ENID, Okla. — Journalist Michelle Malkin won the Film Heals Award at the 12th annual Manhattan Film Festival last month, for her work titled “Railroaded: Surviving Wrongful Convictions,” featuring former Enid resident Daniel Holtzclaw.
Malkin, a journalist, columnist and No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, hosted a screening of the work last September at Central National Bank Center in Enid that exposes the reality of wrongful convictions and reports on developments in Holtzclaw’s case.
Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer, was convicted in December 2015 on 18 of 36 counts of sexual crimes, including four counts of first-degree rape, and sentenced to 263 years in prison. Holtzclaw maintains his innocence and is challenging the conviction and the DNA evidence used to convict him
The Film Heals award is given to the filmmaker that best uses the power of film to promote peace, justice, equality and humanity. The events included a screening that attracted activists, philanthropists, lawyers, scientists and exonerees, as well as Holtzclaw supporters from Enid. The Manhattan Film Festival took place April 18-29 at Cinema Village in Manhattan.
Malkin said she was pleased to win the award but noted her work on the Holtzclaw story has been the most rewarding of her career.
“It was a really extraordinary moment for me, for CRTV, but most importantly for Daniel Holtzclaw and the Holtzclaw family,” Malkin said of winning the award in a phone interview. “Obviously, it’s been a nightmare for this family and it’s really remarkable how the tides have shifted.”
She said since she learned of Holtzclaw’s case and broadcast her first story, support has been growing as more people learn about the investigation and trial.
“Two years ago, when we debuted ‘Daniel in the Den,’ we couldn’t even put up a billboard in Oklahoma City asking, ‘What if he didn’t do it,’” Malkin said. “I said it at the screening, it’s the most significant work I’ve done in my 25 years as a journalist, and we’re not going to stop until Daniel is out of prison.”
Malkin said since she first began reporting about the Holtzclaw case, she’s received dozens of emails and phone calls a day from others who have been wrongfully convicted and those who support them.
“I do give a lot of credit to Brian Bates, the original defense team private investigator. He provided so much of a foundation of information to open my investigation,” she said. “There are so many others for whom Brian was the first conduit for information they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
Malkin said now that more people are beginning to accept the possibility of Holtzclaw’s innocence, she’s gratified in knowing she was one of the first to believe in his innocence.
“It is gratifying and every new set of eyes and ears we can have on the case I’m grateful for,” she said. “CRTV released all the work on Daniel’s case for free. It is more than business proposition to me — it’s a cause.”
She said all of the documentaries can be found and streamed from her YouTube channel.
“What’s daunting to me is there are so many cases out there. It’s a flood,” Malkin said. “It keeps me up at night. Even though we have the best criminal justice system in the world, more than 2,00 people have been exonerated. That is an astonishing number of people who have been through the system and have made the fight through the system.”
Hotlzclaw still is waiting to learn if he will be granted an appeal. His defense also is waiting to see if documents related to secret hearings with the DNA expert who testified at his trial will be unsealed.
“You have an innocent man, a man who was dedicated to his career in law enforcement, who is now sitting in jail in the prime of his life knowing he is innocent but to be treated as some sort of monster,” Malkin said. “The judicial system in Oklahoma has ground to halt. I hope more people will take action on this and questions officials about it.
“This could have happened to anybody. It happened to a cop who believed in the system,” she said. “I’m not just one of those people that looks the other way and I’m glad I’ve met so many people in New York that feel the way that I do.”