The DNA 'Evidence' Presented at Trial

(last updated 4/22/2016) -- All most people needed to hear to confirm Daniel Holtzclaw's guilt in their mind is, "They found a 17-year-old girl's DNA on the fly of his uniform pants!"

And, I have to be honest, that was the one fact that early on looked like the prosecutor's smoking gun.

I spent literally hundreds of hours with Daniel Holtzclaw and most every day he'd ask me if I thought he was guilty. And, most every day I'd tell him "I think you did something, I just haven't figured out what it is." 

Honestly, I thought when we met with our DNA expert that would be the defining moment when I knew Holtzclaw was guilty of either rape or consensual sex. 

To my surprise, the DNA expert actually convinced me that this evidence wasn't anymore damning than the GPS evidence - it simply confirmed that Daniel Holtzclaw and accuser Gardner came into contact with each other.

Now, before I go on, you need to get the myth out of your head that a defense expert is simply a 'hired gun' that has been paid to say whatever the defense wants them to say.

I can't speak for other defense teams, but in our case we simply forwarded the DNA results, as provided by the prosecution, and asked our expert to tell us what it means - giving him no additional information about the case or our defense strategy. 

When we met with our DNA expert he told us the DNA tests not only didn't prove a sexual assault happened, the test results didn't even imply a sexual assault occurred - beyond the knee jerk unscientific emotional reaction people have when they hear where the DNA was found.

The first thing our DNA expert had us do was read some studies on secondary transfer, trace and touch DNA (I know, boring). But, here are some links to similar articles that get to the point.

  1. - 11/9/2015 - Secondary Transfer a New Phenomenon in Touch DNA. (link)
  2. - 3/8/2016 - DNA Transfer Through Non-Intimate Contact. (link)
  3. - 3/17/2015 - Touch DNA. What is it? Where is it? How much can be found? And, how can it impact my case? (link)
  4. - 1/4/2016 - Trace DNA Analysis - If your DNA is on the evidence, did you really touch it? (link)

In short, if I come into close contact with you (hand-shaking, pat down search, riffle through your purse, etc.) and then I pick up a knife, a gun, or touch my pants - there is a very really chance your DNA will be on those items and yet you yourself never touched them.

The second thing our DNA expert told us was that the DNA found was skin cell DNA - the most common DNA found - and that humans shed skin cell DNA at a rate of up to millions per day, and it's all got to go somewhere.

At trial, the prosecution's own DNA police lab expert testified that while the DNA found on the fly of Holtzclaw's uniform pants was that of accuser Gardner's - she had absolutely no way of knowing from what part of Gardner's body the DNA came from. Additionally, the prosecution's DNA expert testified that she also had no way of knowing how Gardner's DNA got onto Holtzclaw's pants.

Lastly, the DNA expert testified that it was possible that the DNA found on Holtzclaw's pants could indeed be the result of touch or secondary transfer.

Most telling in the prosecution's expert DNA testimony was the revelation of what they didn't do to try and prove that Holtzclaw had raped Gardner.

While at its core skin cell DNA is DNA and tests only looking for the presence of skin cell DNA are not going to identify from what part of the body it came from or how it was transferred. However, it is standard that investigators try and determine the origin or transfer method of DNA by seeking and/or testing for the presence of other materials - hair, blood, sweat, saliva, vaginal secretions, semen, etc.

In this case the prosecution knew they were in possession of pants they believed belonged to a serial rapist that had allegedly committed three rapes while wearing them only hours before they were seized (accusers Gardner, Lyles and Ligons). Yet, the prosecution never sought to identify any bodily fluids as carrier agents for the DNA transfer - especially fluids indicative of the sexual assaults being claimed. 

The prosecution's police dept. DNA expert testified that they never fluoresced the pants for indicators of fluids (even though they fluoresced Holtzclaw's patrol car extensively). They also never tested the pants for the presence of saliva, semen or vaginal fluids.

In short, they didn't go looking for anything they were afraid they wouldn't find. This meant that during closing arguments of Holtzclaw's trial, prosecutor Garland Geiger was allowed to speculate or infer that Gardner's DNA was transferred to Holtzclaw's pants via vaginal fluid - something prosecutor Geiger specifically stated. Yet, he was well aware that he could have had Holtzclaw's pants tested and known that answer for certain. I would submit to you that it is obvious that prosecutor Geiger knew or deeply feared that testing Holtzclaw's pants for saliva, semen or vaginal secretions would come back negative - and then he couldn't speculate as to the DNA's origin.

Lastly, the prosecution also never tried to exclude the possibility of touch or secondary transfer DNA by testing any other area of Holtzclaw's uniform - like his shirt or pants pockets.

Also, keep in mind, the DNA found on Holtzclaw's pants was from accuser Gardner and allegedly from a vaginal rape that occurred on June 17, 2014 around 9:30 p.m. If the prosecution and the accusers are to be believed, after Holtzclaw vaginally raped Gardner, he then, just four hours later (1:30 a.m.), encountered accuser Lyles and forced her to perform oral sex upon him before he vaginally raped her. Then, according to the prosecution and accusers, less than 30 minutes later Holtzclaw pulled over Ligons and forced her to perform oral sex on him. That's two oral sodomies and two vaginal rapes, all within 4.5 hours, and the only DNA found was simple skin cells from only one of the accusers and investigators not once thought it would be appropriate to test for the presence of any bodily fluids - specifically, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions.

Gardner was allegedly the first individual sexually assaulted that night - so why is her DNA showing up and not the two other alleged rape victims that we are to believe occurred after Gardner was allegedly assaulted? 

How do I think Gardner's DNA got only Holtzclaw's pants

It should be pretty obvious by the facts posted above. Holtzclaw came into contact with Gardner, originally around 6:50 p.m. on June 17, 2014. As Gardner testified, Holtzclaw pat searched her (placed his hands on several parts of her body, and exposed midriff) and searched extensively through her purse - containing numerous personal items covered in her DNA. Holtzclaw briefly pat searched Gardner again when he encountered her a second time, around 9:30 p.m. that same night. These two encounters, have a high probability that Holtzclaw transferred DNA from Gardner or her personal items onto his hands. There is absolutely no direct or indirect evidence that Hotlzclaw sexually assaulted the two other accusers he came into contact with later that shift (accusers Lyles and Ligons).

Some 21 hours transpired between the time Holtzclaw initially came into contact with Gardner and the time he was told to hand over his uniform. We know for certain that Holtzclaw took off and put back on that same uniform at least once (after he got home from his shift that started on June 17 and when he re-dressed for his shift that began in the late afternoon of June 18). The taking off and putting on of his uniform most definitely would cause Hotlzclaw to come into contact with the fly of his pants - especially considering we know from watching him undress in the interrogation video, that Holtzclaw wears a t-shirt, bullet proof vest and shirt stays. It is common for an officer wearing these items to dress, and then reach through his fly to pull down his t-shirt, bullet proof vest or uniform shirt and then zip-up their fly.

Not to mention it would also be reasonable to assume that during the previous 21 hours, Holtzclaw may have used the restroom (more than once even) or simply adjusted himself or reached inside his fly to straighten his uniform layers.

At one of those points, Gardner's DNA was simply transferred to Hotlzclaw's pants. Keeping in mind, prosecutors only tested the fly of Holtzclaw's pants. Gardner's DNA may very well have been inside Holtzclaw's pants pockets, around his belt, on his shirt, or anywhere else Holtzclaw's hands may have touched.