"To hell with Daniel Holtzclaw, and his tears." — MTV News correspondent Jamil Smith
"Drown in your tears, asshole." — NYC playwright/actress Mara Wilson
"Where is the widespread outrage? Where is the media coverage? Why don't we matter???!!?" — actress Gabrielle Union
Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw's emotional breakdown went viral one year ago this week in the worst way possible. He became a national punching bag when a jury convicted him on 18 of 36 counts of sexual assault-related crimes against eight black women. His sentence: 263 years.
But what if he didn't do it — any of it?
To the casual observer, Holtzclaw's tears looked like the tears of a man sorry he got caught.
But I am no longer a casual observer. For the past several months, I've reviewed extensive court records, accuser testimony, and discovery documents, video and audio. I visited the alleged crime scenes. I interviewed the two lead detectives who constructed the case against him, along with local community activists, a top DNA expert, Holtzclaw's family and friends, and Holtzclaw himself.
The truth about the Holtzclaw case is that a monstrous miscarriage of justice has occurred in the courts of law and public opinion.
Here's what the protesters don't what you to know.
Prosecutors failed to present a single, corroborating witness or a single piece of direct forensic evidence proving Holtzclaw committed any of the 36 alleged assaults allegedly perpetrated at 17 different crime scenes.
Holtzclaw never once asked for a lawyer during a two-hour interrogation by sex-crimes detectives — which came just 12 hours after he allegedly forced a 57-year-old woman to perform oral sex on him during his last overnight shift on June 18, 2014. In fact, Holtzclaw was completely forthcoming and consistent in his description of the 15-minute traffic stop involving northeast OKC resident and star accuser Jannie Ligons. He readily agreed to take a lie detector test "anytime," voluntarily submitted to a buccal swab, handed over his uniform for DNA analysis, and signed a waiver allowing detectives to search his home, computers and phone.
"I want everything" done, Holtzclaw told detectives — even when they falsely claimed to have incriminating video that "doesn't look really good" and purportedly showed "a whole lot of action being performed."
One surveillance video from a nearby commercial building did record Holtzclaw and Ligons's cars on the side of the road. But the video is too grainy and distant to confirm anything other than the fact that a traffic stop took place. The video showed several cars pass by during the 15-minute encounter.
These are hardly the place and manner in which a serial predator would try to conceal his conduct from prying eyes.
A sexual assault nurse examiner test on Ligons, who claimed Holtzclaw forced her to put his penis in his mouth "for about 10 seconds," came up empty for Holtzclaw's DNA. Sex-crimes detective Kim Davis explained away the negative SANE results to me by noting that Ligons had told her that Holtzclaw "did not ejaculate."
But in the police interrogation video, Davis had warned Holtzclaw: "Do you understand that you don't have to full-blown ejaculate to get something out of the SANE exam?...We can get skin cells. We can get pre-ejaculate. We can do all that and still get DNA."
Davis pressed him: "Did your penis go in her mouth?" Holtzclaw firmly answered: "No. It did not."
The forensic evidence backed up Holtzclaw, not Ligons.
She claimed Holtzclaw forced her to put her hands on the hood of his car during the stop. She also alleged that he put his hands on the roof while purportedly assaulting her as she sat in the backseat as he stood on the rear passenger side with the door open. Extensive fingerprint and DNA tests all over Holtzclaw's vehicle — again, just hours after the alleged assault — also came up empty.
The forensic evidence backed up Holtzclaw, not Ligons.
Holtzclaw's demeanor during his interrogation is all the more remarkable and exculpatory when you consider that later in the investigation, detectives procured two other accusers who claimed Holtzclaw assaulted them on the same day as the Ligons' stop. These women (and the vast majority of the rest of the accusers) were actively hunted down by detectives, who primed the pump by falsely stating in advance that they "had a tip" the women could be victims of a sexual assault by a police officer they had encountered in the past.
Prosecutors argued that Holtzclaw "targeted" these vulnerable women because they were the "perfect victims." But my conclusion is that detectives targeted what Holtzclaw's defense team called "the perfect accusers." Outside of the courtroom, their stories became insulated from deeper public scrutiny because of their politically correct status. Now, 12 of 13 accusers (including four on whose charges Holtzclaw was acquitted) are suing for monetary damages. The litigation circus is being led by Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown family lawyer, Benjamin Crump.
Those women included:
—Convicted felon Sherry Ellis, who testified under oath at a preliminary hearing that her attacker was "black" and short (Holtzclaw is light-skinned and 6'1" tall), and who could not identify that attacker as Holtzclaw while he sat in the courtroom.
—Convicted felon Tabitha Barnes, who described Holtzclaw as "dark-skinned" and had not reported any inappropriate behavior — until a sex-crimes detective informed her about the Holtzclaw investigation, supplied her with a date and she changed her story. Barnes testified positive for PCP on the morning she testified at trial. She had also ingested hydrocodone and marijuana.
—Carla Raines, who denied seven times she had been the victim of any inappropriate police conduct — until a sex-crimes detective informed her about the Holtzclaw investigation and she changed her story to claim that he had forced her to expose her breasts.
—Convicted felon Terri Morris, a drug addict diagnosed as a "paranoid schizophrenic with depressive features" who couldn't pick out Holtzclaw from a line-up and described him as having skin with a "dark color," either "Indian" or "Irish" or maybe "white" and in his "thirties, forties, I don't know, fifties." She also misidentified Holtzclaw's patrol car, told the investigators to "leave me alone," and called their questions "bulls—-."
—Convicted felon Shardayreon Hill, who had been rushed to the hospital in December 2013 at the behest of Holtzclaw and his assisting officers after she crushed a vial of PCP in her mouth and spilled more PCP on her skin. Hill called police in September 2014 alleging Holtzclaw had sexually assaulted her — only after the Ligons allegations went public and only after she faced felony charges for destroying evidence and intent to distribute PCP.
—A.G., a 17-year-old girl who excitedly told her mother that Holtzclaw was a "hot cop" with whom she was going to go on "dates." She came forward to allege that Holtzclaw vaginally raped her — but only after her mother was contacted by sex-crimes detectives who told her in advance she may be a victim of police abuse and only after her mother searched the internet for news and a photo of Holtzclaw.
The discovery of A.G.'s DNA on the crotch area of Holtzclaw's uniform pants was touted as the prosecution's "smoking gun." But the skin cells were derived from a minuscule sample that measured a billionth of a gram and this "evidence" continues to be brazenly mischaracterized. In closing arguments, prosecutor Gayland Gieger falsely asserted that the DNA came "from the walls of her vagina" and "was transferred in vaginal fluids."
But the State's own crime lab expert admitted on the stand that no testing was done to establish the presence of vaginal fluid on the pants.
"The only thing I can tell you is it is a biological material that originated from" the teenager, Oklahoma crime lab analyst Elaine Taylor testified. "(H)ow it was put there or how it got there, I wasn't there, I didn't see what happened so I can't really tell you exactly what happened."
As Wright State University biology professor and president of Forensic Bioinformatics, Dr. Dan Krane, a leading DNA expert, emphasized to me, indirect "transfer is a well documented and real possibility." Yet, no testing was conducted anywhere else on the pants to rule out this phenomenon of secondary or even tertiary transfer due to casual interaction such as a handshake or other indirect contact. (Holtzclaw had searched A.G.'s purse.) Nor were the pants fluoresced or tested for other body fluids.
Furthermore, prosecutors failed to note the presence of at least three other sources of DNA on Holtzclaw's pants, including an unknown male's — a glaring omission now being raised on appeal that further bolsters the innocuous transfer theory. Prosecutor Gayland Gieger sneered at the transfer DNA phenomenon in closing arguments, again in direct contradiction to the State's own crime lab expert, who acknowledged under oath the possibility of secondary transfer and its extensive documentation in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
I've just shown you the tip of the iceberg of reasonable doubt that exists in this case. The truth matters because the tactics used against Holtzclaw could be used against anyone. But I don't want you to just take my word on it. As Holtzclaw, who turns 30 on Dec. 10, the one-year anniversary of his convictions, told me in a phone interview from jail: "I want the world to read in detail about my case ... I want the world to see that this can happen to you."