Anthony Givens, a life minor, takes the stand during the reconviction hearing | News
ST. JOSEPH – Anthony Givens told a Berrien County Trial Court judge on March 31 that he was physically and verbally abused by his stepfather, witnessed violence and murder while he was growing up in South Chicago and was sexually abused by a babysitter at age 6.
While often stopping to wipe away tears, Givens also spoke to the judge in detail about the day he raped and murdered a woman in her home during a burglary.
Judge Gary Bruce was presiding over a hearing this week to determine whether Givens, who is serving a life sentence without parole, will ever have a chance at freedom.
Sofia Nelson and Jessica Newton of Michigan’s State Appellate Defender Office are fighting to get the life-sentenced minor sentenced to multiple years. Berrien County District Attorney Steve Pierangeli is fighting to keep Givens locked up for life, without the possibility of parole.
Givens, now 42, was 17 when he broke into the Union Pier home that Elizabeth Olsen shared with her partner, Joy Goldsmith, who was not home at the time. era. Givens repeatedly beat Olsen over the head with a television and raped her. When Goldsmith returned home, he hit her on the head with a VCR and left her for dead.
A Berrien County jury found Givens guilty of murdering and raping Olsen, and savagely beating Goldsmith, during the December 2, 1996 attack. In 1997, he was sentenced to the then-mandatory jail term. life without parole.
Due to a change in the law, Givens now has a chance of freedom if reprimanded.
Charmaine Givens, 36, the sister of Anthony Givens, testified on Thursday that her father beat them with a belt, drank alcohol every day and was harder on Anthony than he was on her and them brother. She said that one day she found Anthony’s birth certificate and the father listed had a different name than his father.
Anthony Givens told the court that when he was 15, his mother picked him up from school and took him to a man who was his biological father.
“He told me why he wasn’t in my life and told me I should pay more attention to my stepfather,” Givens said.
He said that when his stepfather was drunk, he was bossy, aggressive and verbally abusive. When he was 5, Givens said he overfed the family’s pet fish and his stepfather made him strip naked and beat him with a belt.
He said he never felt accepted at home, and as a teenager he turned to a gang for acceptance. He said he drank alcohol every day and witnessed the gang rape of a woman.
Givens said that after a peculiar encounter with his stepfather, he was sent to sleep in the basement of their house and not allowed upstairs. Eventually he was taken to the Union Pier area to live with his grandmother.
“I had no sense of identity. I just existed,” Givens testified. “I felt sad and very angry, like I was not loved at all.”
He said his grandmother worked full time and he had little supervision. He said a typical day involved “going to school, maybe coming home, pretending to do some school work, then going out smoking and drinking, and breaking and entering. in the houses”.
He said he usually targeted homes where he thought no one was home, but during a November 9, 1996 burglary, he raped and injured a young woman who was home alone.
“I had a knife and I threatened her. I told her ‘don’t move’ and she started crying,” Givens told the court. “I had to drop the knife. She grabbed it and we struggled. … There was a bottle, so I hit her on the back of the head with a bottle. She fell on the bed and I ran out of the house.
“I am that person now”
Givens said he broke into a few other homes, and on December 2, 1996, he picked a random house and climbed out the kitchen window. The house was that of Olsen and Goldsmith.
He told the court how he walked through the kitchen and living room and opened a door to find a woman lying on the bed.
“She jumped up and I attacked her. She told me to take what was there,” he said. “We fought on the bed and I raped her. She cried. I felt bad, disgusted, ashamed. I had never done anything like this before. Then I felt conflicted. There was a TV and VCR on the dresser. I grabbed the TV and hit her on the head, more than once.
He said that as he was leaving, Goldsmith went home and he beat her too, with the VCR.
“I was that person then. I’m that person now,” Givens said. “But I’m still connected to that person. wrong.
When asked why he did what he did, Givens replied, “I don’t know. I had no intention of breaking into a house, assaulting anyone, killing anyone, and assaulting another person. I hate it so much.”
Nelson asked Givens, if he doesn’t know why he did what he did, how can anyone be sure he won’t do it again.
“The actions I took at the time were worth jailing,” he said. “When I tell you, the judge, the prosecutor and the community that I know I will never do anything like this again, I don’t ever want anyone to feel like this again.”
In prison, he said he talked to young inmates “about everything and nothing”, wrote a lot and read his poems and stories to other inmates.
“I’m still at war with myself, that I don’t deserve a second chance,” Givens told Judge. “But I love my family, I love life and I want to be able to make things right. I wish I could contribute. I don’t think I will ever be forgiven.”
He said his long-term goals would be to stay sober, talk to other young men, and pursue his passion for writing.
Dangerous and callous
Cross-examined by Pierangeli, Givens said that when he was arrested for Olsen’s murder he did not mention that he had raped her because “they didn’t ask”.
Pierangeli noted that Givens also failed to tell the Michigan Department of Corrections upon admission that he himself had been sexually abused and assaulted. Again, Givens replied, “they didn’t ask.”
The prosecutor also questioned Givens’ claim that he had been drinking alcohol since he was 9 years old.
“Your mother, a licensed, licensed nurse who sees a lot without ever noticing? asked Pierangeli. Givens replied, “Correct.”
Pierangeli also asked Givens, “If you don’t know why you did it (rape and murder), should the court be worried about it?” Givens replied, “Yes.”
Under reconsideration by Nelson, Givens admitted in 1996 that he was dangerous, callous and would have continued to hurt people had he not been arrested.
When Nelson asked him what had changed, he replied, “I lost my mother (who died). It hurts. I was able to sympathize with Mrs. Olsen’s son. I can appreciate people, and who they are. I can’t motivate myself enough to hurt people.
After the attorneys finished their questioning, Judge Bruce spent about 90 minutes questioning Givens, mostly about the 66 violation “tickets” he received while in jail.
The judge noted that many were for alcohol consumption, but others were for assaults on other inmates and prison staff, failure to comply with staff orders and possession of weapons.
In his closing argument, Nelson said that while his crimes were horrific, “they were the actions of an angry, hopeless child.”
Pierangeli argued: “He was not a child. He was 17 years and seven months old. The sexual assaults were almost methodical. He was sexually aroused by his violent acts.
In a final address to the judge, Givens said, “My actions should never be forgiven. I was unfit for society. I apologize to the friends and family (of the victims). No sorrow will change the pain I caused them.
He said he knew what he had done was “horribly wrong”.
“The shame is overwhelming. I will live the rest of my life with this. I can’t change what I’ve done. But I hold myself accountable,” he said. “And I don’t hold any grudges against anyone who thinks I still deserve a life sentence.”
The judge said that once he reviews the transcripts of the hearing and the final briefs filed by the lawyers, he will announce his decision in October.