Giddens receives second life sentence

Date: 2007-02-23

By Misty Shultz/Staff Writer

After deliberating half an hour Thursday, jurors delivered convicted murderer David Giddens his second life sentence for the death of the 3-month-old boy he was adopting. They also tacked a $10,000 fine to his second sentence, which was for injury to a child by omission.

Giddens, of Cleburne, has been on trial in the 249th District Court for killing Nicholas Rhea Hoffert on Feb. 8, 2006.

Giddens was charged with injury to a child by omission because he failed to help the injured Nicholas.

Following court proceedings Thursday, Giddens’ attorneys said he should have sought legal counsel immediately after he was arrested.

“This is why a person needs an attorney present when he makes a statement,” defense attorney Dick Turner said. “This is a typical case of a person subjecting himself to questioning by law enforcement officials and incriminating himself. It is difficult for attorneys to come in later and make a case when this happens.”

Jurors heard recordings of three statements Giddens gave to Cleburne police in the days after Nicholas’ death.

Fellow defense attorney Patrick Barkman agreed with Turner.

“They [Cleburne police] took statement after statement after statement until they got what they wanted,” Barkman said. “There’s always a risk that people will say something incriminating, and it’s really hard to overcome this later, especially when a baby is involved. Any time an infant is involved it’s tough on the jury. But you have to have faith in them, even if you don’t agree with their decision.”

Assistant district attorney Kriste Burnett said the trial was difficult for everyone involved.

“We appreciate the jury’s hard work on the case,” Burnett said. “We feel like justice was done for Nicholas, but our heart goes out to the family on both sides of this. It really is hard on everyone.”

Giddens has not decided whether to appeal, Barkman said.

On Wednesday afternoon Giddens, 43, was found guilty on both charges brought against him, capital murder and injury to a child by omission.

Giddens automatically received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the capital murder charge. However, jurors were asked to determine punishment for the second charge.

For the second sentencing phase the prosecution called four witnesses to testify on injuries discovered on Nicholas’ twin brother, Gary, after Nicholas’ death. Giddens’ sister, Kathy Struvey, testified that she found bruises on Gary’s leg and back while she was bathing him the day after Nicholas’ death.

Lynn Williams, Giddens’ wife at the time of the murder and who was also adopting the twins, told the court she also saw the bruises on Gary. However, Williams said Giddens had never been rough, violent or abusive to either her or their children in the 19 years they were married.

After Nicholas’ death, Child Protective Services required Gary to have a medical evaluation. On Feb. 10, Williams took Gary to Cook Children’s Hospital where he was examined by Dr. Melissa Garretson, a pediatric emergency physician.

Garretson testified that she found a Y-shaped bruise on Gary’s shin, a scrape on his left foot and a series of linear, vertical bruises on his back.

“Babies aren’t doing much at this age except eating and sleeping,” Garretson said. “They usually aren’t bruised. When I saw this, my heart sank because this isn’t normal.”

Based on her findings, Garretson ordered a skeletal survey, lab work and a CT scan of Gary’s abdomen and pelvis to locate internal injuries.

She discovered that Gary suffered from seven fractured ribs, two fractured lower leg bones and a fractured upper leg bone.

“These injuries are absolutely consistent with child physical abuse,” Garretson said.

Pediatric radiologist Daniel Oshman testified that after his review of Gary’s X-rays, he diagnosed the baby as being a victim of battered-child syndrome.

“Ribs are usually not broken in an infant, even in a car accident,” Oshman said. “These injuries simply do not accidentally happen. I can say with almost 100-percent certainty that this was child abuse.”

Oshman answered no when Barkman asked if he could determine where Gary was when the injuries were inflicted and who inflicted them.

The defense did not call any witnesses to testify.

Misty Shultz can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2336, reporter2@trcle.com.

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