When Officers of the Court
By Jack Barnes
“Protect and Serve” is supposed to be the motto for all officers of the court, but it’s becoming the norm that we encounter officers using their power to terrorize society rather than protect it.
The latest disgraced cop is Daniel Holtzclaw, formerly out of the Oklahoma City police force. Holtzclaw was charged with thirty-six counts of sexual assault, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy and rape. The victims were thirteen black women. Holtzclaw committed these crimes while on duty.
Prosecutors labeled Holtzclaw a serial rapist who preyed on poor black women because he felt they wouldn’t speak up. What made these women particularly vulnerable was that most of them had criminal records and/or substance abuse problems.
Through the power of his badge, Holtzclaw used many different methods to torture and sexually assault women who were in no position to fight for themselves. One of his victims testified that he ran her name, found out she had warrants out for her arrest and then drove her to an abandoned school and raped her. Holtzclaw’s youngest victim was seventeen years old.
These sick acts by Holtzclaw took place over a seven-month period. Because most of these black women had criminal records and were battling drug addictions, Holtzclaw felt confident that they would not contact the authorities. Unfortunately, once they did speak up and seek justice, these women were viciously attacked once again by Holtzclaw’s attorney–not physically this time, but verbally and mentally. Theircharacters were now being attacked because of their substance abuse and criminal records.
Holtzclaw was convicted on eighteen of these thirty-six counts. My question is–why hasn’t this case received more national attention? Certainly, race plays a huge factor. If these were 13 white women, it would be world news.
So many people suffer from the many corrupt officers of the court with similar ways as Officer Holtzclaw. My wrongful murder conviction stemmed from this same type of corrupt behavior by a crooked cop. Because I would not lie and help him frame a random person for murder, I was retaliated against by this officer. I suddenly found myself charged with a murder that I knew nothing about.
This officer used the same tactics as Officer Holtzclaw in order to fabricate a case against me. One witness was a woman who was abusing crack cocaine. The officer did not believe this witness’s prior statement, so he worked on her for months until he felt she told the truth. All of a sudden, this witness stated I was present when a murder took place–the same murder I had refused to falsely accuse someone else of.
This same officer threatened all of my alibi witnesses with false charges if they tried to help me. One of my alibi witnesses, who was using crack cocaine and had pending armed robbery charges, suddenly became the “motive” witness for the prosecution. And, just a week after my trial, this motive witness was released and given a plea bargain of immediate parole upon my prosecutor’s request. But for years, my defense and I knew nothing about this.
Parts of my missing case discovery, turned over to my legal team in pieces eighteen years later, showed something more. The witness who the police had to “work on” for months was initially labeled as a suspect in the murder for which I was falsely convicted.
What’s more, we found out that my alibi witness who recanted and testified for the prosecution in exchange for the plea bargain was in fact the Godsister of the corrupt cop in my case.
I refused to be manipulated into destroying another innocent person’s life by this officer of the court. But two other people were manipulated, and my life was the one that got ruined. The same power dynamic seen in the Holtzclaw case allows police to coerce false testimony and secure wrongful convictions. At the end of the day, there are so many victims.
Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence, from 1995 to 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for four months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered Lorenzo back to prison to resume the sentence. With the help of Michael Wiseman, Esq., The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, The Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson, and others, he is continuing to fight for his freedom. Email him, make a donation, or sign his petition and learn more at: http://www.freelorenzojohnson.org/sign-the-petition.html.
Follow Lorenzo Johnson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FreeRenz
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Props to HP