Serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted on 18 charges, including multiple first and second degree rape counts, on December 10. When the verdict was read after 45 hours of jury deliberation, Holtzclaw bawled. His tears were supposed to stir empathy since he was learning on his 29th birthday that he’ll likely spend the remainder of his life in prison. However, his tears bring relief for his victims as well as those who were unsure if he’d ever be penalized for his egregious, monstrous actions.
Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City Police Officer, used the power of his position to assault, and then silence, a Black girl and 12 Black women. From December 2013 to June 2014, Holtzclaw was tasked with serving and protecting a northeastern Oklahoma City community. Instead, he preyed on impoverished Black women with criminal records. In Holtzclaw’s mind, these vulnerable women wouldn’t report him or be believed because of their alleged past crimes.
Assistant District Attorney Gayland Geiger argued as much during Holtzclaw’s trial. Seeing the victims as just “a bunch of drug-addicted lying convicted felons living on the East Side who got warrants, and they don’t even keep the same cell phone number, and they don’t have jobs, and they walk around in high-crime areas, and they’re out on the streets at 2 a.m.” was what Holtzclaw used to silence his victims.
One victim, identified as S.H., testified that she didn’t come forward because she was afraid. Holtzclaw befriended her on Facebook after assaulting her the first time. “I didn’t think that no one would believe me,” S.H. said. “I feel like all police will work together and I was scared.”
Other victims offered similar testimonies.
A victim, identified as C.R., was assaulted in March 2014. In her testimony, she said she didn’t come forward because she “didn’t think anything would be done.”
“I mean, it was nobody there but just me and him, so to me I just took it as my word against his, so I just blew it off — as best as I could just walked away from it,” C.R. said.
A., 17, was Holtzclaw’s youngest victim. He assaulted her on her mother’s porch. A. didn’t contact authorities because she didn’t know who would police a member of their own police force.
After Holtzclaw assaulted Janie Loggins, 57, a woman not from the area he patrolled, she brought forth allegations against him. Twelve other victims came forward after Holtzclaw’s department began investigating his crimes. He was charged with 36 counts, but was convicted of 18. Now, he’s facing 236 years in prison for his vile acts.
Extending empathy to a monster, like Holtzclaw, is unreasonable when there are 13 Black women whose lives are irrevocably changed. Furthermore, Holtzclaw cried because he was caught and convicted, not because he’s remorseful. He’d still be raping women if victims hadn’t found the courage to come forward.
Daniel Holtzclaw and his legal team have spent 16 months disparaging the characters of his victims. After he was arrested in August 2014, Holtzclaw’s sisters began selling “Free the Claw” t-shirts to raise money for his legal fees. His family also issued a statement accusing the victims of offering fabricated stories to further their own personal agendas. Even during the trial, Holtzclaw’s attorney, Scott Adams, attempted to vilify the accusers, by highlighting their criminal records and saying their testimony was unreliable. He placed the victims’ character on trial.
“The witnesses that you saw in this courtroom don’t care about the truth,” Adams said. “For them it’s about whatever’s going on in the moment. Whatever it is to further their agenda.”
Writer Danielle Campoamor notes that Holtzclaw’s reaction pales in comparison to what his victims experienced during the assaults and in the subsequent trial.
“It was as if justice was forcing him, against his will, to adhere to the truth, and the panic and helplessness he felt in that moment is nothing but a taste of what he put his victims through,” Campoamor wrote.
Rejoicing in Holtzclaw’s tears isn’t a cruel act. He’s a rapist who preyed on Black women he thought society had discarded and would never believe. Even with an all-white jury and a vigorous defense team, the criminal justice system finally issued a conviction for a monster. A guilty verdict tells poor, Black women that their bodies matter too.