In Oklahoma this year, a Kafkaesque set of sealed motions, secret orders and closed-door hearings completely shut out a criminal defendant, his public defenders and the public. A trial judge served as handmaiden for the prosecutors, even failing to notify the defendant and his lawyers of the kangaroo court proceedings until after they had occurred.
The defendant, who is appealing his convictions and maintains his complete and actual innocence, was denied an opportunity to challenge the state's legal arguments for hiding information about a crime lab analyst's shoddy work on his case that could be exculpatory and key to his exoneration. His public defenders were also denied the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses — all government employees from Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Welcome to Pyongyang on the Prairie.
The Oklahoma attorney general's office claims that the trial judge, Timothy Henderson, conducted an "exhaustive" review of the protected materials and "deeply explored" their contents with government witnesses who only represented the government's side of the story.
Don't worry, be happy, comrades.
Here's the thing: While the defendant was denied representation at the secret hearings, Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger was allowed to enter the star chamber with an entire "team" of fellow prosecutors. (We only know this after two local TV journalists obtained video footage from a surveillance camera outside the hearing room.) [Videos reveal who took part in secret court proceedings by Phil Cross, OKCFOX.com, June 30 2017]In fact, the state attorney general divulged in one of the few unsealed court filings on the matter, Gieger "facilitated the District Court's inquiry by thoroughly examining those witnesses in an ex parte proceeding."
Gieger was the original prosecutor in the defendant's case. The defendant's appeal argues that Gieger "repeatedly and flagrantly misrepresented" evidence at trial, including the forensic evidence and testimony of the OCPD crime lab analyst, Elaine Taylor. A report by six internationally renowned DNA scientists and experts released this summer highlighted Taylor's "flawed forensic science, including insufficient serological analysis and improper DNA testimony" in the case at hand. The scientists concluded that the defendant, former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who is now serving 263 years for a bandwagon pile-on of sexual assault allegations, "was deprived of his due process right to a fair trial because the State misused DNA evidence" and stated that his "conviction should be overturned and he should be given a new trial."[PDF]
Taylor's work on the case, the state was forced to acknowledge, just happened to be the subject of the secret hearings that Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger was allowed to "facilitate."
Can you spell "conflict of interest"?
Incredibly, the state attorney general pats itself on the back for "its strong commitment to transparency" and argues that the "State was forbidden by law from turning any of the material over to the defendant" because a crime lab review of Taylor's work is "an unfinished personnel review" protected by the state open records act. Nonsense on a stick. The law specifically states that a public body "may," not must, keep personnel records confidential — and there is no indication that a review of Taylor's work would invade her privacy.
Both the public's right to know and the defendant's constitutional rights to exculpatory information (as well as information subject to cross-examination) trump the phony "personnel records" shield erected by the state attorney general's office and its collaborators.
In fact, given the wave of crime lab scandals across the country from Austin, Texas, to Washington, D.C., it is in the national interest to disclose such information about questionable forensic analysis and testimony (which I've exposed more at length in my CRTV.com work on the Holtzclaw case and other wrongful convictions for "Michelle Malkin Investigates").
It's even more imperative given the Oklahoma City Police Department's sordid history of fabricated forensic evidence and misconduct dating back more than 15 years.
Legal experts left, right and center tell me they've never seen anything like this. Former ACLU of Oklahoma president and retired University of Oklahoma law professor Randall Coyne blasted the secrecy circus this summer, and his words bear repeating:
"This is no way to run a criminal justice system. In 29 years of practicing and teaching criminal law in Oklahoma, I have never seen the level of sealed orders and secret, ex parte courtroom proceedings that has occurred in the Holtzclaw matter. ... The dark cloud of secrecy over the Holtzclaw case gives rise to suspicions that somebody is hiding something. ... The court immediately should unseal all orders and filings so the public — as well as other convicted defendants whose cases and lives may be impacted — can see the details."Is this North America or North Korea? Over to you, Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
Michelle Malkin [email her] is the author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin is also author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies, and Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneur