Camm Trial 10/3: Scientists claims analysts' biases clouded find - News, Weather & Sports

Camm Trial 10/3: Scientists claims analysts' biases clouded findings on blood evidence

Posted: Updated:
David Camm David Camm
Kim, Bradley and Jill Camm (Source: WAVE 3 Archives) Kim, Bradley and Jill Camm (Source: WAVE 3 Archives)
Richard Kammen Richard Kammen
The t-shirt Camm was wearing the night of the murders. The t-shirt Camm was wearing the night of the murders.
The sweatshirt worn by Charles Boney. The sweatshirt worn by Charles Boney.

LEBANON, IN (WAVE) - A renowned forensic scientist testified Thursday that investigators' own expectations and biases about blood evidence in the David Camm case likely clouded their work and helped convict Camm of murder twice.

"I'm not saying the non-scientists in their case don't believe what they're testifying to," said Dr. Robert Charles Shaler. "I'm seeing no evidence of fraud here. But scientific knowledge is critical to understanding bloodstain-pattern analysis. You really should understand the principles behind it."

Shaler once supervised several sections of the New York City Medical Examiner's office, including that which identified victims of 9/11. He founded the forensic science program at Penn State University, even writing its primary textbook. He also co-authored a scathing report from the National Academy of Sciences that decried what it considered to be a lack of valid research and measurable standards for crime scene investigators, especially bloodstain-pattern analysts

At least four such analysts have concluded that stains on Camm's t-shirt are blood spatter from the gunshot wound to the head that killed his 5-year-old daughter, Jill. Prosecutors maintain such spatter would have been possible only if Camm had been the killer.

"The problem is that the number of blood stains is minimal," Dr. Shaler told jurors. "Most looked at only three stains of the eight alleged to be blood. And ambiguity allows people to opine as they feel."

Shaler said had all investigators employed true scientific methods they would have devised and conducted experiments designed to disprove their initial theories.

"If your findings leave you no possible answer other than your hypothesis, then your hypothesis is correct," said Shaler.

Shaler cited defense expert Bart Epstein's efforts to determine how much time would have to elapse for a blood flow to create the stains, and the level of drying and serum separation that investigators found in the blood of Kim Camm on her garage floor. Epstein determined blood would congeal in 60 to 90 minutes.

"There has to be tacky (partially dried) blood in any area where Camm was," Shaler explained.  "If I don't see fresh blood on his shirt, then I'm on my way to disproving that (Camm is guilty)."

Shaler continued by saying the scientific method requires that any testing mirrors the conditions believed to have caused or contributed to what investigators found at the scene. Prosecutors, however, claim such methods discredit the findings of another key defense witness, blood-pattern analyst Barie Goetz.

Goetz used all-cotton T-shirts and a doll's synthetic hair dripped with blood to try to determine whether he could re-create patterns similar to that found on Camm's t-shirt. Camm has claimed his shirt may have brushed against blood beaded on his daughter's hair as he was removing his son Bradley from his wife's SUV.

"Camm's shirt was polyester and cotton, and it absorbs differently," prosecutor Todd Meyer stated. "Wouldn't that affect how the stains absorbed, and how they appeared?"

Shaler conceded he would have done things differently, but it doesn't make Goetz's findings less valid. Goetz had concluded that two stains below the hemline of Camm's shirt couldn't be gunshot spatter unless his daughter's head were below the level of his shirt when she was shot.

"It has nothing to do with the fabric," said Shaler, "but the positions of the shirt and of the blood source."

Wednesday, Epstein testified that his own testing validated not only Goetz's conclusions, but Camm's version of events.

"The fact is, when some analysts call (the blood stains) a spatter or impact pattern, and others say it's a contact pattern, that's a 50 percent error rate and that's unacceptable," Shaler told jurors.

Camm's defense team suggested that an "expectation and context bias" led microscopist William Chapin to conclude that a particle found near the blood stains on the t-shirt was brain tissue from Jill. Defense attorney Stacey Uliana told jurors Chapin knew that investigators had concluded the stain pattern was spatter, and that Jill's blood and brain tissue were found on the Bronco's headliner and rollbar.


"The substance on Camm's shirt has nothing similar to the tissue on the headliner," Shaler said. "Even the colors aren't the same."


So Shaler submitted a combined sample of stains and the particle for DNA testing. It concluded that the particle was Camm's tissue, not his daughter's. However, on cross-examination Shaler conceded that t-shirt findings alone aren't proof that Camm is innocent.


"But you'd still have to divorce yourself of that spatter opinion, to come up with another mechanism of how to get blood on his shirt," Shaler explained.

"But proving it was (gunshot) spatter would prove he's guilty," Meyer asked.

"Yes," Shaler answered.

Prior to and following Shaler's testimony, jurors heard from four more men who played basketball with Camm on September 28, 2000, the night of the murders. Prosecutors allege that Camm took a timeout to sneak home and kill his family, then return to the games to create his alibi.

Anthony Ferguson, Jeremy Little, Jeff Dickey and Martin Dickey all said they saw no evidence of blood on Camm's shirt.

"And I would have," Ferguson said.  "I'm not a germaphobe, but I'm concerned for my kids. I would have made him take it off." 

Ferguson and Little both testified that they believe Camm played in every game. But Little told jurors in Camm's second trial that he'd heard Camm complaining of leg cramps.

"But you don't recall seeing him on the sidelines, so you'd have no idea what he was doing," Meyer told jurors.

"But your best memory is that Camm didn't set out any games," said defense counsel Richard Kammen. "So if he didn't, he didn't leave.

Jeff Dickey confirmed earlier testimony from other players that Camm sat out at least one game. Dickey said he was certain he saw Camm on the sidelines for several minutes.

"I make a note of things like that," said Jeff Dickey. "I got hurt once by an errant ball."

His brother, Martin Dickey testified Camm's behavior seemed ordinary.

"He (Camm) was happy, go lucky," said Martin Dickey.

But Martin Dickey also confirmed defense allegations that investigators spread misinformation in their interrogations following the murders.

"Didn't they (prosecutors) tell you that you had told them you saw Camm wearing a gray sweatshirt," Uliana asked.

"I never said he wore a sweatshirt," Martin Dickey said.

DNA testing tied the sweatshirt to serial felon Charles Darnell Boney only after an appellate court overturned Camm's first conviction in 2004. Boney was convicted of the Camm family murders, and has been serving a 225-year sentence since 2006.

Martin Dickey also claimed that prosecutors tried to suggest that he knew Camm could cover the distance from the church gym to his house in about two or three minutes.

"They (prosecutors) said ‘you know you can do it in five minutes,'" said Martin Dickey. "I told them, ‘I guess if you were going fast, you could do it in 2 or 3.'"

At the time, Martin Dickey and Camm worked together at a waterproofing company owned by Camm's uncle, Sam Lockhart.

"I'm trying to be as truthful as I can," Martin Dickey told jurors.

"You would not lie for David Camm, would you?" Uliana asked.

"No reason to," Martin Dickey said.

Copyright 2013 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.