A former police officer is facing life in prison after being found guilty of raping vulnerable black women in poor neighbourhoods while on duty – who he specifically preyed on to abuse because “society doesn’t care about” them.
Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, was yesterday convicted of 18 of the 36 charges he faced – five counts of rape and 13 other sexual assaults, including sexual battery and forced oral sodomy, against eight women.
All of the former Oklahoma City police officer’s victims were black women, who he victimised while on the beat in minority neighbourhoods.
The month-long trial has attracted considerable attention in the US for the questions it has raised about the intersection of race, justice and accountability in policing in America.
Holtzclaw, the son of a white father and Japanese mother, was found guilty by an all-white jury of eight men and four women – with concerns about the lack of diversity among jurors being voiced ahead of the verdict.
“Oklahoma City NAACP President Garland Pruitt, told the KOKO Oklahoma City news site: “We’re very disappointed, very, very disappointed, that we don’t have any minorities on there.
“We’re not saying justice can’t prevail but we can be suspicious of it.”
Benjamin Crump, president of the National Bar Association, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown – both unarmed black men shot dead by police officers – has been monitoring the case.
After attending a section of the trial last month, he told reporters: “We will be here to make sure that this is not swept under the rug.
“We come here to stand with these 13 victims of rape, who happen to be African-American woman, to say that their lives matter too.”
In tears as the verdict was given, Holtzclaw proclaimed “I didn’t do it” as he was led out of the courtroom and into custody in handcuffs.
He did not take the stand at any point during the trial.
But the jurors heard from 13 women, who said he had sexually victimised them.
Most of them said he stopped them while out on patrol, ran background checks on them for outstanding warrants or previous arrests, and checked to see if they were carrying drug paraphernalia, before forcing himself on them.
Prosecutors said he used this as his modus operandi because he did not think authorities would take the women’s word over his if he had to defend himself against sexual assault allegations.
The first woman to come forward was a grandmother in her 50s, who said Holtzclaw had pulled her over during a traffic stop on suspicion of drunken driving.
She said he ordered her into the backseat of his squad car, where he exposed himself and told her to perform oral sex.
Holtzclaw’s youngest accuser was 17 at the time. She accused him of escorting her to the front door of her mother’s house, where, she said, he pulled down her shorts and raped her.
“He exercised authority on those society doesn’t care about,” said Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger during the closing arguments.
Holtzclaw’s attorney Scott Adams described him as a model police officer whose attempts to help the drug addicts and prostitutes he came in contact with had been distorted.
Much was made by Mr Adams of the fact that many of the women had records of arrests and histories of drug abuse. Two took to the stand wearing handcuffs and orange scrubs, having recently been jailed on drug charges.
In a statement, the Oklahoma City Police Department said it believed justice had been served by the jury’s decision.