Disgraced former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was convicted late last year for rape and other crimes related to the sexual assault of thirteen Black women, was sentenced today by a judge to serve the full prison term recommended by the jury that found him guilty of 18 of the 36 counts against him.
After rejecting Holtzclaw’s petition for a retrial — which was based on the allegation that the prosecution withheld evidence during the trial — Judge Timothy Henderson sentenced Holtzclaw to serve the full recommended 263 years of his prison term — and to serve those years consecutively, rather than concurrently. Had the judge elected to permit Holtzclaw to serve his sentence concurrently, 29-year-old Holtzclaw might have been released from prison within his lifetime. But, with this sentence, Holtzclaw will — unless he discovers an elixir of immortality — spend the remainder of his life behind bars.
While I’m glad to see Holtzclaw face some measure of accountability for crimes wherein he took advantage of institutional anti-blackness and misogynoir to specifically target impoverished Black women for acts of brutal misogyny, this is not what justice looks like to me. Justice would have protected Holtzclaw’s victims from ever having to endure this violence at the hands of a law enforcement officer in the first place. Justice would have been a society that places faith in the testimony of Black women when they describe assaults committed against them, such that most weren’t silenced by the same system that should exist to protect them. Justice would have been a mainstream media that found this story of these injustices so powerful that they actually covered it with the attention it deserves. Justice would be a world where the lives and bodies of Black women actually matter to all of us.
I hope Holtzclaw’s sentencing brings some measure of comfort to his victims, even while we know that nothing will erase their trauma or restore what Holtzclaw violently took from them.