Cop On Trial For Assaulting 13 Women Gets All-White Jury

Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo.
An Oklahoma police officer has been accused of sexually assaulting 13 women and abusing his authority in some of the most horrific ways possible. But Daniel Holtzclaw's defense got a major boost when 12 white men and women were selected to serve on his jury. All of the 13 women involved in the case are women of color, and the fact that this story isn't a national disgrace could make it easier for Holtzclaw's lawyers to attack the women's credibility during court proceedings.

Holtzclaw, whose trial began on November 3, was arrested in August 2014 and eventually charged with 36 counts of rape, sexual battery, and other crimes, according to The Guardian. He could face life in prison if convicted. However, the police officer's attorney has already indicated that the defense strategy will rely heavily on questioning the reliability of the women who have come forward with allegations.

Not only are the women all Black, many of them have criminal records or have struggled with drugs. The jury, composed of eight men and four women, all of them white, will decide the fate of a law-enforcement officer who coerced sex from women after traffic stops and searches with questionable justifications.

As police investigated the first allegations — from a 57-year-old grandmother who was driving home from playing dominoes — they were able to track down other victims using the GPS in Holtzclaw's police car. Eventually, 13 women, including one who told police she was 17 at the time Holtzclaw allegedly raped her, came forward.

The fact that there is such a strong pattern to the attacks Holtzclaw stands accused of — they took place in the same poor, Black neighborhood of Oklahoma City, with alleged victims who would be reluctant to go to authorities or whose credibility might be questioned — should make the case relatively simple for prosecutors. It could also make this trial another rallying point for racial-justice activists if he escapes serious punishment — especially if his acquittal comes through the public humiliation of a dozen Black women.

Unfortunately, the social trends that made it possible for Holtzclaw to allegedly attack so many women still exist all over the country. Sex workers are targets for violent crime at much higher rates than people in other industries, and authorities regularly disregard their complaints. In March, a woman in West Virginia killed a man who is now believed to be a serial killer who targeted sex workers. A judge in Philadelphia reduced charges against a group of men accused of gang rape to merely theft because they had preyed on a sex worker. These are just the highest-profile cases.

A new investigation by the Associated Press found that hundreds of police officers — at least — lost their badges because of sexual misconduct in just six years.

The Holtzclaw trial and its outcome will expose many of the ugly cultural assumptions surrounding police, women of color, sex workers, drug users — and those stories matter. The cases of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, MO, law officer who was not indicted in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown; Dante Servin, the Chicago policeman who was acquitted in the shooting death of Rekia Boyd; and Joseph Weekley, the cop for whom charges were dropped after he killed a 7-year-old Detroit girl in a botched SWAT raid, among many others, don't point toward a good outcome for these 13 Oklahoma women.

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