The Jury In The Daniel Holtzclaw Trial Has Been Deliberating For 26 Hours And Counting
Since November 2, former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw has been on trial in Oklahoma City, OK, facing charges that he sexually assaulted 13 Black women in the community he patrolled. Today, the jury entered their third day of deliberations, with 36 felony charges, including rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery, and more, to consider – but as more time passes, supporters of the victims are becoming increasingly concerned that the all-white jury will somehow, someway, decide in favor of a man in uniform despite the mountain of evidence against him.
Holtzclaw, who is facing a potential life sentence, did not take the stand during the trial, but all 13 of his accusers did. While trial transcripts are not yet available, the women told their stories for the first time back in November 2014 during a preliminary hearing, and you can read their testimonies here. The women, who range in age from 17 to 57, all told similar stories of Holtzclaw using his badge to detain and intimidate them, and then either exposing himself, groping them, raping them, or all of the above, sometimes in their own homes. According to the prosecution, Holtzclaw specifically targeted Black women who, in addition to almost all of them being from the same impoverished neighborhood, either had been in trouble with the law before or had warrants out for their arrests; women who would be less likely to report him, because they wouldn’t want further trouble from the police, feared arrest, or didn’t think they would be believed.
However, after the second-to-last (and eldest) of Holtzclaw’s victims, identified as J.L., did go to the police, they were able to connect him to another assault reported by a victim identified as T.M. by cross-checking the women’s accounts against the GPS system on Holtzclaw’s car as well as his searches in the police system. Once it became clear that these two women’s accounts lined up, investigators were able to identify six additional victims by looking into the other names Holtzclaw had run through the system. Between September and November 2014, five more victims came forward on their own, bringing the total number of victims to 13, and all the while Holtzclaw remained on paid administrative leave, until he was finally fired in January 2015. During trial, the prosecution corroborated the geographical and timeline-related details of the victims’ claims — like the remote locations where Holtzclaw took them — using GPS and cell phone data.
Holtzclaw’s lawyers, meanwhile, having very little to work with in order to try to prove their client’s innocence, focused their defense entirely on assassinating the character of the victims. The criteria that the prosecution says Holtzclaw used to choose his victims — Black, poor, with criminal records, drug problems or outstanding warrants — are the very same attributes that the defense says makes them unreliable witnesses. They have “agendas” and are lying, an all too common refrain used against women who have the courage to report their rapes. And people wonder why more women — especially women of color and sex workers — don’t go to the police after they’ve been assaulted, let alone after they’ve been assaulted by a police officer? Look no further than the way Holtzclaw’s defense tried to assassinate the character of these 13 women. Consider the fact that despite 13 consistent testimonies which are corroborated by GPS and cellphone data, the jury in this case is still deliberating after three days and 25 full hours, and recognize a guilty verdict on all, most, some or any of the charges is hardly a guarantee.