Law enforcement e-mails obtained through an Open Records request are raising questions about a key witness -- a retired DNA analyst -- in the trial and conviction of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw.
News 9 requested and received 4,649 pages of the 15,000 emails associated with our request. A city attorney indicated some of emails had been deleted prior to our request, and others were confidential, due to a protective order issued by the Oklahoma Court of Criminals Appeals.
News 9 searched through thousands of pages of emails, to and from leaders of the police department's forensic lab, in an effort to learn more about the purpose of a recent 2-day, closed court hearing tied to Holtzclaw's appeal.
Holtzclaw's own attorneys were not invited to attend the secretive hearing. Courthouse surveillance video showed that, among those who did attend, were members of Oklahoma City Police Department's forensics lab team.
All proceedings related to the hearing have been conducted under seal; even the court order putting the seal in place has been withheld from public view.
Included in the e-mails produced by the city is a string of messages related to OCPD's former senior forensic scientist, Elaine Taylor, and specifically, to "the retesting of Elaine Taylor's cases."
Also in the string is an e-mail from Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on May 8, 2017, in which he asked his prosecutors to "Please notify me immediately, if you have a pending case wherein Elaine Taylor, OCPD DNA Lab employee, is endorsed as a witness."
At the Court's direction, Prater is not allowed to comment directly on the Holtzclaw case, but in a statement to News 9, he offered some context for the email:
The request for OCPD to retest evidence that had been previously examined by Elaine Taylor in cases that were set for an upcoming trial, was made after logistical and trial strategy decisions were made after Ms. Taylor retired from OCPD. The request was not due to any concern about Elaine Taylor, her work product or her proposed testimony.
Taylor retired in February. The City explained that because no one placed a hold on her emails, they were deleted. Attempts to reach Taylor have been unsuccessful.
Hotlzclaw was convicted of several sex crimes in December 2015. He was sentenced to 263 years in prison.