Former OKC Police Officer Convicted of Rape11-Dec-2015
After one of the longest juror deliberations in recent history, an Oklahoma County jury finally reached a decision in the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, the former Oklahoma City police officer accused of raping and sexually assaulting 13 women while on duty in the department's Springlake division.
Holtzclaw came under investigation in June 2014, when a 50-year-old woman reported that the police officer pulled her over and sexually assaulted her. After the woman's story became public, police identified 12 other potential victims. Each of them told similar stories--that the officer pulled them over or stopped them as they were walking through a neighborhood and sexually assaulted them or threatened them with arrest if they did not engage in sexual activity with him.
The women testified that they were afraid to come forward, because they didn't think anyone would believe them, and indeed, their credibility was challenged throughout the trial. The accusers were typically drug abusers with criminal histories, and their credibility wasn't helped when another accuser came forward with a false accusation. That woman later admitted that she made up her account of sexual assault in order to "help" the investigation. Instead, it just illustrated the point that false accusations can and do happen.
Holtzclaw's attorney, in challenging the credibility of the accusers, pointed out that there was no physical evidence to corroborate one accuser's testimony, and he noted several discrepancies in another accuser's account. At least one accuser showed up to testify under the influence of drugs. She was described as "sleepy" and "having a difficult time concentrating" as she testified. She admitted to using Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug used for treating bipolar disorder and depression; over the counter medications; and illegal drugs before taking the stand. She tested positive for PCP and other drugs.
The case was highly complex, as jurors tried to determine whom to believe. On the one hand was a law enforcement officer, sworn to protect and serve, but who was facing a slew of women accusing him of abusing the badge and assaulting vulnerable women whom he thought would be too afraid to testify against him. He knew their credibility would be questioned. On the other hand were 13 women with tales of sexual assault and coercion under threat, but these women were painted as unreliable and testifying to serve their private agendas.
Jurors began deliberations Monday night and did not reach a verdict until Thursday night.
Holtzclaw was charged with 36 criminal counts. On Thursday, his 29th birthday, he was found guilty of 18 charges, including first degree rape, forcible sodomy, and sexual battery. Although each rape charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, the jury recommended a sentence of 30 years for each. All totaled, the sentences recommended by the jury add up to 260 years in prison if they were ordered to run consecutively.
Formal sentencing is scheduled for January 21.
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