Supporters and family of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting multiple women, continue to rally support as he fights for a retrial in the state courts.
The sexual assault attracted national attention in December 2015, when 13 women testified against Holtzclaw on 36 counts of rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy and other charges. He was accused of sexually preying on black women in the poor neighborhoods he patrolled in 2013 and 2014, often using former arrests or warrants to coerce the women he stopped.
A jury found Holtzclaw guilty of 18 counts involving eight women and acquitted him of 18 other charges. The now 30-year-old was sentenced to 263 years in prison.
As Holtzclaw and his loved ones continue to maintain his innocence, his case has also attracted a cadre of other supporters from law enforcement and exonoree communities.
Michelle Malkin, a conservative political commentator and author, profiled the case last year in “Daniel in the Den: The Truth about the Holtzclaw Case,” an episode of her reporting series “Michelle Malkin Investigates.” She returned to Holtzclaw’s hometown of Enid, Oklahoma, this weekend to screen a new episode purported to expose the reality of wrongful convictions and report on new developments in Holtzclaw’s case.
“It takes a corrupted village to secure wrongful convictions, and it takes a village of good and brave people to reverse those convictions and free the actually innocent,” Malkin told the crowd of more than 100 who attended the screening. “That’s why we came to Enid. And the message I want to send to Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City Police Department officers, rank and file police officers who knew what a fine police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was, is it is never too late to tell the truth.”
Holtzclaw himself called into the screening, which featured a panel discussion with former law enforcement officials and exonerees who sympathize with Holtzclaw.
“Public opinion does matter,” Holtzclaw told the crowd over the phone. “So please continue to fight for me, continue to fight for everyone who’s been wrongfully convicted, and know your voice matters.”
Panel member Ray Spencer was sentenced to 212 years for statutory rape in 1985 and served two decades before forgotten evidence came to light. He was released in 2004 and officially exonerated in 2010.
Spencer said he’s convinced of Holtzclaw’s innocence because of holes he perceives in the trial evidence, and because he’s talked with Holtzclaw and detected only sincerity.
“I’ve listened to convicts for 25 years plead their innocence,” he said. “There were some I believed were innocent. But the majority of them, it was just justifying in their own mind what they did. I don’t see that in Daniel.”
Spencer said he’s hopeful recent developments in the case will lead to Holtzclaw’s release and exoneration. Last month, documents concerning secret hearings held involving the case were unsealed and showed a secret hearing was held to determine whether personnel records that could help Holtzclaw’s appeal should be released.
In his appeal, Holtzclaw’s current attorneys say his original trial lawyers inadequately challenged a police lab analyst who was a key prosecutorial witness. The analyst testified on DNA evidence found on the inside of Holtzclaw’s pants, which the defense argues could have been transferred via non-sexual contact.
Holtzclaw’s team argues that without this DNA argument, the jury would have voted to acquit. However, two jurors who spoke to the Associated Press maintain the jury would have convicted him anyway.
Juror Daniel Speaks said DNA evidence was "pretty crucial" to juror deliberations, but "it wasn't strictly the DNA."
Another juror, Karen Hancock, told the AP she’s confident Holtzclaw would have been convicted without the DNA based on the strong circumstantial evidence presented at trial.
One of Holtzclaw’s victims, Jannie Ligons, now 61, says the notion of a new trial seems crazy because "everybody knows what he did."
Malkin said this weekend she believes public opinion has shifted strongly in Holtzclaw’s favor in the last year, partly due to the secret nature of the recent hearings.
“Whether you’re left, right or center, people don’t have to agree with me ideologically to believe that Daniel was wronged in very grievous ways, and at the very least deserves a retrial,” Malkin said.
James Neal of the Enid, Oklahoma, News & Eagle, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.