*Less than a day after former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted of abusing his authority to target, pull over and sexually assault at least 13 black women while on duty, some of the victims in the case decided to speak publicly about the trial and the jury’s decision.
After hearing testimony from 13 women and deliberating for four days, 12 white (and mostly male) jurors on Thursday found Holtzclaw guilty of sex crimes against 8 of the women – 18 of 36 counts, including first degree rape, sexual battery and indecent exposure. The jury recommended a sentence of 263 years in prison.
“We are pleased with the 18 counts we received, but we are not pleased with the 18 counts we didn’t. The tendency is not to believe black women,” said Grace Franklin, co-founder of OKC Artists for Justice, at a press conference Friday morning. Franklin added that although eight women did receive justice, five others did not.
Franklin appeared with attorney Benjamin Crump, leaders of the National Bar Association, attorneys Damario Solomon-Simmons and Melvin Hall, and two of Holtzclaw’s victims, Jannie Liggons and Shaudae Harris.
Liggons, whose report against Holtzclaw launched the police investigation, said she feared for her life when the officer pulled her over for no reason and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
“In my mind, all I could think of was he was going to shoot me, he was going to kill me,” Liggons told reporters. “I kept pleading, ‘Don’t make me do this, sir.’”
“All I could see was my life flashing before my eyes and the holster on his side,” she said.
Liggons said she felt that her life was in danger and thought that if she knew his name, he was going to kill her. “I was so afraid and helpless,” she said. “I was a victim, I was traumatized, I went to therapy…I still live with this day after day.”
But in the end, Liggons told reporters, “He picked the wrong lady to stop that night.”
A second victim, Shaudae Harris, was sexually assaulted by Holtzclaw while handcuffed to a bed at an Oklahoma City hospital.
“I just couldn’t even believe it, I was speechless, I was scared, when everything was going down…I felt like I was in survival mode and I had to do what he was making me do,” Harris said.
Crump told reporters, “It just left a hollow pit in your stomach as you listened to them tell similar story after similar story. And these women didn’t know each other.”
Crump says he tried to get the national media to pay closer attention to the case, which he referred to as the “biggest rape case America hadn’t heard about.” He said he couldn’t believe the national media wouldn’t cover the story of a “serial rapist with a badge.”
“Their lives matter, Their experiences matter,” he said.
However, he said that does not take away from the victims’ strength to come forward.
“We’re celebrating their courage for telling their story,” Crump said.
Crump says there will be a civil case in an attempt to get justice for all the women.
Holtzclaw’s official sentencing will be held Jan. 21, 2016. The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said he is currently on suicide watch at the Oklahoma County Jail.
Watch video of the press conference below:
Unfortunately, Andrea Mitchell and her crew talk over Shaudae Harris. Click here to access her portion of the press conference at CNN.com.