We agree with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordering the unsealing of documents that show a secret hearing was held to decide if personnel records that may aid Daniel Holtzclaw’s appeal should be released.
The order came after an Associated Press report regarding the closed nature of the proceedings in Oklahoma City. Holtzclaw, a former Enid resident and graduate of Enid High School, was accused of committing sex crimes and convicted on 18 counts involving eight women. He was acquitted on 18 other charges.
The recent AP report detailed how his appeal raising questions about DNA evidence is playing out in secret. In February, defense attorneys appealed, arguing prosecutors’ faulty analysis from an accuser helped secure the convictions.
Two months later, the state’s highest criminal report granted — without comment — the Oklahoma attorney general’s request to seal records linked to the appeal.
Although we don’t know what was discussed during two days of closed hearings about the case in June, KOKH-TV obtained video surveillance outside a courtroom that shows high-ranking police and lab workers present.
“Surely people can look at the entirety of the facts of this thing and say something doesn’t smell right, something doesn’t look right,” Brian Bates, an investigator for Holtzclaw’s original defense team, told AP. “And there were certainly misdeeds by the prosecution that should result in a new trial.”
According to AP, the newly released documents show they were filed under seal because they pertain to personnel records that should remain confidential under Oklahoma law. We wonder how these could have value to Holtzclaw’s appeal.
Challenging the DNA, the defense argues the evidence could have gotten onto the cop’s clothes through non-sexual contact and contends it was mischaracterized during closing arguments. This point was backed by a report penned by six forensic scientists.
District Attorney David Prater told AP some evidence was being retested out of “logistical and trial strategy concerns.”
Retired University of Oklahoma professor Randall Coyne has said problems with lab workers’ testimony about DNA evidence could have wider implications and potentially lead to a new trial.
Considering OKC’s past controversy with former forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist — known as “Black Magic” for DNA-matching ability — and accusations of falsifying evidence, these developments should be taken seriously. Metro police and prosecutors should be as transparent as possible in this highly charged case.