FORENSIC EXPERTS release REPORT ON HOLTZCLAW CASE and REQUEST CONVICTION BE OVERTURNED
Aug 22, 2017 — Six prominent forensic experts from across the U.S. and around the world have publicly released a REPORT ON SCIENTIFIC ISSUES IN OKLAHOMA V. DANIEL K. HOLTZCLAW analyzing errors in the forensic science and testimony used to convict former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, and calling for his conviction to be overturned.
The REPORT is available online at: www.holtzclawdnareport.com
The scientists are:
• Dr. Peter Gill (a world-renowned DNA expert from the UK)
• Dr. Jane Goodman-Delahunty (an Australian psychology professor with her JD who studies the impact of complex DNA evidence on jurors)
• Ms. Suzanna Ryan (a DNA and serology expert who runs a serology lab)
• Dr. Moses Schanfield (a George Washington University forensic sciences and anthropology professor who co-discovered that HIV originated in Africa)
• Mr. George Schiro (a forensic science expert and lab director)
• Dr. Brent Turvey (a criminologist and criminal profiler who travels the world while serving as an expert for sexual assault and murder cases).
Their REPORT concludes:
“We believe that Mr. Holtzclaw was deprived of his due process right to a fair trial because the State misused DNA evidence – a powerful form of forensic evidence – and trial defense counsel did not correct crucial forensic science misrepresentations and omissions, such that the DNA evidence at the heart of the trial and lacking probative value was extremely prejudicial, corrupting the investigation of Mr. Holtzclaw and impacting the verdict. We believe that Mr. Holtzclaw’s conviction should be overturned and he should be given a new trial.”
The REPORT reveals the following forensic science concerns:
• The DNA matching a 17-year-old’s profile on the fly of Mr. Holtzclaw’s uniform pants had a valid non-sexual explanation: non-intimate skin cell DNA indirect transfer (Trial Transcript “Tr” p. 4083).
• Detectives only collected Mr. Holtzclaw’s uniform pants and belt (DNA Lab Report, June 19, 2014). They did not collect underwear and penile swabs that could have offered more data to test hypotheses.
• The State handled the evidence incorrectly. The interrogation video shows that a detective inserted his bare hand into the evidence bag. Two items, the uniform pants and belt, were packaged in that bag. This means that DNA may have transferred to the fly of the uniform pants due to cross-contamination.
• The DNA from the fly of the uniform pants derived from at least 3 people (Tr. 4041). All four DNA samples included DNA from at least one male. The DNA did not come from semen (Tr. 4075). The analyst testified incorrectly that she found no evidence of male DNA in the two samples from inside the fly (Tr. 4072; qPCR Report). The male DNA supports the non-intimate DNA transfer scenario.
• Whether Mr. Holtzclaw was a contributor to the DNA samples is inconclusive based on the data. The State’s analyst testified incorrectly that Mr. Holtzclaw was excluded as a contributor (Tr. 4072-73).
• The prosecution presented a flawed argument that a lack of Mr. Holtzclaw’s DNA – which was an incorrect conclusion – supported the speculation that vaginal fluid was present. The prosecution also ignored research that proves you can innocently transfer another person’s skin cell DNA from your hands to an object you touch without transferring your own DNA in detectable amounts.
• No evidence of vaginal fluid was observed. The State’s forensic analyst saw nothing suspicious – no visible stains or deposits – on the fly of the pants using a very bright light and a magnifying glass (Tr. 4084). The State’s forensic analyst did not test the uniform pants for body fluids or view them with an Alternate Light Source that causes body fluids, including vaginal fluid, to fluoresce (Tr. 4078-79, 4084).
• The State’s forensic analyst incorrectly testified that it was a “very good possibility” that DNA matching the 17-year-old’s profile was likely to have transferred in vaginal fluid (Tr. 4073). A DNA profile alone does not inform about when, where, how, or why DNA transfer occurred.
• The prosecutor stated untruthfully in his closing argument that it was a “fact” that DNA from the walls of the teenager’s vagina transferred in vaginal fluids (Tr. 4307). A basic tenet of science is that one cannot claim the presence of a substance for which one has not tested.
• The State built a biased investigation on the foundation of its forensic science errors. The State’s false belief that sexual contact best explained the DNA evidence impacted the manner by which detectives obtained and viewed most of the circumstantial evidence in the case. As a result, the DNA analysis errors impacted the entire trial.
• Research shows that jurors often overvalue DNA evidence, even when it lacks probative value, especially in circumstantial cases (Findlay (2008) Int’l J. of Law Crime and Justice 36, 15-53).
• The misrepresentations of the DNA evidence impacted the verdicts. The two jurors who spoke to the press said the DNA evidence was crucial in their deliberations (KOKO 5 News, Juror Speaks about Dan-iel Holtzclaw Trial, Dec. 18, 2015; Susan Welsh et al., How the Daniel Holtzclaw Jury Decided to Send the Ex-Oklahoma City Police Officer to Prison for 263 Years, ABC News, May 20, 2016). One juror explained the verdict by stating that they were told the DNA was in vaginal fluid (Crime Watch Daily, April 28, 2017), demonstrating that the jury was misled.
The scientists based their REPORT on their Amicus brief (a “friend of the court” brief) about DNA issues in the case. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied the scientists’ motion for leave to file their Amicus brief on June 2, 2017.
The scientists responded by publishing their REPORT online because the public deserves sufficient information about the forensic science errors to make an informed decision about the significance and limitations of DNA evidence in the Holtzclaw case.
THANK YOU TO THE SCIENTISTS FOR DEVOTING THEIR TIME, ENERGY, AND EXPERTISE to analyze the forensic science errors that led to Daniel’s wrongful conviction!