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1 year 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

Byrne first to officially declare run vs. Doug Jones – ‘Future is too important to sit on the sidelines’

Just down the street from where he grew up, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) announced Wednesday evening his candidacy for the United States Senate while surrounded by family, friends and supporters gathered at Wintzell’s Oyster House in beautiful downtown Mobile.

Byrne became the first candidate to officially announce a run against the incumbent from Mountain Brook, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). In doing so, Byrne made clear his campaign will focus on his record as a fighter for Alabama’s values, drawing a clear and direct contrast between his traditional Yellowhammer State roots and the “radical policies” being pushed by Jones’ Democratic Party.

In his announcement speech, Byrne emphasized, “The fight for America’s future is too important to sit on the sidelines. I am running for the United States Senate to defend the values important to Alabama.”

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The congressman spoke about the “disconnect” between hardworking, everyday Alabamians and people stuck in the bubble of Washington, D.C.

Byrne urged attendees, “Look in Washington and tell me you don’t see people that have a vision that’s fundamentally at odds with what America is.”

“We need a Senator who will fight with President Trump to defend the Constitution, build the wall, stand up for the unborn, push for lower taxes, make health care more affordable and protect the Second Amendment,” he outlined. “I will fight every day to bring Alabama’s conservative values to Washington.”

Answering questions from reporters following the announcement, Byrne decried the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism and “[killing] babies as they’re delivered.”

He also warned voters that Democrats should be expected to try and interfere in the Republican primary through “fake news” and  manipulative social media efforts. This comes in the wake of revelations that “Project Birmingham” was orchestrated to aid Jones’ general election candidacy in 2017.

Byrne, a labor-employment attorney by trade, is the former chancellor of the state’s community college system and one-term member of the state senate. He has served southwest Alabama in Congress since January 2014.

The Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Alabama will be held March 3, 2020, with the general election to follow in November.

You can watch Byrne’s announcement speech and hear him answer questions from reporters afterwards here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Watch live: Bradley Byrne announces U.S. Senate run against Doug Jones

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is set to announce his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) live at the Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile.

Watch live below:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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9 hours ago

Heavy rains swamping Deep South

Heavy rains are causing problems in parts of the Deep South.

Police in Huntsville, Alabama, say a half-dozen roads are blocked by downed trees or utility poles plus water from flash floods.

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Flood watches and warnings cover the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia and nearly all of Tennessee is at risk for floods.

Several school systems are delaying classes or closing.

The weather service is predicting as much as eight inches of rain in spots through Saturday, and freezing rain and sleet are possible in western South Carolina.

Forecasters say moisture from the Gulf is mixing with weather systems moving eastward in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys.

As much as one inch of rain an hour is possible, and the weather service says some areas could get more.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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10 hours ago

Ivey announces plan to turn old Jefferson County mine into technology park with $85 million economic impact

Alabama is working again — including in places that have been dormant for decades.

Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Labor’s (ADOL) Abandoned Mine Land Program (AML) and United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) announced Wednesday that long-abandoned mine land in Jefferson County will be reclaimed, making way for the new Grand River Technology Park project and relocation of the Southern Museum of Flight.

“This reclamation project has the potential to bring millions of dollars in economic impact, and hundreds of jobs to the Greater Birmingham area,” Ivey said in a press release. “The new Grand River Technology Park will be a regional nexus for research and development, tourism, and light manufacturing. This project will bring positive improvements to the citizens who call this community home.”

This project, which is expected to generate an economic impact of more than $85 million, has been made possible through funds appropriated from the U.S. Treasury through the AML Pilot Program Grant. The funding was secured by the stalwart leadership of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Shelby said he is looking “forward to witnessing the impact it will have on the state.”

The senator said, “The Grand River Technology Park project will attract new businesses and promote economic development throughout the Birmingham area. I am proud that the AML Pilot grant funds I worked to secure have helped make this effort possible and look forward to witnessing the impact it will have on the state.”

The project is possible through a collaborative public-private effort and includes participation by ADOL’s AML Program, U. S. Steel, the City of Birmingham, the Southern Museum of Flight, Jefferson County and the City of Leeds.

In 2018, U. S. Steel and its community partners were given approval for a $6 million grant by the ADOL AML Pilot Program toward the development of its Grand River Technology Park.

“We are pleased to see the redevelopment of this land. We are grateful for the partnership of Governor Ivey, [ADOL] Secretary Washington, and the AML staff during this process and thank Senator Shelby for securing AML Pilot grant funds. We look forward to providing quality economic and community development projects that will benefit the Birmingham community,” U. S. Steel President and CEO David B. Burritt commented.

The technology park represents a multiphase opportunity to reclaim and transform approximately 105 acres of undeveloped land surrounding and including several pre-1977 abandoned coal mine lands in east Jefferson County. An initial assessment conservatively estimated that 1,200 new employment opportunities will be created by this project.

Plans for the Grand River Technology Park (Contributed)

Dangerous abandoned mine land features previously reclaimed on the property included many portals (openings to old underground coal mines) and vertical openings (former air shafts associated with underground coal mines) connected with Red Diamond Mines #2 – #5, #7, #9, #11 and #12, as well as the former Tennessee Coal and Iron (TCI) Mine #6, all of which ceased operations in 1948.

After the closure of these underground mines, a major portion of proposed development was strip-mined for coal prior to August 3, 1977, leaving extensive spoil piles (waste rock and soil overburden removed to access the coal seam) on the property and a highwall cut (a hazardous vertical bluff left where mining of the coal seam ceased) adjacent to the current location of the Barber Motor Sports Park. Evidence of the highwall cut and spoil piles still remain on the property today. As part of the redevelopment of the property, extensive reclamation will be performed on these remaining spoil piles.

“Our Abandoned Mine Land Program does a wonderful job in helping to ensure that old, dangerous mines are properly reclaimed, which eliminates safety hazards and allows the land to be redeveloped,” ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington advised. “In addition to cleaning up this site and making it safer, this project will help to improve the lives of many.”

To date, the ADOL AML Program has reclaimed 81.6 miles of dangerous highwalls, eliminated 1,613 dangerous mine openings and completed approximately 661 reclamation projects in the coalfields of Alabama.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Alabama law requires the state and local governments fund The Democrat-Reporter’s racist rants — It is time to stop

Almost every politician in Alabama wanted to get in on condemning, and in some cases calling for the resignation of the editor, publisher and owner of a rag out of Linden, Alabama, with roughly 3,000 subscribers.

The governor, both United States senators, multiple congressmen and congresswomen, the State Senate pro tem, the lieutenant governor and surely countless others went on the record to say this is unacceptable.

It is obviously unacceptable, but now what? You can’t really force a guy who owns a newspaper to quit. Especially when he seems to think he has done nothing wrong.

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All of this is a minor problem. The Democrat-Reporter is a small-town nothing newspaper. If the Auburn Plainsman hadn’t posted the editorial in the form of a photo, no one would have ever known.

This raises another issue. The state of Alabama is providing revenue to this newspaper and other newspapers around the state of Alabama. And it is actually worse than that: Current state law requires government entities in Alabama to advertise legal notices, legislation, constitutional amendments, voter rolls and other public matters in the local print media outlets, which is not cheap.

So, how much does The Democrat-Reporter get from the governments?

Well, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) alone spends thousands every year.

Maybe these aren’t all required expenditures, but for what other reason would ALDOT be spending this money here?

What have the local governments been required to pay this newspaper? What about average citizens and businesses that have to post foreclosures, abandoned property and other matters in a local newspaper by state law?

Even without the racist overtones of this story, this matter should offend you. There is currently a state law that requires we do business with a series of private entities.

This may have been a necessity decades ago, but it is time for the state legislature to readdress this issue for the 21st century.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN