By Gordon Boyd
LEBANON, IN (WAVE) - For the third time, the fate of former Indiana State Trooper David Camm could rest upon those droplets of blood left on a T-shirt he wore the night his wife Kim and their young children Brad and Jill were shot to death in the garage of their Georgetown home almost thirteen years ago.
But his second re-trial for their murders could have ended before jurors heard even the first witness.
Prosecutors asked Special Judge Jon Dartt to declare a mistrial Thursday, after Camm's legal team raised questions during opening arguments that the court had ruled inadmissible as evidence; namely, that the other man convicted of the murders, Charles Darnell Boney had a 'foot fetish.'
"We offered that only as a reference to Boney's character, "defense attorney Richard Kammen told the court. We were very careful to stay away from the details of his (Boney's) previous crimes. I didn't link to anything other than who he really is."
The defense maintains that prosecutors 'opened the door' to such statements by telling the jury that Camm may have 'staged' his family's murders to make it appear that his wife had been sexually assaulted.
The jury heard only the prosecution's objections, not its call for mistrial. Judge Dartt denied the state's motion and told jurors to disregard Kammen's comments. But he admonished Kammen for tactics he called "clearly crossing the line."
As in Camm's two previous trials, the state maintains that the droplets his shirt came through High Velocity Impact Spatter (HVIS), a result of firing at such close range that blood blew back on him.
"She (Kim Camm) spoke, not with her words, but those tiny drops of blood will speak the truth about David Camm," Special Prosecutor Stan Levco told the jury.
"Spatter versus transfer: one side is 100 percent right, one is 100 percent wrong."
But Camm's attorneys argue that the state's original 'expert' in HVIS, was little more than an administrative assistant who not only lacked expertise, but mishandled the investigation.
"The state's blood-pattern expert didn't even know how far blood spatter will fly," defense attorney Stacy Uliana asked Jim Niemeyer, the former Indiana State Police technical supervisor who gathed the first evidence at the crime scene.
"Yes," Niemeyer told the jury, later testifying that he brought took his concerns to his supervisors, only to be told to "quit crying in my beer and do my job."
The defense maintains Niemeyer's concerns offer proof that investigators "rushed to judgement" as to Camm's guilt, and that he was a victim of "confirmation bias."
"Because they (investigators) had so much in it, evidence was overlooked, marginalized, and discarded," Kammen told the jury. "Because they had the guy."
Special Prosecutor Levco acknowledges that investigators made a serious mistake by failing to check a national database for DNA samples found on a sweatshirt left at the crime scene, and from a handprint found inside Kim Camm's Ford Bronco. David Camm was convicted of his family's murders before the data base was checked. Both Camm's earlier convictions were thrown out on appeal.
Later testing revealed that the sweatshirt belonged to Boney, and was key evidence in his conviction.
Boney was sentenced to 225 years. Prosecutors have called him to testify against Camm.
Now retired, Niemeyer also is the state's witness, called to explain the evidence he gathered, and to walk the jury through the graphic videotape of the murder scene, showing the bodies of Kim, 35, Brad, 7, and Jill, 5.
Camm's eyes appeared to water as the video played; his chin quivering occasionally. Kim Camm's parents, Frank and Janice Renn, lowered their heads and covered their eyes.
From the beginning, Camm has maintained that he arrived home to discover the bodies after playing basketball at his church the night of September 28, 2000. His first call wasn't to 911, but to the State Police post at Sellersburg, where he'd served before leaving the ISP four months earlier.
Thursday, jurors heard that recorded call, which a dispatcher transferred to the acting Post Commander, Andrew Lee. Camm's tone was agitated, even frantic, as he told Lee that somebody had killed his family.
"I'd never gotten a call like that," Lee told the jury Thursday.
Niemeyer is to return for more questioning Friday. Jurors may pose their own questions to witnesses , through Judge Dartt, if he, prosecutors and Camm's attorneys deem them relevant and appropriate.
"You are the first jury who will hear who Charles Boney really is," defense attorney Kammen said during opening arguments.
"Kim (Camm) fought the only way a mother can fight and he (Boney) shot her and blew her brains out."
Prosecutors told the jury they may not be able to present clear motive, but that an inmate will testify that Camm told him that he killed his family because his wife had planned to leave him, and that he stood to collect $750,000 from her life insurance policy.
"We will not ask you for mercy, only that you follow the law," Kammen told the jury, insisting that Camm got the blood droplets on his shirt when he tried to perform CPR on the one family member he believed was still alive.
"(David) has told me 'If I have to go to prison for the rest of my life because I got my son out of that car and tried to help him; I'd do it again.