Two women took the stand wearing handcuffs and orange scrubs

In Oklahoma City:

A former Oklahoma City police officer was convicted Thursday of 18 of the 36 counts he faced, including four counts of first-degree rape, related to accusations that he victimized 13 women on his police beat in a minority, low-income neighborhood.

Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, sobbed as the verdict was read aloud. He could spend the rest of his life in prison based on the jury’s recommendations, which include a 30-year sentence on each of the first-degree rape counts. Among the other charges he was convicted of were forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and second-degree rape.

The allegations against Holtzclaw brought new attention to the problem of sexual misconduct committed by law enforcement officers, something police chiefs have studied for years.

During a monthlong trial, jurors heard from 13 women who said Holtzclaw sexually victimized them. Most of them said Holtzclaw stopped them while out on patrol, searched them for outstanding warrants or checked to see if they were carrying drug paraphernalia, then forced himself on them.

It’s one of those jobs, like being a priest, that give you access to victims and a veneer of authority.

Surprisingly, for once, the jury believed the victims.

[D]espite the number of victims, the case presented prosecutors with several challenges.

Many of the women had arrest records or histories of drug abuse. Most hailed from the same neighborhoods in the shadow of the state Capitol. Two women took the stand wearing handcuffs and orange scrubs because they had recently been jailed on drug charges. Another woman admitted on the stand to slipping out of her motel room the night before and procuring marijuana and the hallucinogen PCP.

Holtzclaw’s attorney, Scott Adams, made those issues a cornerstone of his defense strategy. Adams questioned several women at length about whether they were high when they allegedly encountered Holtzclaw. He also pointed out that most did not come forward until police identified them as possible victims after launching their investigation.

Ultimately, that approach did not sway the jury to dismiss the women’s stories.

All of the women are black. Holtzclaw is half-white, half-Japanese. The jury appeared to all be white, though Oklahoma court officials said they did not have race information for jurors. Some supporters of the women questioned whether the jury would fairly judge their allegations.

And yet he was convicted.


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