On Jan. 21, 2016, our son, brother, and friend Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer, was sentenced to 263 years in prison after a jury wrongfully convicted him of sexually assaulting seven women and one teenager, despite the fact that no physical evidence of crime was found, patrol car Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) data failed to match crucial accusations, numerous discrepancies occurred in the accusers’ testimony, and detectives gathered almost all of the accusers (ten out of thirteen) by selectively seeking out and questioning only African American women with histories of prostitution or drug use with whom Daniel had interacted during his routine police duties.
Daniel Holtzclaw is innocent and was wrongfully convicted of crimes he never committed. Daniel put his life on the line daily as a police officer for the justice he served and also deserved in his trial but was denied. Please sign our petition to urge Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, former Governor Brad Henry, and Oklahoma news media to investigate the police misconduct and mishandling of Daniel’s case that led to his convictions for multiple sexual assaults he did not commit, and to respectfully request that Governor Fallin grant clemency by exonerating Daniel because he is innocent.
The evidence supports Daniel’s innocence.
The only forensic finding linking Daniel to any accuser in the entire trial was skin cell DNA from a 17-year-old teenager who said the officer searched her purse, pat searched her, then raped her, yet the prosecution’s own DNA analyst acknowledged the evidence was consistent with non-intimate, secondary transfer of skin cell DNA, such as from the purse to the officer’s hands, then to his uniform pants while using the restroom.
No DNA from any other accuser, and not even Daniel’s DNA, was found on Daniel’s uniform pants, which police detectives took on June 18, 2014, as their sole evidence from Daniel. This was just hours after Daniel’s night shift during which detectives eventually claimed he sexually assaulted not just the teenager through the fly of the uniform pants, but also two other individuals including Jannie Ligons, whose unsubstantiated accusations sparked the investigation targeting Daniel.
Only the fly area of Daniel’s uniform pants was tested for DNA, and the uniform pants were NOT tested for saliva, semen, or vaginal fluid to determine the source of the DNA, even though “in legal proceedings, a proper and reliable determination of the source of isolated DNA is essential and an error in identification may result in grave legal consequences” (Jakubowska et al. (2011) Problems of Forensic Sciences, 87: 204-215).
Despite these facts, Prosecutor Gayland Gieger claimed incorrectly after the trial that “the skin cells were transferred through the body fluids of a 17-year-old girl after he raped her. That’s what the evidence was. That’s what the jury heard and certainly that’s what they convicted him of. They [the defense] tried to explain DNA from a 17-year-old girl that ends up inside his pants at the areas where his privates are. Quite frankly, their explanation was not believable because you can’t explain that” (Erielle Reshef, KOKO 5 News, “Prosecutors who helped convict Daniel Holtzclaw speak,” Feb. 5, 2016).
In reality, article after article has shown that DNA can transfer secondarily and even further. If DNA on the fly of your pants were evidence of a crime, then every one of us could be convicted. As early as 2010, forensic researchers reported their discovery that DNA can transfer from a woman through non-intimate social contact to a man’s hands, and then to his underpants and even genitals during urination, such that her DNA will be found on a penile swab (Hulme, J. (2010) Science and Justice, 50: 100-109). This research was recently corroborated by Jones et al. (2016) DNA transfer through nonintimate social contact, Science and Justice, 56: 90-95.
Prosecutor Gieger not only misrepresented the DNA evidence from the 17-year-old girl, but also did not inform the jury about exculpatory evidence that challenged her credibility. Just months after the teenager accused Daniel of sexually assaulting her, this same young woman, A.G., was arrested for using a machete to attack a man in his home on June 10, 2015, after she claimed to police that the man had used the weapon to assault her but “police were not convinced she was telling the truth since she did not appear to have any injuries” (Dallas Franklin, KFOR.com, “Man allegedly attacked at home, 2 arrested,” June 11, 2015). A.G., who similarly accused Daniel of a heinous crime, was booked for assault with a deadly weapon, and on April 18, 2016, she pleaded guilty to two other violent crimes, including domestic assault and battery (Muskogee OK – Case CM-2015-00199 and Case CF-2016-00031).
None of the accusations against Daniel Holtzclaw were supported by any solid evidence of crime. No evidence, for example, supported the first accusation targeting Daniel, which occurred on June 18, 2014, when Daniel performed an off-duty traffic stop of the swerving car with tinted windows that prevented him from seeing the occupants at 2 a.m. that morning.
The driver, Jannie Ligons, lacked a valid license and car insurance and later admitted to police that, before driving, she had taken sleep-inducing PM medication and smoked marijuana, which can cause paranoia and hallucinations. She said she placed her hands on the hood of the patrol car while Daniel pat searched her, then she sat in the backseat of the patrol car. Here, she said, Daniel procured lewd exhibition and orally sodomized her through the fly of his pants, with his hands on the car’s roof. She also said that Daniel touched her phone.
The SANE exam of Jannie Ligons came back negative. No DNA, sperm, or seminal fluid from Daniel was found in or around Ms. Ligons’ mouth. Ms. Ligons’ DNA was not found on the fly of his uniform pants. No fingerprints or DNA from Ms. Ligons or Daniel were found on the patrol car’s hood or roof to corroborate her claims. No DNA from Daniel was found on her phone, but the DNA from Ms. Ligons and some unknown individual was, showing that DNA does indeed transfer from people to things they touch. No pubic hair or DNA from Daniel was found inside the patrol car, and the surveillance video of the traffic stop showed no wrongdoing since the footage was too far away to display fine details.
Although the police detectives were investigating a sexual assault, the only evidence they took from Daniel was his uniform pants. Detectives did not even take Daniel’s underwear, and they never issued a search warrant for his home, personal car, or phone to obtain evidence which could have been used to help support Daniel’s innocence. Daniel answered all the detectives’ questions and asked them to analyze his DNA as quickly as possible so that he could clear his name. Daniel also agreed to take a polygraph test, an offer that the jury was never allowed to hear.
Daniel Holtzclaw has maintained his innocence since the very beginning, June 18, 2014, when police detectives first questioned Daniel and claimed, untruthfully, that they had found pubic hairs in his patrol car and had incriminating surveillance video of the traffic stop Daniel performed that morning at the end of his shift.
Despite the lack of evidence, and even though Ms. Ligons had no history of criminal convictions or warrants for her arrest and the traffic stop of her car with dark-tinted windows at night could not have resulted from any knowledge that the occupant was African American, police detectives concocted a theory that Daniel targeted African American women with histories of prostitution and drugs such that they would be too afraid to report alleged sexual crimes for fear of not being believed.
Police detectives then searched for more accusers by selectively contacting over 50 African American females with histories of prostitution or drug arrests with whom Daniel had interacted during his routine police duties, which often involved intervening in cases of drug use and prostitution in the lower income neighborhood he patrolled. Any black woman who had been stopped by Daniel because of her drug use or prostitution would have a chance to make allegations against the young police officer who had tried to halt her criminal activities. ALMOST 98% OF THE INDIVIDUALS QUESTIONED BY DETECTIVES WERE AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALES, showing that detectives, not Daniel, were the ones who targeted black females with criminal histories of prostitution or drug use.
Detectives solicited testimony by telling these women that police had received a “tip” that the women “may have been sexually assaulted by a police officer,” which was blatant leading of potential witnesses. In one case, the police detective actually named Daniel Holtzclaw as the officer and called him a “very bad guy” with “lots of victims” before a woman identified him after she first denied five times that any officer had treated her inappropriately. The police department and news media at this time were also broadcasting information about Daniel as a suspect, including showing his face, such that the people in the neighborhood he had patrolled knew he was under suspicion.
In this wrongful manner that encouraged false allegations, the police thus found 10 individuals, including the 17-year-old A.G., who made accusations that were used to charge Daniel with sexual assault. This gave a total of 13 accusers including the three black women who reported a crime on their own: the initial female driver (Jannie Ligons, whose allegations were never substantiated), another woman who came forward to claim the officer had sexually assaulted her in the hospital room after she overdosed on PCP (Daniel was found not guilty of her accusations), and a third woman who reported that she had been sexually assaulted but could not positively identify the officer (Daniel was also found not guilty of her accusations).
Seven other individuals, including one man, claimed the officer had sexually assaulted them, but their allegations were deemed too absurd or simply impossible (such as not matching Daniel’s work schedule) to result in charges, and they recanted when confronted with evidence that they were lying. One of those individuals, Shaneice Barksdale, admitted in a videotaped police interview that she had made up her allegations to try to help the case and was convicted of falsely reporting a crime (State of Oklahoma v. Shaneice Barksdale, Case No. CM-2015-1413).
Research by acclaimed eyewitness expert, Dr. Gary L. Wells, has shown that eyewitnesses’ memories of events can be altered by suggestion and positive feedback, often leading to wrongful convictions. The validity of accusers’ testimony in Daniel’s trial should not have been accepted as fact, not only because of the leading, suggestive manner in which police detectives found accusers until they had a total of thirteen, but also because at least five of the accusers knew each other, and many of the women were using hallucinogenic drugs (cocaine, crack, PCP, marijuana) at the time they alleged Daniel assaulted them, which could cause them to accuse an innocent man of actions he did not commit.
Major inconsistencies existed in the accusers’ testimony that ruled Daniel out as a suspect. For example, one woman, S.E., stated that her assailant was a short, black man who stopped his patrol car in an abandoned school yard, and then raped her for 5-10 minutes. Yet Daniel Holtzclaw is a tall, light-skinned, Japanese-American man, and, significantly, the AVL/GPS evidence from Daniel’s patrol car shows that while transporting S.E. he never drove slower than 2 knots and only took 4 minutes to pass from one side of the school yard to the other, simply not enough time to do as was alleged. Nevertheless, Daniel was found guilty of her accusations.
Another woman, R.G., with six felony convictions, said that the officer orally sodomized her on a day when she was getting high off of crack cocaine, and she said she wiped Daniel’s alleged secretions from the oral sodomy onto her chair, yet Daniel’s DNA was not found on the woman’s chair, while the DNA from two other men was. Despite this lack of evidence, Daniel was found guilty of forcible oral sodomy.
We believe the legal system has failed Daniel miserably and a travesty of justice has occurred. You can learn more about the injustices in Daniel’s trial by visiting www.HoltzclawTrial.com, a website created by former defense private investigator, Brian Bates, who is now posting online the facts presented in open court that the media did not report. Daniel’s sister, Jenny Holtzclaw, has also created a webpage www.justicefordanielholtzclaw.com where donations for Daniel’s appeal are gratefully being accepted as well as at www.plumfund.com/financial-hardship/appeal-for-daniel.
Please sign our petition urging Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, former Gov. Brad Henry, and Oklahoma news media to investigate the police misconduct and mishandling of Daniel’s case that led to his convictions for multiple sexual assaults he did not commit, and respectfully requesting that Governor Fallin grant clemency by exonerating Daniel because he is innocent.
Daniel belongs with his family, not in prison for crimes he never committed. Please help right this wrong by signing our petition to free Daniel Holtzclaw.
Sincerely and with our deepest gratitude,
Daniel’s family and friends