OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — The City of Oklahoma City has found thousands of emails it said were deleted from the account of a now retired police lab employee. The DNA analyst, Elaine Taylor, retired earlier this year and the city said it deleted all her emails when FOX 25 requested records pertaining to her work on the Daniel Holtzclaw case.
Holtzclaw is serving a 263-year sentence after a jury convicted him on multiple charges connected to the rape and sexual assault of several women while he was an Oklahoma City Police Officer.
In his appeal of that conviction, Holtzclaw has argued the DNA testing and testimony was flawed. The revelations about potential mishandling of evidence and testimony that was outside the bounds of science led to a two-day secret hearing in Oklahoma County District Court.
The more than 4,000 pages of emails and attachments were released after a legal battle at the Court of Criminal Appeals. Attorneys representing Hotlzclaw asked for a court order to prevent the city from destroying any more records, citing the FOX 25 report about the last records release related to the case.
The Attorney General’s office argued the court order was unnecessary because the city has now placed holds on all accounts and emails related to Holtzclaw’s case and had taken steps to recover the deleted emails.
The new release of emails includes an exchange that began with the internal sharing of a FOX 25 report about the controversial billboard that was briefly installed in northeast Oklahoma City.
“Please see the new article on Holtzclaw,” Captain Ron Bacy, the head of the department’s investigations bureau emailed to Taylor in November of 2016. “It raised a question.”
The question raised was about undisclosed male DNA being present in Holtzclaw’s case.
Taylor responded to Bacy with a copy of her lab report writing that “Gayland [Gieger, the lead prosecutor] never brought it up and neither did Scott [Adams, Holtclaw’s original defense attorney]. This is not new evidence it has always been in my report and is not new evidence. Is everyone in a tizzy? I was never asked about it and no one ever got upset because it was in his car.”
Taylor referenced a DNA sample from the inside door handle of Holtzclaw’s patrol car that did contain an unknown male DNA sample. However, that is not the DNA that is a concern in Holtzclaw’s appeal.
It was an independent scientist in Iowa that first noticed the glaring discrepancy.
“During the analyst's testimony she said had no evidence of male DNA in them, but actually both of those samples did,” said Erica Fuchs, a biologist who was research the lab results in the Holtzclaw case.
The testimony in question revolved around the DNA profiles found on the fly of Holtzclaw’s pants.
“Right away I could see that both samples had a Y chromosome in them,” Fuchs told FOX 25, “So this told me that there was DNA from at least one male in both of the samples.”
Testimony at trial indicated Holtzclaw was not a contributor to the DNA found in uniform pants. However, Fuchs and other DNA experts said the science showed that Holtzclaw could not be excluded as a contributor in any of the four samples taken from the fly of his pants. The independent analysis indicated the presence of male DNA could back up the defense theory of secondary transfer of miniscule DNA samples.
Holtzclaw’s supporters argue that male DNA and the small amount of female DNA that matched one of the victims could have come from mishandling of evidence by OCPD detectives.
An hour after Taylor sent her report, Bacy writes back “Don’t worry. Everything is fine.”
Prior to that exchange, in August of 2016, Taylor sent herself an email that contained several scanned pages from a book about forensic DNA typing. The pages are from a chapter about the Y Chromosome and testing on the Y Chromosome.
In May of 2017, the Attorney General’s office filed its first motion to discuss part of the case under seal. That motion would lead to the secret court hearing that FOX 25 has learned centered around issued related to DNA testing.
In a previous records release from Oklahoma City FOX found an email dated May 9, 2017 sent from District Attorney David Prater to all of his prosecutors. “Please notify me immediately if you have a pending case wherein Elaine Taylor, OCPD DNA Lab employee, is endorsed as a witness” Prater wrote.
The email chain would lead to exchanges that included Deputy Police Chief Johnny Kuhlman, who also testified before a judge and prosecutors on the first day of the secret hearing. The email over testing concerns included a warning that some prosecutors were unaware of the retesting DNA concerns and warned of the potential impacts it might have on their cases.
The emails reveal several criminal cases have been marked for retesting since the identification of concerns with Taylor in the Holtzclaw case.
Prater told FOX 25 at the time his request was only related to Taylor’s retirement and not to any concerns his office had about her work. Taylor had retired in February, three months prior to the email chain.