Oklahoma’s Wretched Record on Wrongful Convictions

Police Lights and Crime Tape
Oklahoma's Wretched Record on Wrongful Convictions

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- “Frontier justice” costs too many citizens of all races, creeds, and backgrounds their freedom and their lives. In the old days of the Wild West, vigilantes worked outside the judicial system to punish rivals regardless of their guilt or innocence. Today, outlaws operate inside the bureaucracy to secure criminal convictions at all costs.

Oklahoma — the notorious home of “Hang ‘Em High” executions — stands out for its decades of trampling due process, subverting public disclosure, perpetuating forensic junk science, manufacturing false accusations and enabling official misconduct.

Since 1993, 35 wrongfully convicted Oklahomans have been officially exonerated, according to the National Registry of Exonerations; 15 inmates have been freed in the past decade. Almost half of the state's exonerees had been convicted of murder; 17 percent for sexual assault. The reign of prosecutorial terror and forensic error by the late Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy and rogue Oklahoma City police department crime lab analyst Joyce Gilchrist resulted in at least 11 wrongful convictions, according to the Innocence Project. Those victims included:

Exoneree Curtis McCarty, who was sent to death row for a stabbing and strangulation murder after Macy withheld evidence and Gilchrist falsified blood evidence and destroyed hair evidence.

Exoneree Robert Lee Miller Jr., another death row inmate falsely convicted of two rapes and two murders based on a coerced confession and atrocious forensic misconduct involving junk analysis of semen, blood, saliva, human hair and dog hair.

Exoneree Jeffrey Pierce, who was falsely convicted of rape in 1986 based on Gilchrist's misconduct and won a $4 million settlement from Oklahoma City.

Exoneree David Bryson, who was wrongfully convicted of kidnapping and rape and freed after 18 years in prison when Gilchrist's destruction of evidence was discovered and follow-up DNA testing excluded him as the attacker.

Law enforcement and legal insiders alike have shared stories with me about good ol' boys club corruption that crosses party lines in the Sooner State. Government prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys routinely cut deals. Judges bend over backwards to preserve “harmless errors” caused by flawed investigations, faulty verdicts and clerical incompetence. Police brass retaliate against whistleblowers. And, according to one veteran cop, Oklahoma City is a hopeless “nest of incestuous nepotism.”

Unlike neighboring Texas, where Dallas County prosecutors founded the first conviction integrity unit in the country (sparking the creation of 30 such agencies nationwide), not a single Oklahoma district attorney's office has established an official mechanism to review tainted convictions. Nor does Oklahoma have anything like the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which investigates professional misconduct by crime labs and other entities that conduct forensic analyses used in criminal proceedings. The Texas panel was created in the wake of the infamous scandal at the Houston Police Department crime lab a decade ago and its audits led to the more recent shutdown of the Austin PD's mess of a crime lab.

Meanwhile, no systemic reform ensued after the Macy/Gilchrist disgrace in Oklahoma. In fact, one of Gilchrist's colleagues who admitted destroying rape kit evidence at her behest was kept on for nearly 15 more years until she mysteriously retired last year amid questions about her DNA testimony.

OCPD crime lab analyst Elaine Taylor's work (challenged by at least eight independent scientists internationally over the past year) was at the center of illegal secret hearings last summer in the high-profile wrongful conviction of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw. He is serving 263 years for sexual assault allegations solicited by police, who ignored accusers' wild contradictions and discrepancies, long rap sheets and drug-addled testimony during an out-of-control media feeding frenzy before and during trial. Taylor is the mother-in-law of Det. Rocky Gregory, the co-lead detective in the botched Holtzclaw investigation — a glaring conflict of interest undisclosed by police and prosecutors.

Kathleen Zellner, the nation's most successful exoneration lawyer defending Holtzclaw against accusers' high-dollar civil lawsuits, quipped that she was “surprised they have not put crime scene tape around (the) OKC crime lab.”

While appealing his case, Holtzclaw has faced a series of Keystone Kops blunders every step of the way, with the Court of Criminal Appeals failing to follow its own rules on publicly disclosing court protective orders; a court clerk who simply “forgot” to file a public notice of the state attorney general requesting the secret hearing transcripts and exhibits; the court admitting that Holtzclaw's public defender, James Lockard, shouldn't have been barred from the unconstitutional secret hearings; the court realizing more than a year late that its clerk had never formally filed a critical state attorney general's motion under seal; and the clerk failing to properly tender Holtzclaw's amended motion for an evidentiary hearing despite it being filed with the clerk more than a month ago.

This lackadaisical attitude toward matters of life and liberty pervades Okie culture.

Take the case of the missing sealed envelope in death row inmate Julius Jones' appeal. Jones, a basketball star at the University of Oklahoma, has served 19 years in prison for a murder he steadfastly maintains he did not commit. Recent episodes of ABC's “The Last Defense” spotlighted troubling inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution's star witness, who took a plea deal; ineffective counsel by overwhelmed defense attorneys who called no witnesses at trial; and the glaring failure to test a central piece of evidence — a bandana purportedly warn by the shooter.

Last December, Jones' appellate lawyers filed an application for post-conviction relief and related motions for discovery and an evidentiary hearing to consider newly discovered evidence of racial animus by a juror. Jones' lawyers included supporting exhibits, which a court clerk instructed the legal team to place in a separate envelope labeled “protected material.” Through a chain of bureaucratic mishaps, the key exhibits were somehow lost until Jones' investigator, Kim Marks, personally visited the clerk's office in June and unearthed them. The court, which had rejected Jones' appeal without seeing the missing exhibits, was forced to acknowledge two weeks ago that it couldn't ignore its clerk's “mismanagement of the exhibits” and has been forced to reconsider the case.

Chilling exit fact: Despite its wretched record on wrongful convictions the past two decades, not to mention three horrific botched executions in the last three years, Oklahoma's incompetent and corrupted criminal justice system is set to resume putting people to death next year come hell or high water.

Silence over this human rights crisis is complicity.

About Michelle MalkinMichelle Malkin

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com. As well as the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” & “Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild“. Her email address is [email protected]

  • 13 thoughts on “Oklahoma’s Wretched Record on Wrongful Convictions

    1. Wow, a lot of +/- comments.
      There is a lot wrong in many, many, areas of the GLOBE. I guess with that being said I only care about it if it Directly involves me as a rule. There are many things that need to go away, be started or BE changed with “Systems”. There is good and bad in EVERY race, color, creed, nationality, sex, age, legal (NOT ILLEGAL) citizen of this US. Do I know exactly what to do in every situation/career/left or right? NO, I don’t. I do know that when wrong is done your ass should be cooked to fit the crime/allegation. Like steak in rare, medium rare, well done – you get the idea. If we all go to the same prisons then so should all the crooked heart beats. There are choices for every individual to make, lets keep it simple – its Right or Wrong. Lets do away with all the terms & figure out if the person did right or wrong, then we go to how the steak gets cooked. I’m totally/rightfully against & disgusted with these so called country clubs for “Certain” Folks. 1 that comes to mind the fastest is Martha Stewart. She did wrong, may not have been rated on the cooked steak scale, & is back to making money & commercials like nothing happened. I don’t know why but I think of Hillary when I think of her, anyway. The “Wrongfully Convicted” will NEVER be as LUCKY, as we will never get lucky enough to have certain folks rated on the steak scale – why aren’t we all created I mean treated equal?
      I think that Michelle is reporting more than stating her opinion. It sounds like she could be saying things as they were said to her. I hope I’m right because, no matter WHAT, we “ALL” have the right to form our own opinion & she should report. Her personal opinion is her personal opinion and her job isn’t personal. I think she’s doing OK, my opinion – You know what they say about opinion & a holes, everybody has 1.
      I do not agree with the special treatment crap that bad people, or is it good people that just made a mistake, get just because of who they are or what they do as a job. This is related to what I said about Martha coming to mind. Another person that jumps to mind is Robert Downey, Jr. OK, not that drug busts are good for many, many, children is a good thing. It’s just that we have so many different rules/laws/regulations & so many people get different treatments – WHY? I think we have to many pussy foot people out there. Every year older I get I get more sad that I can’t teach my 2 boys things I had as a child. Some of you said pussy folk think it’s easier to make a new law instead of raising your kids the right way, this is very obvious.
      What happened to do the crime do the time? Do it right and make it for all. No more of this pussy footin around, grow up.

      A thought from the other side of the coin,

    2. I’m so glad to see this article! We need to see a break in the party line on these issues. Whatever your view on the morality/constitutionality of the death penalty, we can all agree it’s a bad idea to execute the innocent, and most of us would prefer not to be held against our will for months, or even years in a county jail, with insufficient medical attention, without being given adequate food and necessary medications, and perhaps being provided with a plastic bag, and told the toilets are out of commission, and the water will be off for 2-3 days (this actually happened about a month ago).
      Doj inspectors have been denied access to the jail by the current d.a. Who technically has no say in the matter, and really shouldn’t be involved, or concerned about the jail’s inspection… which is weird, and I’m honestly not sure what to infer from that.
      The point is this, in prison you can argue the convicts have forfeited some of their rights, and try to ignore the disturbing evidence that many of them were wrongly convicted, but in the county jail the treatment is no better, and the conditions are worse. The prisoners there are not all convicts, and many of them will eventually be tried and found not guilty, unless they succumb to fatal staff infection, diabetic complications, pneumonia, or prosecutorial misconduct, or mishandled evidence before then. There are people in there facing the chance of execution, for clear cut self defense shootings, being a friend or mere acquaintance of someone who committed a felony where a death occurred(felony murder rule), or often simply because a career criminal/part time snitch new their name. It could literally happen to any of us. Your alibis, evidence, and scientific proof don’t necessarily protect you here. This is definitely a bipartisan problem, and our politics shouldn’t be a consideration.

      1. At least we now know that you are given to hyperbole. You destroy your credibility by doing so, at least with nonretarded people. But, if that’s all you’ve got…….

        1. Do you actually intend that reply for me? There wasn’t a single example of hyperbole in my comment. I know for a fact that each example, and reference in my statement is currently taking place in Oklahoma.
          If you don’t believe me, read through our public court documents. Incidentally, I did the same, and was able to verify the claims made in this article.

    3. These are not “technicalities,” these are Constitutional violations. If you like your 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights, then we need to defend them zelously and passionately, no matter who the wronged. This whole “well, they were doing *something* wrong” doesn’t wash. By that logic, bad cops can hang drug possession or human trafficking on you because they nail you for speeding. The law is not “karma,” and policing abusive government is not “more givernment.” Conservatives should be the very first in line to defend the Constitution and police the police!

      1. Caught! A corruption probe into West Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals has led to 14 articles of impeachment against its four sitting members, and one resigned before he could be impeached. Trump has begun a revolution, and the people are rising up!

      1. Forty two and a half years ago I came to Oklahoma on my way home to Alaska after playing in Uncle Sam’s Green Machine in Europe for several years. I liked what I saw and decided to stay. I have never regretted that decision. There are many just like me here and I know several conservative ex-Californians who came here recently. When I came here it was a Democrat run state. Conservative Republicans run the state now.

    4. So, Oklahoma Cops just drive around looking for folks of color to clear their unsolved crimes? I don’t think so. These folks you mentioned aren’t choir boys and getting off through technicalities and illegalities are not proof of innocence. Its wrong I know, but I remember one guy saying, Well I didn’t do this crime, but you didn’t get me for the others, so I guess it is Karma. Stay out of Oklahoma would be my take and if you do go there, stay out of problematic areas. Most if not all of frontier justice was to rid the area of criminals, and you know what? It worked. Some Cops are dirty, no doubt, but, when the police are involved in policing crime, crime goes down. Often hitting hard at the criminal element is required.

    5. Sometimes people from the outside can point out flaws because they don’t have built in biases. Other times people from the outside think they are pointing out flaws when in fact they aren’t because they are ignorant, willfully or not, of all the facts. While Michelle Malkin has some valid points she also is not knowledgeable of all the facts. And if we “Okies” wish to exact the ultimate price for heinous crimes that should be our business. In this article she comes off as just another hysterical woman; and I normally like Michelle Malkin’s views.

    6. So you want to create another Bureaucracy to watch over the lab bureaucracy!?! Um no there’s got to be a better way. Gilgrest was as bad as it gets and yes things need to change for numerous reasons but I’ll be damned if I pay more for yet another bureaucracy of state lops.
      Holtzclaw I guess was just over at those women’s houses to preach the bible verses to them after work then huh? That GPS be lying on him too. “The nation’s most successful exoneration lawyer” lost badly to a JURY of yes “Okies” that I suppose are all bad people as you’ve stated in your article even though the DEFENSE TEAM approved them.
      So come up with a better solution because believe it or not this OKIE sees an issue but knows what you are proposing isn’t a fix but just another headache.

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