Holtzclaw vs Media-Fueled Public Opinion

Daniel Holtzclaw is serving 263 years for crimes he did not commit. His trial became a media circus, and misinformation flowed freely, unchecked. Not one person outside of Daniel’s family and friends seemed at all concerned with this campaign of misinformation, especially the outlets reporting it. Even now, as Daniel’s case winds its way through the appeals process, the misinformation remains.

The Wikipedia entry for Daniel has factually incorrect information in the first two paragraphs. Amazingly enough, the first two paragraphs consist of a total of 5 sentences. How incorrect will the rest of the article be, when the author cannot even be factually correct in the first 5 sentences? Yet no one has bothered to correct this, and so the majority of the readers of this article believe the misinformation, and repeat it, reinforcing it in the minds of the uninformed. Spoiler Alert! Daniel was NOT convicted of assaulting 13 women. To report such is at best irresponsible, and at worst a deliberate attempt to smear and sensationalize this case for personal gain. That is not journalism. In polite circles, it is referred to as hack writing. I won’t disclose what it is called in less-than-polite company.

While most thinking people do not consider Wikipedia as a reliable source, they do believe what is reported in the mainstream media. Once upon a time, journalists and reporters were held to a standard. News outlets employed fact-checkers, because they were not interested in taking the heat for the distribution of false information. No one is really sure when this changed, or why, but changed it has. Misinformation and falsehoods are rampant in the media today, with no regard to the damage it does. Headlines mean more than facts. Subscriptions trump accuracy. In the race for higher ratings nothing is off limits. Sadly, the public has become accustomed to this, and people rarely bother to fact-check for themselves. This failure leads to the type of misinformation reported in Daniel’s case.

Multiple media outlets, including Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic, The New York Daily News, and Oklahoma’s KFOR News Channel 4, consistently reported that 13 women came forward to accuse Daniel Holtzclaw. This is deceptive reporting, no matter how you look at it.

The Oklahoma City Police Department sex crimes detectives found a grand total of 10 out of 13 accusers whose allegations made it to trial. Found is the key word here. These people did not come forward. The detectives used Daniel’s police records of people he’d stopped while on patrol. Detectives then narrowed down the list to African American women with significant criminal histories. Detectives told the women that they may have been sexually assaulted by a police officer who was a “bad guy” with lots of victims, and then coached the women in order to make a cohesive complaint.

What of the 3 women who came forward rather than being approached by police to obtain allegations? One woman, Jannie Ligons, initially came forward to accuse Daniel Holtzclaw, but none of the forensic evidence supported her allegations. Terri Morris reported being assaulted about a month prior, but did not accuse Holtzclaw then. Her description of the crime, the car, the location, and even the physical characteristics of her alleged attacker did not point to Daniel Holtzclaw until after being coached repeatedly by detectives. Daniel was found not guilty of Ms. Morris’ allegations. A third woman, Shardaryeon Hill, came forward after extensive negative media about the Holtzclaw case, and alleged that Daniel sexually assaulted her in the hospital after she ingested PCP and he helped save her life by ensuring she got medical care. Daniel was acquitted of her allegations, too.

Media also never reported that a total of at least 21 people, including a man, made sexual assault allegations against Daniel, but 8 of those allegations were discovered to be false right away and were weeded out. ONLY 13 women made it to court, and only 8 of those were deemed credible by the jury. But that’s not a catchy headline is it? Reporting that 62% of Holtzclaw’s accusers were found to be unbelievable isn’t a sexy, sensational headline. It could have been, but the media, almost as a unit, decided to take a different track altogether.

Some authors chose race baiting as a tactic to spread their words. Every news outlet focused on the 13 black accusers of the white police officer. They also noted the all-white jury. Few failed to clarify that Daniel Holtzclaw is a Japanese-American. Even fewer clarified that the prosecution had just as much to do with seating an all-white jury as the defense did.

The Daily News especially seemed to never miss the opportunity to push racial division, and yet failed to note that detectives only interviewed 2 people who were not black.

 

How is it possible that with all the racial tensions of the time, the reporter failed to report the rather obvious targeting by detectives of black women? Mainstream media failed to provide believable context about the alleged targeting of black women by Holtzclaw, mainly because the detectives failed to provide it. Neither the detectives nor the media can reasonably claim he only targeted black women if they failed to investigate any other races. Again, poor investigation wasn’t the type of headlines being sought. Even though it could have been, it didn’t fit in with the spin already decided upon.

The key DNA evidence, supposedly the smoking gun of the case, was even misrepresented in the media. More than once, it was reported that the DNA found in vaginal fluid played a part in the conviction. Why did the media miss the fact that there was no evidence of vaginal fluid, that the state DNA expert conceded she had done no testing for vaginal fluid, and that there was no universally accepted test for vaginal fluid? That wasn’t covered, but evidence that was misrepresented by Prosecutor Gayland Gieger during the closing rebuttal was quoted as fact repeatedly, a clear failure on the part of any outlet reporting it. A prosecutor who ignores what his own expert witness testified to, and creates his own scenario should have been a huge waving red flag, but it wasn’t. That alone could have been the basis for a sensational headline, but the die was cast. Nothing that might detract from the wholesale public promotion of Daniel Holtzclaw as guilty was going to get through.

Once the media decided Daniel Holtzclaw was guilty, they informed the world. So did Oklahoma City Police Chief Citty, who smeared Daniel’s name while firing him in January 2015, long before the trial. As reported by the media, Chief Citty proclaimed in Daniel’s termination letter that “your offenses committed against women in our community constitute the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37 years as a member of this agency.” So much for Oklahoma City’s claim that personnel records need to be kept confidential. Funny that government officials are now arguing that they can’t share the personnel records of Elaine Taylor, the forensic analyst who misrepresented the DNA evidence in Daniel’s case, but they showed no compunction about publicly releasing Daniel’s termination letter, completely destroying his presumption of innocence.

The truth in Daniel’s case didn’t actually matter. Neither apparently, did the facts. The agenda ruled the day, and pesky little things like constitutional rights never stood a chance. This is what allowing others to think for you can do. This is what complacency can lead to. What if Daniel Holtzclaw were your son, friend, brother, or husband? Would this be acceptable to you then? If not, then why is it acceptable to you now?

In spite of the many ways the media could have reported this case, they chose to report it from a Daniel-Holtzclaw-is-Guilty standpoint. We, the general public, allowed them to do it. What does it say about us, as a society? I, for myself, am ashamed that I was just as guilty when this case was making headlines. I trusted, I believed, and I never once stopped to think that he might be innocent. Now, all I can do to make amends is to report the facts, the truth, and let you decide for yourself. I believe Daniel Holtzclaw is innocent. You don’t have to. I hope that whatever you decide, it is fact-based and informed, not by mainstream media, but by the evidence presented in this case. I hope you realize that thinking and reasoning are freedoms denied to many people in the world, but not to you. These are gifts to be used by you, not disregarded. The public found Daniel Holtzclaw guilty. What if the public is wrong? What if he’s innocent?

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    Grace Winterwood

    Freelance Journalist

    Journalist at http://betherain.org/ Outspoken conservative hoping for a better life for my children and a new AC system by spring! Contact me at gwinterwood@bethereain.org and @winterwoodgrace on Twitter.

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