AFRICANGLOBE – It’s a travesty that Daniel Holtzclaw, who could be let off by an all-white jury after allegedly rampaging through Oklahoma City assaulting poor black women, isn’t headline news.
Daniel Holtzclaw should be a household name. He should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country. His criminal trial should be featured in the A-blocks of national news broadcasts.
We should be able recognize him on sight. We should be able to number and name the horrendous crimes he allegedly committed. Should he ever walk the streets again, he should enjoy not a single moment of anonymity.
Holtzclaw, a 28-year-old former Oklahoma City police officer, is an alleged sexual predator who prosecutors say used his badge to rape at least 13 women over a seven-month period. The alleged victims of his increasingly brazen pattern of attacks, prosecutors say, included an underage girl and a grandmother. Ranging in age from 17 to 57, all but one are Black and all live in the same poverty-stricken, predominantly African-American neighborhood in the northeast section of the city.
They were picked because they were Black and poor. They were picked because the perpetrator thought nobody would give a damn. It’s been two days since the jury began its deliberations, and there is a growing unease about the potential for a not-guilty verdict.
On Wednesday morning, eight men and four women filed into an Oklahoma courtroom and began their third day of deliberations. As of this writing, there has been no verdict. If convicted, Holtzclaw could face life in prison for 36 felony charges of rape, forcible oral sodomy, burglary, and sexual battery. It is worth noting that while the city population is nearly 40 percent minority, the jury panel is all white.
Some of the accusers—Buzzfeed documented their testimony on Wednesday—said the officer violated them in their own homes while wearing his department-issued uniform. One woman testified that after Holtzclaw ran her name and found an active warrant, he took her to an abandoned school where he raped her. Another said she was forced to perform sex acts on the side of the road. Another said she was sexually violated while handcuffed to a hospital bed. Investigators said they found DNA, from what some believe is an unknown 14th victim, inside the crotch of his uniform.
The last accuser to testify was only 17 when, she said, Holtzclaw raped her on her mother’s porch just after dark. The officer first told her he needed to search her for drugs, she testified. He first groped her under her clothes before pushing his fingers into her vagina, she said, then he unzipped the fly of his trousers and raped her. The youngest of the accusers—some of them suspected of prostitution or drug possession, others with an active warrant—she wondered out loud: “What kind of police do you call on the police?”
For too many, living on the margins and with no real voice in the system, the answer is: nobody.
At 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, the former Eastern Michigan football player allegedly used threats of violence and arrest to ensure their silence. Holtzclaw was apparently betting on that. He was apparently betting that, if they ever talked, we wouldn’t care. Once arrested and headed for trial, he had to be banking on at least a majority white jury. Three Black men were reportedly struck from the jury panel.
He didn’t go after doctors, lawyers, housewives, and schoolteachers in a white suburb, Assistant District Attorney Lori McConnell said. Holtzclaw allegedly targeted and preyed on women he apparently thought no one would believe, women who didn’t have the power to push an investigation or to demand his arrest.
“Who will believe these women, and who will care?” McConnell said was Holtzclaw’s attitude.
Indeed, in the end, most were afraid to come forward, afraid no one would believe them, afraid that they themselves would be arrested. They weren’t the kind of women who make for “good victims” on the evening news or on the witness stand. Even if identified, they would be hesitant to speak out.
It wasn’t until a 50-something-year-old grandmother came forward that detectives took a real interest in the case. She said Holtzclaw “snickered” and “grinned” as he forced her into oral sodomy during a traffic stop.
“‘Oh, my God, he’s going to kill me,’” she testified. “That’s what I kept saying to myself.”
By: Goldie Taylor