in this world is our minds. If one loses their mind, then they have surrendered the greatest treasure bestowed upon them & therefore surrender the will to exist within the realm of existence.
Describe a typical day in the life of Isaiah?
How can I respond to this question, I’m asking myself. I guess you would say that my typical day is staying in a steadfast pursuit of positive growth & development, despite of dwelling within the darkside of human experience by force. Finding a positive within every negative situation confronted with. I do not subscribe to any jailhouse gang or religion affiliation whatsoever [Watching Individuals Place Their Hand Upon The Bible & Intentionally Lie, Depreciated My Religious Belief. How Could A Higher Being Allow For Said Individuals To Get Away Unpunished?] I’m highly respectful of everyone & lack judgement towards others because of their convictions. Every fraction of a second of each minute of my life, whether my eyes are wide open or closed, is dedicated to figuring out how to bring my innocence, my plight, my trials & tribulations before individuals of compassion & empathy to assist me with obtaining my only set goal …. THE TRUTH OF MY INNOCENCE TO OBTAIN WHAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN TAKEN AWAY FROM ME …. MY FREEDOM!!
If you were exonerated tomorrow, what would you do first?
I honestly have not thought that far ahead. For such is merely a figment of my imagination which I have yet to bring forth into a reality of thought, even though every thought of my being is concentrated directly to obtain that fulfillment at some point while I’m still capable of breathing & walking, yet, until then, it’s an unfulfilled prophecy for me.
What would you like people to know about Isaiah “Button” Givens?
That I’m as innocent of this crime as a newborn infant’s initial entry into this world. My innocence is the topic of discussion on a daily basis throughout Philadelphia. My website is of my own research to prove my innocence & to show unequivocally facts that my trial prosecutor [The Late Roger King] committed acts of moral turpitude, which did not just adversely affect me, but harmed the integrity of the judicial system and, no one seems appalled nor outrage over this fact? Why would it make sense for a trial prosecutor to manufacture evidence, suppress evidence, suborn perjured sworn testimony from prosecution witness against a defendant, if that defendant was guilty? To obtain a conviction & not justice to enhance career expectations at the cost of destitute defendants! My trial prosecutor was denied five-times to become a judge. Wonder why? My moral compass is bankrupt, therefore i’m unashamed to BEG & PLEAD FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO CHAMPION MY CAUSE AS AN UNEQUIVOCAL INNOCENT MAN!!
If you were all alone in this world & your brother, son, uncle, father or even yourself faced with such injustice, would you not beg & plead for the compassion & empathy of any individual(s) for their assistance & support pursuant to your innocence? I have never seen any of my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or any of my 50’s every in society & I do not want to die in prison as an innocent man. However, I will not accept nor subject myself to a “No Contest Negotiated Plea” nor a “Negotiated Guilty Plea” for my immediate release from prison. For I am only “Guilty Of Being Innocent” & it’s either all or nothing with me. PLEASE FIND IT IN YOUR HEART TO HELP ME ….PLEASE!!!!
Lastly, what do you need from your supporters in order to help advance your fight for innocence?
Although the Pennsylvania Innocence Project @ Temple University Beasley Law School is investigating my innocence, after I’ve written to practically every Innocence Project in the United States and, as far away as Australia, Canada, Germany & Hawaii, which has been to no avail, I believe that my undisputed story [Website] should be aggressively promoted & the world needs to see the injustice that has occurred to me & that innocence is not just a fact which can be proven by DNA ONLY, but by research of certified documentation & published public records can also prove one’s innocence. So, I guess to share my story with the world & bring forth to the court of public opinion that INJUSTICE IS REAL!!
That Philadelphia had a trial prosecutor named ‘Roger King’ who practiced debauchery & deceit in concert with the Philadelphia Homicide Division to seek convictions regardless if one is innocent or not. Ex-ADA Roger King & The Philadelphia Homicide Unit have a history of bringing about false convictions. One only needs to look at the original “Lex Street Murder Defenders Case” in which Ex-ADA Roger King had a prosecution witness hypnotize to be able to identify one of the defendants as being one of the murderer’s, then had the defendant’s to pick a death qualified jury, when he [Roger King] was aware within 30-days after the defendant’s arrest four-other defendant’s committed the crime because the FBI informed him & Lynn Abraham [Head D.A. at the time] that they had a participant in the murders, the gun used in the murders & who the true defendants were & the original defendants who they knew were innocent, were held for 18 months & still forced to pick a death qualified jury due to Ex-D.A. Roger King & Head D.A. Lynn Abraham moral turpitude? ANY & ALL ASSISTANCE THAT CAN BE THOUGHT OF IS HEREBY BEING REQUESTED! THANK YOU VERY-VERY MUCH!
for more information on isaiah’s case, please visit his website