Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Daniel Holtzclaw: one really bad cop?

Earlier today, I wrote about how I often end up watching videos I never intended to see.  Well, this morning, as I was writing my blog post about putting yourself out there, YouTube autoplayed a video showing a man named Daniel Holtzclaw being sentenced to 263 years in prison.

Astonishingly enough, despite being accused of lurid crimes and getting an extreme prison sentence, I had never heard of Daniel Holtzclaw before an hour or so ago.  That really surprises me because it seems like his case would have the makings for a TV movie of the week.  He's a good looking guy, still young at 29.  In high school and college, he'd been a football player.  After graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in criminal law, Holtzclaw became a police officer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  This was a man with a very bright future and, perhaps, even the whole world as his oyster.  

On December 10, 2015, Holtzclaw's 29th birthday, he was convicted of 18 of 36 charges brought against him for raping 13 black women.  On January 21, 2016, Holtzclaw was sentenced to all 263 years of the sentence recommended by the jury. 

What makes this case especially interesting is that given the scope of the crimes committed, it received very little media attention.  The women that Holtzclaw has been convicted of victimizing were, by and large, black women who were poor and had criminal records and/ or arrest warrants.  He was allegedly able to get away with his crimes mainly because most of the women involved in this case claimed that they felt if they spoke up, no one would believe them.  That all changed, though, on June 18, 2014. 

At around 2:00am while on patrol in the northeastern part of Oklahoma City, Holtzclaw encountered a 57 year old grandmother named Jannie Ligons.  Unlike Holtzclaw's other alleged victims, some of whom he was accused of terrorizing repeatedly, Ligons was neither poor nor struggling with legal problems.  She was also not from the predominantly poor, black neighborhood from where Holtzclaw's victims were targeted.  Ligons claims Holtzclaw pulled her over and made her lift up her shirt and pull down her pants.  Then he forced her to perform oral sex on him.  Ligons reported the incident to police and Holtzclaw was arrested later the same day.  As the case evolved, it became clear that Holtzclaw preyed on vulnerable women he knew were unlikely to fight back.  

I don't want to get too much into what Holtzclaw allegedly did to his victims.  Those details are readily available on Google.  What I do want to discuss is how this man's case wasn't really covered in the news.  It's my guess that had Holtzclaw been accused of attacking white women or even simply women of affluence, more people would have heard about this case.  Indeed, two Oklahoma City women, Grace Franklin and Candace Liger became activists in the wake of this case, forming the group OKC Artists for Justice when Holtzclaw's bail was reduced from $5 million to $500,000.  They apparently reached out to many organizations and media outlets, but no one seemed interested.  Why is that?

As a woman... really, as a fellow human being, I can't help but feel tremendous sympathy for Holtzclaw's accusers.  It's no secret that a lot of impoverished people end up having trouble with the law for whatever reason.  Legal problems contribute to poverty because it costs money to be in trouble with the law.  More than one of Holtzclaw's victims admitted that because they were black females who had been in trouble with the law, they felt they wouldn't be believed.  These were women who mostly had experienced going to jail and said they figured that if they didn't give Holtzclaw what he demanded, they would go back there.  One woman who had been to jail before claims that she thought about all that happens when one is booked and doesn't have the money to bail out of jail.  She said she figured it was easier to give in to Holtzclaw than go through that again.  Imagine how terrifying and demoralizing that had to be...  

It makes me sick to think about what this man has been convicted of doing.  It makes me even sicker to think that his victims were supposedly so disenfranchised and beaten down by the system that they felt they couldn't ask for help or demand justice.  The police are supposed to be helpful.  It's their job to protect and serve the public.  If Holtzclaw truly did what he's been convicted of doing, he is a predator and a pitiful coward who deserves to be right where he is.  But why wasn't he exposed the way, say, Scott Peterson was?  Is it simply because he didn't kill any of his victims?  Is it because his victims were not pretty white women with privilege?  In fairness to Holtzclaw, at least one woman was arrested for making a false claim that he raped her.  She said she did it because she wanted to "help the case" against him.



Holtzclaw's interrogation.  Some people commenting think he seems innocent.  I'm not sure what to think.  After I posted this, I found a Web site run by his sister that makes the investigation seem less clear cut.  Holtzclaw is warned that things "aren't looking good" for him, but he still cooperates fully with the detectives.  Is he cooperating because he's innocent or is he a sociopath who thinks he can fool the police?

Seven of the thirteen women Holtzclaw victimized have filed a lawsuit, claiming that they can prove that there was a sweeping failure of the Oklahoma City police department to recognize and act on signs that there was a predator in their ranks.  The lawsuit alleges that the only reason Jannie Ligons' complaint was taken seriously was because she had a "familial relationship" in the Oklahoma City police department.  Otherwise, he might still be working the streets, looking for his next victim.


A news story about Daniel Holtzclaw...

I will admit that as a white woman who has never truly been poor, I can't really know what it's like to be in the situation Holtzclaw's victims claim they were in.  I can't even really fathom it.  What I do know is that if Holtzclaw really did rape all of those women, he is a very sick individual on many levels.  If he's truly guilty of these crimes, I have to wonder where his deep hatred and sociopathic desire to rape and humiliate women comes from.  What happened to him to make him this way?  Or was he simply born a monster?  Why was he sobbing so hard as the verdict was read?  Was he expecting people to be moved by his display or is he crying because he's actually innocent?  Based on the media reports, it sounds like he wasn't moved when his victims begged him to spare their lives.  I like to think of myself as fairly empathetic, even when it comes to criminals, but in Holtzclaw's case, if the jury really got it right, I truly hope he is never again free to roam the streets.  If they didn't get it right, then I am even more disturbed by this case. 

4 comments:

  1. Obviously innocent people can be convicted, but it would seem that the bias in Oklahoma, if there was a bias, would be in fvor of a white law enforcement official over the minority victims. i certainly hope they got it right, though, because the idea of an innocent person ever going to jail is rather sickening. It is surprising that this case didn't get more coverage.

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    1. Well, he probably is guilty. His reaction in court is utterly pathetic, though.

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  2. He looks like he might be part Asian or Filipino, but in Oklahoma that would probably trump being black.

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    1. He was an Air Force brat. Dad is white of German descent. Mom is Japanese.

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