Judge hears testimony from expert on battered woman syndrome in hearing

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PURCELL, Okla. (AP) -- A McClain County judge heard testimony from the woman who pioneered national research on battered woman syndrome during a hearing to determine whether a former police officer's 13-year prison term should be reduced.

Former Oklahoma City police officer Lourinda Renee Givens "believed she was going to be killed" the night she fatally shot her husband, Joseph Leggett, a former Nichols Hills police officer, Dr. Lenore Walker said Wednesday.

Givens had her name legally changed from Lourinda Leggett back to her maiden name.

Givens' husband had a cycle of violence against women, and repeatedly put a gun to Givens' head, choked her and threw her against a wall, Walker said.

Givens said she was subjected to a night of severe beating before she shot Leggett as he slept on the couch of their rural Blanchard home in February 1998.

With each beating, battered women may experience "flashbacks"

where they think their life is in danger, Walker said.

At trial, the only defense witness called was the victim's first wife, Jennifer Boydstun, who testified that Leggett routinely battered and emotionally abused her.

Assistant District Attorney Ron Boone questioned whether Walker was testifying on Givens' behalf because she believed the former officer was a battered woman, or because she received $5,000 in 1998 to examine Givens and at least $2,500 to testify at Wednesday's hearing.

Walker, who did not testify at Givens' trial, assured the prosecutor she only speaks on behalf of defendants she considers true victims.

Nearly a year ago, District Judge Candace Blalock sentenced Givens to 13 years behind bars. Jurors in July 1999, found Givens guilty of first-degree manslaughter, but they left the sentencing to the judge.

Boone accused defense attorney Russell Wright of attempting to retry a case already decided by a jury.

"And she let him do it," Boone said of Blalock.

But Blalock denied that granting the hearing was unusual.

"Not for me," she said, adding that she often sets cases for judicial review.

Wright presented a stack of certificates from programs Givens has completed at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center and depicted her as a model inmate who poses no threat to society.

Under state law, a judge who heard a case can modify a sentence within 12 months "if the court is satisfied that the best interests of the public will not be jeopardized."

Before changing a sentence, however, a judge must conduct a hearing in open court. At least 21 days before the hearing, the law calls for the state Corrections Department to provide an assessment report on the inmate.

That didn't happen in this case, and the prosecutor and defense attorney argued over who was to blame.

Blalock said she wouldn't blame Givens for the lack of the report and issued an order for the Corrections Department to produce the report within five days.

Boone argued that it was too late for the report because the 12-month window closes in 10 days. Blalock disagreed and said she will issue a written ruling after reviewing the report.