2 years ago

Criminal justice at its worst: Shocking, shoddy, bias-filled investigation and DNA mishandling in Holtzclaw case

(Michelle Malkin/YouTube)

 

 

In Oklahoma City, words don’t mean what they plainly mean. Asking government officials simple questions prompts Orwellian acrobatics. By distorting language and obfuscating actions, public bureaucrats subvert transparency and evade accountability.

Whether in the fictional dictatorship of Oceania, or the true-life fascistic regime of North Korea, or the petty tyranny of Oklahoma, linguistic deceit is an instrument of a State with something to hide.

Two weeks ago, I reported that former Oklahoma City Police Department senior forensic analyst Elaine Taylor is the mother-in-law of Detective Rocky Gregory, who co-led the investigation of former OCPD officer Daniel Holtzclaw. This information was not disclosed by police or prosecutors before, during, or after a biased investigation, botched forensic analysis and testimony, and chaotic trial that resulted in a 263-year sentence for Holtzclaw — who has maintained his complete and actual innocence from the start and is appealing his convictions.

According to the Oklahoma City Police Operations Manual, Section 105.0 on relationships between department employees:

“All employees should avoid situations, which give rise to an actual or apparent conflict between their professional responsibilities and their relationships with other employees. However, should such a situation develop, it is the duty of the involved employee(s) to immediately notify their commanding officer, either in person or through the chain of-command, or directly notify their Bureau Chief.

“It becomes the responsibility of the employee’s Bureau Chief to eliminate conflict, by taking appropriate action and keeping the best interests of both the employee and the Department in mind.”

I asked Oklahoma City’s Police Chief William Citty and Taylor’s crime lab supervisor Campbell Ruddock three straightforward questions:

1) Were you aware of the close, familial relationship between Elaine Taylor and her son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory?

2) How was Taylor assigned to the Daniel Holtzclaw case, on which Det. Gregory served as co-lead sex-crimes unit investigator?

3) Did Taylor, Gregory or their commanding officers notify their bureau chiefs, and did either of those chiefs notify you?

Oklahoma City’s litigation division head Richard Smith responded on Citty and Ruddock’s behalf, stating that the police department policy on disclosing conflicts of interests that I cited “refers to the relationships of employees regarding supervision and/or assignments, not to family members working on the same cases.”

Strange. The plain language of the policy states that “all employees” should “avoid situations” giving rise to conflicts of interest “with other employees” — without regard to their status as supervisors and without any specification on whether the situations involve “assignments” or not.

Is there a special Okie dictionary that translates “all employees” to “all employees except the ones we decide should be exempt whenever we decide it’s convenient”?

Smith failed to answer how Taylor was assigned to the case. He did, however, admit that the “administration of the OCPD was aware of the relationship between Elaine Taylor and Rocky Gregory.” Yet, the administration did not disclose this relationship to Holtzclaw’s defense team, which was then denied an opportunity to cross-examine Taylor and Gregory about that relationship to impeach the witnesses by uncovering potential bias and prejudice against Holtzclaw.

Smith then implicitly argued that no conflict existed anyway because Elaine Taylor was “assigned to (accuser Jannie) Ligons’ rape complaint, which was assigned to Detective Kim Davis.”

Finally, Smith glibly asserted, “the forensic lab did not have a Holtzclaw case.”

The only thing missing from this doozy of a reply was a Clintonian retort that “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

Let’s break down the Oklahoma City litigation head’s flimsy rhetorical walls of obstruction:

1) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory, interrogated Holtzclaw with Det. Davis on June 18, 2014, just 14 hours after Holtzclaw pulled over Jannie Ligons at an end-of-shift traffic stop.

2) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory, mishandled and potentially contaminated the evidence bag used to store Holtzclaw’s uniform pants — the linchpin forensic evidence examined and tested by his mother-in-law.

As forensic expert Dr. Michael Spence noted in a sworn affidavit supporting Holtzclaw’s motion for an evidentiary hearing:

“At the June 18, 2014, interrogation of Officer Holtzclaw, investigators secured the uniform pants at about 6:00 p.m. At the beginning of this process, video footage showed Detective Gregory placing his bare hand into the evidence bag. The detective proceeded to push on the bottom of the bag — in order to fully open it. Officer Holtzclaw could then be seen handling his utility belt, his cell phone, his pockets, his wallet, and his keys —  all prior to unclasping his belt, unzipping his fly, and removing his pants. In addition to the obvious DNA transfer issues associated with this order of events, both the belt and the pants collected from Officer Holtzclaw were placed in one bag. Consequently, these items were stored together, transported together, and remained together, until the moment that the lab analyst accessed the contents of the evidence bag.”

Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor compounded her son-in-law’s mishandling of the evidence bag by failing “to collect any ‘substrate control’ samples from either the uniform pants or the belt,” Spence reported. Moreover, Taylor incorrectly testified at trial that “no male DNA was found” on two inside areas of the fly of Holtzclaw’s uniform pants, contrary to what her bench notes revealed. Taylor then contradicted her own “inconclusive” assessment of the contributors to DNA mixtures on a swab from the outside of the pants’ fly and the two swabs from the inside. This bolstered Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger’s false assertion that female accuser Adaira Gardner’s DNA could only have arrived on the pants through transfer of vaginal secretions.

Taylor’s own sworn testimony at trial was that she failed to observe any staining, failed to conduct serological tests and failed to use an alternate light source or provide any other scientific support for Gieger’s brazenly unscientific claim.

3) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory, was present during the search of Holtzclaw’s car in the wake of Ligons’ sexual assault allegation. All of the swabs taken from the car were submitted to the OCPD crime lab. In fact, when Elaine Taylor called Det. Davis to ask a question about the swabs, Det. Davis replied that she could not answer the questions because “I did not ask for those swabs to be taken.”

4) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, was one of six participants in a meeting at the Springlake Division before Holtzclaw was taken to headquarters to be questioned about the Ligons stop.

5) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, was involved with his supervisor, Lt. Timothy Muzny, in the process of preparing a photo lineup to show to accuser Ligons.

6) After Holtzclaw’s interrogation, forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, accompanied Holtzclaw to his home, where Det. Gregory failed to take key pieces of forensic evidence, including Holtzclaw’s underwear (which Det. Gregory incorrectly assumed had been washed) and other uniforms.

7) Richard Smith’s denial that the crime lab handled a “Holtzclaw case” is contradicted by the lab’s own assignment of just two case numbers — SD14-273 and SD14-399 — for all the evidence tested. Both lab case numbers list the defendant as “Holtzclaw, Daniel.” Lab case No. SD14-273 combined evidence from several accusers’ allegations under that one case, beginning with Ligons’ allegations and including DNA from nine other accusers (Terri Morris, Sherry Ellis, Florene Mathis, Carla Johnson, Rosetta Grate, Kala Lyles, Regina Copeland, Adaira Gardner and Syrita Bowen), as well as DNA from Holtzclaw and his then-girlfriend Kerri Hunt.

8) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, was one of 12 OCPD officials who executed a search warrant at 633 Culbertson Drive on Sept. 3, 2014, the residence where accuser Rosetta Grate alleged Holtzclaw assaulted her and where she alleged she had left DNA evidence on the back of a chair and on a towel she claimed she left in a bedroom closet. Taylor conducted testing on evidence collected at this scene where her son-in-law, who had earlier mishandled DNA evidence collection at Holtzclaw’s interrogation, was present.

Taylor’s test results showed that unknown male DNA from at least two males was found on chair samples from the front and back of the chair.

9) Det. Gregory was the lead detective investigating the sexual assault claims of accuser Terri Morris. He collected her buccal swabs during an interrogation at the Oklahoma County Jail and submitted her DNA to the crime lab as part of lab case No. SD14-273, which means that Det. Gregory was the head of a case for which he was directly submitting DNA evidence to his mother-in-law. His request to “test all swabs in this case for DNA analysis” was initialed by his mother-in-law.

10) Det. Gregory noted in one of his police reports on his investigation of Terri Morris’s allegations that her case and Ligons’ case were aggregated:

“Reference to all DNA involved in both cases 14-41539 (Morris) and 14-49050 (Ligons) they will be worked under 14-049050 since related. For further information see serology reports or Detective supplementals thereafter.”

In other words, Det. Gregory and Det. Davis, supervised by Lt. Muzny, consolidated the forensic evidence in the Morris and Ligons cases under 14-049050 (the case number assigned to Ligons’ incident) since they were both “related” to Holtzclaw. As described previously, the police submitted DNA from Ligons and nine other accusers under Ligons’ lab case No. SD14-273. Police incident number 14-49050 (Ligons’ case) is present on many evidence documents signed by Elaine Taylor (such as chain of custody forms for accusers’ buccal swabs). This means that Taylor was well aware that numerous alleged victims were involved in No. 14-049050 — not just Jannie Ligons.

In sum, Det. Gregory was actively and intimately involved in the Holtzclaw investigation from day one, including participating in a strategic meeting with higher-ups before Holtzclaw’s interrogation, conducting the interrogation with Det. Davis, overseeing the search of Holtzclaw’s vehicle, and participating in the formulation of a photo lineup for accuser Ligons (which Det. Davis nixed). Det. Gregory personally collected and directly submitted DNA evidence in the Holtzclaw case to his mother-in-law and participated in a raid of a home where more DNA evidence in the Holtzclaw case was collected and submitted to his mother-in-law.

At the crime lab, Elaine Taylor was fully aware that various accusers’ allegations and forensic items were consolidated together as part of the Holtzclaw case.

Taylor revealed her unscientific and unprofessional bias at trial when she testified that “unfortunately” Holtzclaw’s DNA was not found in the oral wash from accuser Ligons’ hospital rape exam. Based on his single, two-hour interrogation of Holtzclaw, Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, deemed him a “psychopath.”

Taylor’s collaboration with the prosecution to emphasize that the DNA on Holtzclaw’s pants that she matched to accuser Adaira Gardner was most likely from vaginal fluid transfer “not only contradicted the scientific results,” according to Dr. Spence, but also “defied the logic that wearers typically leave DNA on their frequently used garments.” He further noted that the minuscule quantities of DNA mixtures found on Holtzclaw’s pants “were quite consistent with the expected transfer of epithelial skin cells during incidental handling events.”

As six independent scientists and forensic experts who released a public report on the flaws and failures of the OCPD crime lab, prosecution and defense counsel in Holtzclaw’s case noted, the presence of unknown male DNA in the mixture supports the valid, nonsexual explanation of how the DNA arrived on Holtzclaw’s pants: nonintimate skin cell DNA indirect transfer.

Yet, Taylor and Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger misled the jury on this point. And significantly, Det. Gregory publicly expressed his own similarly erroneous and unscientific views about transfer DNA.

When I asked him, “Is it possible that there is an innocuous and completely non-nefarious reason that the 17-year-old’s DNA was on his pants?” Det. Gregory replied, “No.”

When I asked him, “He couldn’t have gone to the bathroom, put his hands down there?” Det. Gregory replied, “No.”

How did Det. Gregory arrive at these views, and did he discuss them with Taylor?

Did it ever occur to either that the unknown male DNA on Holtzclaw’s pants might possibly belong to Det. Gregory?

Elaine Taylor’s and her son-in-law, Det. Gregory’s, shared bias against Holtzclaw and shared incorrect beliefs about the DNA evidence went unexamined at trial because the OCPD administration, despite being aware of their relationship, failed to disclose it to Holtzclaw’s defense counsel.

According to Smith, in response to a prior public records request that I filed in August 2017, the police department found zero emails between Taylor and Gregory regarding the Holtzclaw case — an amazing outcome given their familial ties and the high-profile nature of the case.

Shouldn’t other defendants and their lawyers in other criminal cases on which Taylor and Gregory worked together know about their family ties?

Shouldn’t the public know if their shoddy, biased work together produced other unjust convictions based on confirmation bias-driven investigations and faulty forensic evidence collection, testing, analysis and testimony?

Shouldn’t the public have immediate access to a full list of the cases on which this mother-in-law and son-in-law duo worked?

Through artifice and word games, the Oklahoma City Police Department hopes to deny the blindingly obvious: The failure to disclose OCPD crime lab analyst Elaine Taylor and Det. Rocky Gregory’s family connection undermined an accused man’s right to a fair trial and denied him the opportunity to expose bias, conflict and potential misconduct that could well have changed the outcome of the trial and the fate of Officer Daniel Holtzclaw.

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com.

COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

7 hours ago

Alabama Democratic Party chair: Trump and ‘a lot of folks’ in Alabama are ‘racist’ — ‘I guess we all are to a little extent’

On Friday’s broadcast of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley reacted to tweets from President Donald Trump attacking “The Squad,” made up of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

Some deemed the attack “racist,” to which Worley concurred. Worley argued such rhetoric was part of Trump’s appeal in the South.

“Well, Don, you know he is very strong in the South,” Worley said. “Southerners like big talkers, little doers. That’s a quote from Benjamin Franklin. And Trump’s good at talking. I don’t think he’s been a particularly good president at all, but he’s good at talking.”

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“And he can go out and say outrageous things, and it captures the attention of a lot of southerners, and others in the country – not just in the South. But I think when he says things to these four women, all who have been elected by their constituents to Congress, and he tells them if they don’t like something, just go home – well, their home is here,” she continued. “Their home is right here in the country. Maybe their families immigrated here, but we’re all the products of immigrants – I mean, every single one of us unless you can trace your lines back to some very long ago Native Americans, we’re all immigrants. So, if you start telling everybody in America to go home, you’ll clean out the country because there won’t be many Native Americans. It will be an empty country. I think it was wrong for him to say that to women who were elected by their constituents. He probably wouldn’t have said that to four men.”

“And that’s just interesting that people will say things to females who are elected that they won’t say to males,” Worley added. “I do think it is deplorable of the President to criticize four women who were elected by their constituents. You may not agree with them. You may not like how they dress. You may not like what they say. But you should respect their office. As much as I don’t like the President of the United States, I respect that office.”

Worley went on to call Trump “a racist” but said that was not unlike “a lot of folks” in Alabama, and she caveated that by saying “we all” are racist to an extent.

“There’s no doubt – he benefits when he race-baits, you know?” Worley added. “And he’s racist. But there are a lot of folks right here in Alabama who are racist. I guess we all are to a little extent because we see things from our perspective – whatever race we are, we see it from our perspective. But in his case, I think he does it knowingly because he simply gathers more support in the South and in Rust Belt areas and other parts of the country. I think it’s economic in many cases because they say, ‘Oh, those immigrants are coming in and getting my job.’ They base it on their pocketbooks. But they really just don’t like someone who looks differently from them. And I think it is most unfortunate that the President of the United States would stoop to those kinds of tactics. But it works for him in the South. He’s obviously trying to shore up his base here.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

8 hours ago

Ashley Chestnut getting students up to speed with history in ‘Down in the Ham’ series

For Ashley Chestnut, her home state of Georgia runs deep in her bones. She moved to Alabama to attend ministerial school and after completing classes was hired by the Church at Brook Hills.

Birmingham has “grown on her.” Several years ago, Chestnut decided to really get involved in her new community.

From the scenery to its food scene, the Magic City checked all the boxes for Chestnut’s home away from home. But there was one particular area where she wanted to have an impact.

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Ashley wanted to inspire children from Birmingham’s neighboring communities to visit Alabama’s largest city. The result two years ago was a documented list of history lessons in “Down in the Ham – A Child’s Guide to Downtown Birmingham.”

Local author sheds light on events and history ‘Down in the Ham’ from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Inspiration in unusual places

The notion to write a book about Birmingham, combined with a coloring book, didn’t come the way one might think.

She was hours away, more than four hours in fact, visiting friends in Greenville, South Carolina. While there, her friends’ children were boiled over with excitement about visiting downtown Greenville to find, of all things, mice sculptures.

They’d read a book and couldn’t wait to find these animals that had been brought to life in the pages of literature.

In her downtime driving back home, Chestnut fondly remembered the excitement of the kids – and then it hit. Why not recreate a book about Birmingham’s downtown with hopes of fueling excitement among young readers?

Chestnut wasted no time putting her idea into action – to inspire children to love and explore their city.

It’s in the art

The words came fairly quickly for her book, but Chestnut knew it was not done until she secured an illustrator to make it come to life.

She saw the artist’s work before they even met. While at an auction, she noticed one particular piece. It not only caught her eye, but she wanted to reach out with the idea that this artist would be the perfect “fit” for her book project. And that’s what she did.

Artist Abby Little Jessup had a full plate, but after hearing from Chestnut, she knew “Down in the Ham”was a project she should illustrate.

Their collaboration is not only making history, but led to a fast friendship.

Birmingham’s Vulcan gives a tour in the book, but it packs other family-friendly activities for adults and children.

More fruitful works

The original “Down in the Ham” series not only includes the children’s book, but also “Color the Ham: A Down in the Ham Coloring Book.” Children can read about and then color sites in the Magic City.

Other communities haven’t been left out of the fun, either, with their latest project. “Around the Ham: A Down in the Ham Coloring Book” reaches beyond Birmingham to highlight communities from Homewood to East Lake and everywhere in between.

It was released in June – two years after her first book.

Chestnut’s books can be found in the gift store at Vulcan Park and Museum atop Red Mountain or can be ordered online at downintheham.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 hours ago

Roy Moore on 2020 US Senate race: ‘A different race,’ ‘I don’t think it will be as notable, vicious’

One of the concerns of many regarding the 2020 U.S. Senate race is with the presence of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore as a candidate, the competition will draw media scrutiny from all over the country.

On the eve of Moore’s announcement, national outlets sent reporters to be in Montgomery for his rollout.

However, in an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Saturday, Moore said to host Shannon Moore that he did not think 2020 would be a repeat of the “vicious” 2017 contest given all of the other election campaigns that will be underway at the same time.

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“I think it’s a different race,” Moore said on the “Politics and Moore” show. “I think it’s different because that was a special election. There weren’t other races going on across the country. There are hundreds of races going on across the country. Of course, you’ve got your presidents. You’ve got how many contenders for the Democratic [nomination]. There’s a lot going on that wasn’t going on then. I don’t think it will be as notable, as vicious. I mention Project Birmingham — things like that probably won’t occur because there are so many other races. Project Birmingham was a disinformation campaign, as you know, by some Democratic gurus and billionaire Reid Hoffman and George Soros, to stop my candidacy. And it was 80-something Republicans. So, I don’t think that will go on.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

10 hours ago

Alabama-based Apprenticeship Readiness Program graduates first students

Hard work pays off. That was a lesson learned by participants of the Central Alabama Building Trades’ Apprenticeship Readiness Program (ARP) hosted by Jefferson State Community College. The first Alabama-based ARP program had a 92% graduation rate, surpassing national benchmarks and preparing the students for the workforce of the future.

Over an eight-week period, students received hands-on training and educational services, introducing them to union crafts and the construction industry before they select a specific career trade.

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North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) sponsors ARPs, which are designed to prepare residents, particularly those from underrepresented communities and transitioning veterans, for registered Building Trade apprenticeship programs. These programs develop plumbers, electricians, ironworkers and other skilled professionals who propel growth in the state.

In celebration of the students’ accomplishment, a graduation ceremony was held in June at Alabama Power corporate headquarters in Birmingham. Participants and their families were in attendance, along with leaders of the local business community and higher education and national union leadership.

NABTU Secretary-Treasurer Brent Booker praised the graduates for their drive and completion of the program.

“What you’ve put into this is what you’ll get out of it. Through the Apprenticeship Readiness Program, you’ve changed your life. You’ve changed the next generation of your family and you’ve changed the economic trajectory of where you’re going. Stay on that track,” Booker said, challenging the graduates.

“We are pleased to have our first graduating class of Birmingham and plan to offer future ARPs in Alabama,” said Brandon Bishop, NABTU Southern representative.

Potential students interested in the next class starting in July should contact Terry Davis, ARP coordinator, at trdavis@centurytel.net by July 15.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Auburn professor pens new book on Neil Armstrong, travels globe to discuss ‘First Man’

AUBURN — James Hansen vividly recalls how the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon brought Americans and the world together. Five decades later, the author of “First Man”—the only authorized biography of Neil Armstrong—is continuing to tell the story of that unifying moment in history by giving talks around the globe and through a new book that’s set to launch in October.

“I’m putting the finishing touches on a book that is going to be published with selected letters to Neil Armstrong,” said Hansen, professor emeritus at Auburn University, of the upcoming book titled “Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man from All Mankind.”

Through letters written by people all over the world to Armstrong, Hansen said readers can learn more about the astronaut who was the first to step foot on the moon.

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“What’s interesting about this book is what we can learn from reading the types of letters that were written to Armstrong not just immediately after Apollo 11 but for the rest of his life,” Hansen said

Hansen said nostalgia for the moon landing is high, especially with this weekend’s 50-year anniversary of Armstrong taking his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” And this week, that excitement can even be seen in Langholm, Scotland—where Hansen was invited to attend celebratory events surrounding the big moment in history. The location has a unique connection to Armstrong as it’s his ancestral town.

“Neil went there in 1972 to great fanfare and enjoyed himself a lot, so I thought that would maybe be the most unique and interesting place to actually be on the day of the anniversary itself,” Hansen said.

After Hansen wraps up his stay in Scotland, he will then focus not only on his new book, but also in exploring a documentary on moon rocks, many of which have gone missing over the years.

“From six [moon] landings, something like 850 pounds of moon rocks were brought back and deposited in what was known as the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston,” he said.

Many of the rocks are still there, while a number of them were parceled out to researchers and lunar scientists around the world.

NASA recently announced that it would be unsealing some of the samples that have been preserved since the Apollo missions. Hansen said in the early 1970s, when the rocks were being brought back, NASA chose to seal some of the rocks so that future generations, with access to better technology and instrumentation than was available then, could study the rocks.

Hansen said he believes the rocks will continue to be parceled out over time as better technology comes available or another mission to the moon brings back more rocks.

“Until that happens, these are pretty precious commodities,” he said. “You need to save some of them for future scientific generations.”

Each story surrounding Apollo 11 has always held a fascination for Hansen, who remembers the day history was made.

It was on a summer Sunday between James Hansen’s junior and senior years of high school when Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. Hansen was gathered in the living room of his family’s home watching it on one of only two televisions in the house.

“The landing took place itself in the mid-to-late afternoon, depending on your time zone,” he said. “I was watching a baseball game, and actually the baseball games were recognizing it and everyone stood up at one point and prayed for the Apollo astronauts and then when it was announced that they landed, it was on the scoreboard and they stopped the game and everyone applauded.”

As the landing neared, he and his family turned to CBS, where Walter Cronkite was covering the event. It was well before the days of VCRs and DVRs, so the only way Hansen could capture what was happening on the screen was to take a picture of it with his Polaroid camera.

“That was important memorabilia and a lot of people did that. The moon walk itself took place about three hours after they landed. That was in the early evening and lasted until late in the evening. I was old enough that I didn’t have to have special permission from my parents to stay up and watch it all but a lot of smaller children did and I’ve heard a lot of stories from people over the years about where they were and how their parents let them stay up or they woke them up in time to hear Neil Armstrong say, ‘One small step,’” he recalled.

And while nostalgia is high today about the moon landing and how it unified the world in a shared monumental accomplishment, the historian in Hansen also recalls how the lead up to the landing wasn’t always met with full public support.

“They look back at nostalgia to this era when the moon landings happened and just sort of assumed that the American public, which was footing the bill because this was a U.S. federal government project, that the public was overwhelming in support of the moon landing program,” he said.

Hansen said that while the American public supported space programs on the whole, they weren’t demanding that moon landings take place.

“It was really the politicians within the context of the Cold War and the race with the Soviets in space that drove the project, and then the American people just kind of went along with it and didn’t oppose it too actively,” he said. “But, when they were polled, they didn’t seem too supportive.”

Even today, Hansen said there still are those who ask him if the landing really happened.

“We just can’t get past that,” Hansen said. “For some reason, there are people who just question it. I think everybody likes a good conspiracy theory but the evidence for the moon landing having been real is so tremendously overweighing anything that’s questionable. It’s a little upsetting but as a historian I find it interesting that people continue to believe or disbelieve things that are clearly believable or unbelievable.”

He said many people think we only went to the moon one time.

“There were actually six missions, Apollo 11-17,” he said. “There would have been seven landings if Apollo 13 had not had its emergency.”

When a malfunction in an oxygen tank on the service module exploded, Apollo 13’s crew was fortunate to make it back to Earth, but the lunar landing did not happen on that mission.

“If you’re questioning, ‘Did the moon landings actually happen?’ it’s not just questioning one, it’s questioning six of them,” he said.

Hansen is on his own mission to tell the story of what did happen and through his books and talks he is doing all he can to keep that moment in history alive.

“I feel a responsibility to the story and to Armstrong and to historical accuracy,” he said.

(Courtesy Auburn University)