At the end of January, Daniel Holtzclaw had the first, of what will likely amount to many, parole hearings. He also had his first, of what will likely amount to many, denials of parole. Michelle Malkin’s recent piece highlighting issues with the Parole Board is just one of the reasons Daniel Holtzclaw continues to battle against a stacked deck. The way it works in Oklahoma is fairly simple on the surface. A potential parolee needs a minimum of 3 out of 5 board members to vote in his favor.
For Daniel Holtzclaw’s hearing, one member had been recused prior to the vote. Questions swirl around a second member, and whether recusal would have been advisable. Even if the member had been recused, that left 3 members that Daniel would have had to convince. Daniel Holtzclaw’s stance is, and always has been, that he is innocent. This is something he has never wavered from. This is also why he can expect denial after denial from the parole board.
Parole boards, as a rule, are not concerned with innocence or guilt. They aren’t set up to decide upon claims of actual innocence, and they are not set up to re-litigate cases before them. In short, the average Parole Board wants to know roughly 3 things. Of interest to a Parole Board is if you have accepted responsibility for your crime, if you have been rehabilitated, and if you have remained out of trouble while incarcerated. There is no realistic metric for claims of actual innocence with respect to parole hearings.
In fact, as recently as 2009, the Parole Board in Oklahoma went on record saying that they were not equipped to handle decisions involving actual innocence. They were asked by then-Governor Brad Henry to determine actual innocence for a pardoned former state inmate, Gene Weatherly. Even though he had been pardoned, he was seeking to have his record expunged. He was convicted, partly because of testimony from Joyce Gilchrist, the corrupt crime lab official that trained Elaine Taylor.
Oklahoma has a pattern of problems within their criminal justice system, so hearing that a Pardons and Paroles board didn’t feel equal to the task of determining actual innocence should come as no surprise. Even with the understanding that parole hearings happen automatically, while an inmate must petition to seek a pardon, neither option holds a lot of hope for Daniel Holtzclaw. In fact, it raises the question of waiving future parole hearings. Would he be better off to waive them and save himself and his family the repeated heartbreak of denial? Or would it be better to use every single opportunity to maintain his innocence on record? That is a question that Daniel and his defense team will have to decide. Either way, it is not a decision to be taken lightly.
While there may be future parole hearings on the horizon for Daniel Holtzclaw, his defense team is still struggling through the appalling lackadaisical processes in the Court of Criminal Appeals. The state is expected to file its response to the motion to unseal proceedings no later than February 15. Then, of course, there is no telling how long it will take the Court to actually rule. While there has been repeated Neanderthal-type foot dragging by the court in Daniel Holtzclaw’s case, they occasionally move with a speed that is impressive. We watch his docket closely for just this reason.
Again, Daniel will face an atmosphere that works against him in the appeals process. During his original trial, he faced the carnival atmosphere created both in and out of the courthouse from those that had decided his guilt before he had even been to trial. Then, it was about racial tensions. Now, however, it’s about the #metoo movement.
Over the past few months, Hollywood had choreographed a movement to convict on accusation alone anyone that has been accused of sexual misconduct. All it takes is the pointing of a finger and lives and careers are left in tatters. There is no due process involved. Simply accuse and let the social justice mob mentality do its dirty work. Very few of the accusations have been proven, even fewer of the accused have been charged with a crime. But the devastation is complete.
This is the climate Daniel is facing while fighting to clear his name. Not only is he facing a stacked deck, but as someone who was convicted, he has to push that deck uphill, over broken glass and razor-sharp rocks, while barefooted. When you combine the racial tensions with the #metoo movement, you need to brace for the atmosphere experienced at his original trial to be amplified a thousandfold. Since they state of Oklahoma virtually endorsed the circus atmosphere at his original trial, don’t expect that they will do any better with his appeal.
Actually, the best thing to expect would be more shifty, just this side of legal tactics from the state. If they wanted to soft-shoe out of his conviction, granting parole here and there to ultimately reduce his sentence would have been a good way out for them. Another option that we can reasonably expect to see is the offer of a deal. One of those slimy you-admit-guilt-and-we-reduce-your-sentence type deals. That would allow them to save face and keep from losing outright. That would help to possibly prevent wrongful conviction civil litigation.
The sticking point is Daniel Holtzclaw’s unwavering claim of innocence. For now, he is doing what he has to do. The only thing he can do, really. That is putting his head down, and doing his time. An exoneration in the state of Oklahoma isn’t going to happen fast. It certainly isn’t going to happen easily. This is a fact that neither Daniel Holtzclaw, nor his family and vast support network can change or control. All he can control is what he is doing now. And that is getting through his time.
If you want to help him get through, drop him a line and let him you know support his fight to prove his innocence. You can send letters to this address, and if you want a response, put your return address in the body of the letter. As of March 1, inmates will no longer be allowed to receive greeting cards or drawings. (Thanks to Erica Fuchs for letting me know so I could update this information for you)