Last week, an Edmond attorney filed former Enid resident Daniel Holtzclaw’s petition for a writ of certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Attorney James L. Hankins asks the highest court to review a ruling against Holtzclaw issued by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Aug. 1, 2019.
The petition focuses on two key legal questions regarding “prosecutorial misrepresentation of scientific evidence at trial” and “improper joinder” of 13 accusers en masse alleging disparate crimes spanning 36 counts. The petition was filed Dec. 30, 2019, according to an online docket. The court has until Feb. 5, 2020, to respond.
Prosecutors accused Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer, of targeting black women while on duty in 2013 and 2014. He was convicted in December 2015 on 18 of 36 counts of sexual crimes against 12 women and a teenage girl, including four counts of first-degree rape. Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison.
The petition states the facts of the Holtzclaw's case and cites a secret hearing, which Holtzclaw's defense was not allowed to attend, where the issues with DNA evidence were discussed, as a reason to accept the writ. The filing also cites Holtzclaw's claim of misrepresentation by counsel during his trial.
The writ also cites the misrepresentation of DNA evidence at trial and the joinder of charges from 13 victims for a total of 36 counts as issues unaddressed, or dismissed, by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
In the findings of facts, Hankins outlines some the charges Hotlzclaw's jury accepted and dismissed, noting one victim could not identify him in court but said her assailant was a "short man with blond hair."
"Other allegations showed that the jury believed some but not all of the claims. In the case of T.B., the jury convicted Holtzclaw of sexual assault, but acquitted him of burglary and stalking; as to R.G., a prostitute and crack addict, the jury convicted Holtzclaw of forcible oral sodomy, but acquitted him of rape.
"In one case, the jury believed allegations made by S.E., even though she was unable to identify Holtzclaw in court, and described him as a black man shorter than her height of 5'11" and darker than her own skin tone – when Holtzclaw is 6'1" tall, pale-skinned, and Japanese-American."
Hankins also addresses issues with the DNA found on the fly of Holtzclaw's pants.
"This was a contested part of the case, since the police chemist, Elaine Taylor, admitted that it was possible that the DNA of A.G. could have been a 'secondary transfer' via Holtzclaw’s hands to the fly area of his pants after he had searched her purse," Hankins wrote.
"The DNA issue became more critical during closing argument, when the prosecutor asserted that the biological material found on the fly of the pants was vaginal fluid — when there was no science to confirm this, as a subsequent defense DNA expert has opined."
Hankins also notes in the petition Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals neglects to mention in its recitation of facts how Oklahoma City police found the majority of victims in their case.
"However, missing from the factual recitation by the OCCA is the fact that detectives used Holtzclaw’s police records to contact and solicit further complaining witnesses," Hankins writes. "This was done in the case of ten of the thirteen complainants through the police questioning specifically African-American women with criminal records who had been stopped or approached by Holtzclaw.
"When detectives contacted more than  African-American women with drug and prostitution histories and arrest warrants, detectives told these women that police had 'received a tip' that they were 'possibly sexually assaulted by an Oklahoma City police officer' who 'was a really bad guy.'
Hankins tells the Supreme Court it accept the case for two reasons: "This case raises an issue of national importance regarding incompetent government forensic analysts and nondisclosure of faulty DNA analysis and testimony, all under the shroud of a secret hearing attended by government lawyers where defense lawyers were excluded.
"Holtzclaw’s case is emblematic of numerous cases of mass sexual assault allegations against targeted individuals. The lower courts need direction on how to prevent the accused from being prejudice from improper joinder of offenses, as Holtzclaw was in this case, by the sheer number of disparate allegations of which lead the public and the courts to conclude, erroneously, that the accused is guilty of at least some of the charges."
Holtzclaw's sister, Jenny Holtzclaw, who has maintained her brother's innocence, said she and the family were praying the U.S. Supreme Court would intervene in the case.
“We pray that the U.S. Supreme Court will take note of Daniel’s petition and see the legal, scientific, and national significance of his wrongful conviction. Prosecutors shouldn’t be allowed to lie about forensic evidence to juries. The government shouldn’t be allowed to hide crucial information about its crime lab employees, especially when they make false statements about DNA that was innocently transferred. No American fighting for his freedom and life should be banned from secret hearings and barred from presenting outside scientific experts to judges.
"Daniel is innocent and we will continue to fight in every court of law and the court of public opinion to free him.”