Most Oklahomans are familiar with Joyce “Black Magic” Gilchrist, and the damage she did during her tenure with the Oklahoma City Police Department. She left behind a legacy of lies, scandal, and wrongful convictions that Oklahoma may never recover from. It would appear that they aren’t even trying, though. Enter Elaine Taylor, who began working for the Oklahoma City Police Department in 1989 in the Equine Testing Lab, eventually moving into the Serology/DNA lab by 1991. By 1994, Gilchrist was in charge of that lab, and the people in it, like Elaine Taylor.
That means she did what Joyce Gilchrist told her to do, including destruction of evidence. Joyce Gilchrist managed to reign supreme until her termination in September 2001 – a termination brought about by “flawed casework analysis” and “laboratory mismanagement.” While prosecutors loved Gilchrist and her ability to seemingly miracle test results sought by them, defense attorneys and defendants alike were not as dazzled. While Elaine Taylor never achieved the heights that Gilchrist did during her tenure with Oklahoma City, she did move up to Forensic Scientist III some 14 months after Joyce Gilchrist was terminated. By the time Elaine Taylor abruptly retired, she was considered a Senior Forensics Scientist with the police department.
Through records obtained from the Oklahoma City Police Department, we have a snapshot of Elaine Taylor’s professional life up until 2002. No records were offered beyond that, other than her resignation letter. If her court testimony is to be believed, by the time she testified as an expert witness in the Daniel Holtzclaw case, she had a Bachelors degree, a Masters degree, and multiple “schools” which gave her the knowledge to testify as an expert in cases such as this. There is no doubt that much of her early training was heavily influenced by Joyce Gilchrist, though. If in doubt, look no further than the 1992 case State v Mitchell. Joyce Gilchrist provided false or erroneous inculpatory evidence regarding the rape charge, completely discounting exculpatory evidence provided by the FBI. She also failed to turn that exculpatory evidence over to the defense. And lastly, the prosecutor in the case “labored extensively” to obscure test results in the case and highlight only Gilchrist’s DNA findings. That sounds eerily like State v Holtzclaw. Same waltz, different dancers.
As of her most recent application provided by Oklahoma City Police Department dated 2002, Taylor held a BS in Forensic Science, and a certification/license as a histology technician. She lists 43 different entries under “Professional Training” – a number which sounds more impressive than it actually is. Relatively few of the courses, schools, conferences, or symposiums she listed actually focused on DNA evidence, so it is certainly safe to say that as of 2002, she was NOT an expert in DNA. There is also the fact that a great many of these training courses were offered and attended ‘in-house’ which leads one to believe that Joyce Gilchrist was involved in at least some of the training.
As of this writing, no further records have been provided from Oklahoma City Police Department to cover the gap between 2002 and her retirement in 2017. One can only hope that in the 15 years that span covered, Elaine Taylor obtained more training. Actual training as opposed to going to sit in an auditorium and listen to people that HAVE been trained talk about it. Speaking of her retirement, her emailed notice has a few interesting things of note, starting with who she emailed it to.
Campbell Ruddock was excluded from the email she sent out announcing her retirement. She gives less than a 2 week notice, unheard of in a world where 2 weeks is the barest minimum and 30 days is the accepted norm for professionals. She states in the text of the email “I will miss everyone, but I have always been told, you will know when it is time to go, and that time has come.” The timing of her retirement combined with the filing of the appeal in the Holtzclaw case gives this simple statement a shade, and raises the eyebrows in wonder. Perhaps her retirement had long been planned, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about it. The eventual exposure of the secret hearings in June 2017 do make that difficult to believe, though.
In reading the Police Operations Manual, you can see that when it comes to employee information that can be released to the public, it allows most records to be released upon request. What is limited is the release of information during an investigation of an employee, and employee evaluations and payroll deductions, as well as normally withheld information such as addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers. As for the rest, it’s pretty much supposed to be an open book, and all one has to do is ask. If we take that to heart, then it leaves little doubt about the secret hearings and sealed documents with regard to Elaine Taylor, or possibly others with the Oklahoma City Police Department. There is obviously concern about the quality of someone, most likely Taylor’s performance in the Holtzclaw case. Otherwise, there would be no need for the secrecy, the sealed filings, or the attempt to preclude the defense from the information covered.
Finding cases where Elaine Taylor has actually testified as an expert witness also remains an uphill struggle. This leads us to now, and stepping back to look at the big picture. Was Elaine Taylor really qualified to provide the ‘expert testimony’ she gave during the Holtzclaw trial? If the state is so confident in her testing and testimony, why the sealed hearing? And we haven’t even scratched the surface yet on family members employed by Oklahoma City, or the fact that she must have been remarkably well-paid by the time of her involvement in the Holtzclaw trial. Indeed, in February 2003, she was making $29.45 per hour. That was 14 years before retirement. It only stands to reason that she was making a higher wage in 2015, the time of the Holtzclaw trial.
For every answer we get, it generates more questions about Elaine Taylor. There is no reason to believe it won’t be the same for the rest of the players in this case. The more we know, the more we share.
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