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New details in Holtzclaw case, but state says you have no right to know

Daniel Holtzclaw. (Oklahoma County Jail)

There are new developments in the case of a former cop convicted of rape, but the public is being kept in the dark about the details.

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office is fighting to keep Holtzclaw in prison as he appeals his sex-crime convictions. The agency filed a motion recently under seal. According to the limited court records available online attorneys believe the material is exempt from public disclosure by Oklahoma law.

The Attorney General’s office has not publicly provided any statute or legal precedent that would warrant such an exemption from the public record.

While filing information under seal is not unheard of in criminal cases, it is not necessarily common in criminal appeals.

However, making matters more uncommon the state’s attorneys and the judges on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals are withholding the information from the defense attorneys representing Holtzclaw on his appeal.

The court took the secrecy a step further by imposing a “protective order” on the case while issuing an order sending Holtzclaw’s case back to Oklahoma County District Court.

In general practice criminal cases only go back to district court when they are overturned or when there is a need to debate new evidence.

FOX 25 contacted the Court of Criminal Appeals about the case and were initially told to contact Oklahoma County District Judge Timothy Henderson.

Judge Henderson’s office told us he could not comment on the Holtzclaw case. FOX 25 asked if there would be a hearing in his courtroom, which is financed by taxpayers, concerning Holtzclaw. His office staff responded by saying he could not comment on anything related to Holtzclaw. The judge’s office also refused to comment on if a hearing date would be made public, if any member of the public concerned about the case could attend or if the secrecy surrounding the case was cause for concern.

Judge Henderson’s office referred FOX 25 back to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Only one justice returned our calls and emails. By email, Presiding Judge Gary Lumpkin said he could not comment on matters currently before the court.

Judge Lumpkin refused to answer questions about the need for secrecy in the case or what Oklahoma law required keeping details about a public case confidential. He also declined to answer any question about how the current veil of secrecy lines up with the oath judges take to uphold the constitutions of the United States and Oklahoma.

Both the United States and the State of Oklahoma have constitutions that guarantee the public’s right to the courts and public access to the justice process.

The Attorney General’s office said the information filed by attorneys is secret, but also declined to state the laws that they are relying on to demand such secrecy.

A spokesperson for the agency did say Holtzclaw’s case has not been overturned and the hearing in district court will be an “evidentiary hearing.” The AG’s office was not able to say if the public would have access to the hearing.

RELATED: Former Oklahoma City officer convicted of rape files appeal

FOX 25 has learned that the information the AG’s office is referring to was not available to Hotlzclaw’s original defense attorneys during his initial trial.

The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office, which is not currently involved in the appellate case, told FOX 25 the information is strictly confidential. However DA David Prater wrote in an email that the information filed in the appeal does not allege any wrongdoing by prosecutors in Holtzclaw’s case. Prater also said the attorneys working on the state’s case have not discovered new information.

Secrecy has surrounded Holtzclaw since his conviction. The Department of Corrections removed any details of Holtzclaw’s incarceration from its online database. The DOC has refused to release any information about where Holtzclaw is being held. The agency has also removed any details about Holtzclaw from victim notification services, which means if there were any changes in his status, victims would not be informed.

In December 2015, Holtzclaw was convicted on 18 of 36 charges and sentenced to serve 263 years in prison.

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