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Trial and Errors: The David Camm Saga
The backstory on a sensational murder case playing out in Lebanon this month.
A high-profile murder trial starting in Boone County could end 13 years of scandals, surprises, and reversed convictions in the case of a former state trooper charged with killing his family. Here’s the history, full of foibles.
Sept. 28, 2000
Kim Camm and her children, Brad and Jill, are shot and killed at home in Georgetown, Indiana, near Louisville. Around 9:30 p.m., husband David Camm calls 911 to report discovering the bodies in the garage. Police find blood on both Camm’s shirt and a mysterious sweatshirt on the ground, which Camm later claims isn’t his. The Alibi: Camm, a former Indiana State Trooper, tells investigators he was playing basketball with friends and relatives between 7 and 9:15 p.m. and did not commit the crimes.
Unable to produce the murder weapon, Floyd County Prosecutor Stan Faith presents evidence that the blood on Camm’s shirt is “high-velocity mist,” a splatter type that indicates proximity to the victims when shot. He also argues that Camm had extramarital affairs and molested his daughter (Camm denies the latter accusation). Camm is found guilty and sentenced to 195 years. Plot twist! A defense expert and the state police testify that DNA on the sweatshirt isn’t Camm’s. According to Richard Kammen, one of Camm’s current attorneys, investigators do not search a state database of past offenders’ DNA to identify this potential suspect.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reverses the conviction. Trial-court error! The ruling determines that the evidence of Camm’s alleged affairs and molestation was inadmissible and unfairly influenced the jury.
Camm’s case is featured on the TV show 48 Hours.
The DNA on the sweatshirt is identified as that of convicted burglar Charles Boney (right). Both he and Camm are charged with three homicides and conspiracy. Later, new Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, elected in 2002, argues that the men planned the crime together and each was in the garage at the time of the murders.
Boney is found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 225 years.
Camm, tried near Evansville, is found guilty of the three homicides, acquitted of
conspiracy, and sentenced to life without parole. Overruled! The trial court prohibits Camm’s defense team from contending that Boney has a foot fetish and a history of sexually assaulting women as a theory for why Kim’s shoes and some of her clothes had been removed.
State Rep. Bill Cochran of New Albany successfully introduces legislation for the state to pay some costs of criminal retrials ordered by appellate courts or the Supreme Court. Justice is blind—but not free! Cochran’s effort is a response to Floyd County’s escalating trial costs, which eventually exceed $3 million and force a salary freeze for most of the county’s employees.
The Indiana Supreme Court overturns Camm’s second conviction. Deja vu! The ruling finds that the trial court again allowed inadmissible evidence about Camm’s alleged affairs and molestation, among other mistakes.
The Indiana Court of Appeals replaces Henderson with special prosecutor Stanley Levco, formerly the Vanderburgh County prosecutor, for Camm’s third trial. Bad publicity! Henderson is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest stemming from his 2009 book deal about Camm with Berkley Penguin Group. The book is never published.
Aug. 12, 2013
Camm, who has been in jail for most of the past 13 years, faces murder charges for a third time, with jurors from Boone County. Storylines to follow: Will prosecutors again go after Camm’s character? What will Boney’s first-ever testimony reveal? And can the court avoid the mistakes of its predecessors?
This article appeared in the August 2013 issue.