His supporters say that no one deserves a new trial more than Daniel Holtzclaw, the former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of being a serial rapist and sentenced to 263 years in prison. Holtzclaw has maintained his innocence from the start, and unlike the case with his accusers, his recounting of the facts has never changed.
On the other hand, he was found guilty at trial, with 13 accusers, and that makes most people lose interest in the case almost immediately, assuming that where there’s smoke, there’s fire and he must be guilty.
My own interest in this case was spurred by the fact that I work with Michelle Malkin, the firebrand conservative columnist. My company has syndicated Malkin’s column to hundreds of newspapers and websites across the country since 1999, and many times she has gone out on a limb in her reporting — and I don’t ever recall her getting it wrong.
So I was startled to see her two-part documentary on Daniel Holtzclaw, “Daniel in the Den,” which is available on CRTV, a new online television channel that features Mark Levin and other conservatives.
I was startled because I had seen Juju Chang’s report on the Holtzclaw case on “20/20,” “What the Dash Cam Never Saw,” and just assumed that Daniel was guilty. Chang followed the story as it existed — meaning Holtzclaw had been found guilty and the reporter assumed he was guilty because of that — and the audience was left with the impression that of course he was guilty.
But Malkin asks, “What if he is innocent?” And then she takes us on a journey. She points out some amazing flaws that occurred during the trial itself, and she says the jurors — who ultimately said it was the DNA that convinced them — based their decision on what she characterizes as false and misleading statements about the DNA evidence by the prosecuting attorney, backed up by her interview with DNA scientist Dan Krane of Wright State University.
I am writing this in hopes that other journalists will look into this case. Of course, if the state got it right — that eight of the 13 women were true victims of Daniel Holtzclaw — then he got all that he deserved in the sentencing. The image of someone using the power of the state — as a policeman with a gun targeting drug addicts and prostitutes, feeling confident that they would never complain precisely because they were drug addicts and prostitutes and no one would believe them — is beyond contemptible.
This explains why there is such a visceral reaction to the case. For example, a writer for SB Nation wrote a long piece shortly after Holtzclaw’s conviction that was perceived to be sympathetic to Holtzclaw, and everyone went nuts. SB Nation fired the writer and an editor who worked on the story and took the piece off the website within hours. Nearly 100 percent of the comments condemned Holtzclaw as a monster who preyed on the most vulnerable. What was interesting about that “sympathetic” portrayal of Holtzclaw was that the story assumed Daniel was guilty and the author was addressing the reason he would have done these vicious deeds that were so out of character. The people he talked to who knew Holtzclaw described someone totally different from the villain who was found guilty in court.
But that only reinforces Malkin’s question. What if the state got it wrong? What if the incidents never happened, or what if they got the wrong policeman? After all, many of the witness statements described someone other than Holtzclaw. (“He was a black man” or “He had blond hair” or “He was short.”)
The SB Nation reporter spent months talking to one person after another, and each one said what a wonderful human being Daniel Holtzclaw is. The article was trying to understand what had happened to cause him to become a serial rapist. Could it have been too many head traumas from football? Or maybe it was steroids or his rejection by the NFL. None of it made any sense to his friends. In fact, the only explanation that would make sense in light of the seemingly endless stream of character references is that he is innocent. But if he is innocent, why was he found guilty?
The case against Daniel Holtzclaw appears to have been created by two detectives in the Oklahoma City Police Department who said they decided early on that he was guilty. One of those is retired Detective Kim Davis, who said she was convinced from the beginning that the accuser was telling the truth. The other detective, Rocky Gregory, eventually concluded that Holtzclaw is a “psychopath,” and both detectives were determined to prove their suspicions correct.
There are a number of analyses of this case on YouTube. There are two that I found especially intriguing. I’m not sure who the analysts are, and I can’t vouch for their character, but both break down a lot of complicated reporting into easy-to-understand explanations. One is by Diana Davison (https://youtu.be/OIL-fbJL3as), and the other is by someone who calls himself Ferg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfksNwbGl68). They talk the way people might converse in a bar, especially Ferg, so if offensive language bothers you, at least you have been warned.
Then there was the involvement of Artists for Justice, an Oklahoma City group whose thinking parallels the Black Lives Matter movement. Its members’ voices were heard inside the courtroom, even when they were protesting outside the building. They were shouting that the jury must convict. “We want life!” was one of their standard refrains.
No change of venue? Is it enough for the judge to tell the jurors to ignore all those shouts day after day?
This was all occurring during the “summer of Ferguson,” when riots made the nightly news. There were riots in Baltimore, too, after Freddie Gray’s death. A half-dozen Baltimore police officers were charged, but there was not a single conviction.
Many things struck me when I watched Michelle Malkin’s report, but the image that sticks in my mind is of Daniel Holtzclaw, a 27-year-old police officer at the time, being questioned by Detectives Kim Davis and Rocky Gregory. They told him that a woman he had pulled over claimed that he had forced her to perform oral sex for 10 seconds.
It is painful to watch the two-hour interrogation of Holtzclaw, which is available on YouTube. The investigating detectives, Davis and Gregory, are clearly obsessed by his size. Holtzclaw was a star football player in high school and at Eastern Michigan University, and he was a 6’1” bodybuilder with huge muscles at the time of the interview. This clearly intimidates the investigators, because they keep saying such things as, “You sure are a big guy” and “What a big fellow you are.” They even joke about the size of his private parts and yuk it up.
Holtzclaw, who grew up in a Christian household and has a Bible verse tattooed on his shoulder, puts his head down and is clearly embarrassed.
Holtzclaw’s father is white, and his mother Japanese, and the family — Daniel, his parents and his two sisters — is proud of its biracial heritage. Watching Daniel in the interrogation room, I could totally see a Japanese influence. Kim Davis said she assumed he was guilty because his answers were “robotic.“ He had not acted offended or raised his voice to a scream when she was throwing vicious charges at him; instead, he had simply answered “yes” or “no” to her questions. She told Juju Chang that if an investigator had asked her those same questions, her “voice would probably (have gone) up 10 octaves. ‘What?! I didn’t do that!’”
But Daniel’s sister Jenny says the household was quiet and devoid of shouting and screaming. Asked about his replies during the interrogation, she said, “That’s just Daniel. That’s how he talks.” Daniel’s father spent his career with the military and the police, and his mother, who also was a police officer in Japan, taught their children to respect authority and answer questions politely and not raise their voices 10 octaves. I described the interrogation to a Japanese-American friend and asked what she thought. She used the word “respectful” rather than “robotic” to describe his “yes” or “no” answers. “This was Oklahoma meets Japan,” she said.
The interrogation starts off with Davis telling Holtzclaw that he has the right to an attorney, and he says, in essence, “Why would I want an attorney? I didn’t do anything wrong.” She says they may find his DNA on the alleged victim, and he says they should go ahead and test her because they won’t find anything, seeing as nothing happened. His message (in my paraphrasing) was, “Test me all you want. Take my DNA. Give me a lie detector test. And test her as much as you can. You will see that she is making this up. It never happened.” Diana Davison breaks down the details of this interrogation in a way that is very amusing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJFb3KZsa4g.
So after questioning Holtzclaw and his accuser, the police did perform scientific tests, and the resulting data confirmed what he was saying during his interrogation. The SANE exam and all fingerprint and DNA tests corroborated Holtzclaw’s story and not the accuser’s, yet the detectives ignored the forensic evidence and built a case by going through hundreds of reports that he had made in his three years as a cop, and they managed to find a dozen women who agreed to testify against him. And now most of those same women are working with Michael Brown attorney Benjamin Crump to sue the city for a big payday.
Crump put it succinctly. This is not about Daniel Holtzclaw, he said. This is about “social justice” and centuries of oppression. Holtzclaw’s conviction was “a statement for 400 years of racism, oppression and sexual assault on black women.”
As Matthew Philbin of NewsBusters commented, “that certainly is a lot of weight to put on the verdict of a single trial involving a single cop and flies in the face of notions of blind justice. Whatever the actual truth in the case, Holtzclaw was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.”
Much was made in the media about Daniel’s reaction to the verdict, where he broke down in tears. The video went viral on the internet, and many people have been quoted as saying that this was the reaction of a guilty man who thought he was going to get off. He was shocked that the jury believed his accusers and not him. But that strikes me as totally unfair, if you consider the possibility that he is innocent. Imagine if you were 29 years old and you were just told that you were guilty of crimes that you never committed. How would you react? I know I would have had exactly the same reaction as Holtzclaw.
Let’s hope other television, newspaper, magazine and internet reporters go beyond the headlines in this scary story. So far, in addition to Michelle Malkin, it is the internet analysts who have offered the most revealing insights, in my opinion. Most of the mainstream news reports simply quote the officials who, at this point, would have much to lose if Holtzclaw’s conviction were overturned.
Either Daniel Holtzclaw is the Monster of the Midwest — someone who preyed on vulnerable women, especially black women — or, as his sister says, this is the Duke lacrosse case on steroids. Stay tuned. The one thing we know for sure is that we haven’t heard the end of it.
Rick Newcombe is the founder and CEO of Creators Syndicate.