By James Zambroski
Random Thoughts From a Somewhat Fertile Mind—Final Voyage
Best Verdict Moment
A reporter on his game has eight places to watch when a jury returns its verdict: The judge reading it; the jury who brought it; the defense table; the prosecution table; the defense side of the audience; the prosecution side of the courtroom; random, neutral spectators and the court deputies.
You're taking all this in, scribbling a note or two, so you can paint a picture for the viewers at home, deprived as they are of courtroom video (side note: How about a letter writing campaign to reverse that edict? Start with your legislators, Indiana, then include a copy to Chief Justice Randall Terry Shepard, Indiana Supreme Court; 315 Indiana State House; Indianapolis, IN 46204. Face it: you're paying for it; why shouldn't you be allowed the sunlight of the unvarnished truth to shine through your television)?
Anyway, I immediately noticed that the jury didn't look at David Ray Camm as they filed in, a bad sign confirmed moments later, when the words guilty, guilty, guilty rang through the courtroom.
An animal like howl arose from the defense audience, as expected, but it was from the prosecution table that I noticed the true Kodak moment.
As Warrick Superior Court Judge Robert Aylsworth read the verdict, Floyd County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen's eyes reddened and filled with tears. Of course, his back is toward me as this is happening, but I was looking at the right spot as he turned in his seat and looked at Frank and Janice Renn, sitting a few feet behind him.
I've reported this before; Owen gave me a ration of crap over it, saying it was private moment between him and the Renns. I don't get why he was upset; it was a spectacular bit of humanism from a guy who put his heart and soul in the pursuit of justice for this family. Really glad I was witness to it, Steve.
The ink was barely dry on the verdict form when Katherine 'Kitty' Liell was promising an appeal. She believes she has four grounds: 1). The improper striking of women from the jury (the panel was 8 men and 4 women); 2). The refusal to allow Charles Boney's alleged foot and shoe fetish into the trial (remember injuries to Mrs. Camm's feet and the placement of her shoes on the roof of the Bronco; she was too short to put them up there herself); 3). The judge's ruling denying the defense the right to play a short piece of video in which Boney appears to confess to the killings and 4). The introduction of sexual molestation testimony concerning Jill Camm.
Of course, I'm no lawyer, but I do know this: Virtually every guilty murder verdict winds up in an appeal. Keep in mind, an appeal only focuses on trial errors; there is no retrying of the facts—the jury has spoken—but if an appeals court believes any errors were significant enough to cost Camm a fair trial, we could do this all over again in a couple of years.
For his part, Keith Henderson is confident there are no grounds for a successful appeal and you gotta believe he was very aware of the Indiana Court of Appeals view on this case when he went to the well a second time.
But my legal sources tell me they believe there is a better than usual chance this verdict, too, will be overturned.
Movie Moment for the Jury
Under Indiana law, jurors deliberating a murder case are sequestered during the process. That means they can't go home until they reach a verdict. So for three nights during the deliberations, they were bussed about a half hour to downtown Evansville, where they stayed at the Executive Inn. Most of the press stayed at the Drury Inn and Suites, about 10 minutes south of that hotel (closer to Boonville).
One morning, as the jury boarded their bus for the trip to court, several cops showed up on their Harley Davidson police motorcycles and escorted them with lights and sirens blaring through traffic intersections all the way to the Warrick Judicial Center.
So much for anonymity. It only happened once; I'm guessing it's because Judge Robert 'Judge Bob' Aylsworth wasn't too happy about the escort.
Do I Think He Did It?
Now that the trial's over, that's a frequent question. When this all started, I resolved to see it as a juror, mutated though that had to be, based on my prior knowledge of the case and the fact I couldn't be in the courtroom 100 percent of the time (I'd estimate I had 90 percent attendance, with live broadcasts and preparation for same taking the other 10 percent).
I strove at all times to stay in the middle so far as my reporting was concerned. Even in writing this column, I sought to maintain some semblence of balance, not devoting too much space or words to one side or the other.
I'd judge that effort successful, considering that both sides from time to time complained that I was showing favoritism to the other.
But I've dodged the answer long enough.
I clearly remember when I came to a conclusion about this case. It happened on Day 32 of this 44 day trial. There was a moment when I was convinced the prosecution had sufficient evidence to convict David Ray Camm of these murders and ironically, it occurred while a defense blood stain expert was on the stand.
Paulette Sutton, of Memphis, Tennessee, testified that stains in Area 30 on Camm's shirt, those critical 4 or 5 microdots of blood, were placed there by transfer. She and three other defense experts opined that Camm's clothing somehow touched Jill's blood after she'd been shot to death. Sutton and her colleagues supported Camm's version of how his shirt became bloody.
Of course, you know by now, the prosecution experts testified that blood on Area 30 was an example of high velocity impact spatter, driven into the fabric as a result of blow back from the gunshot that mortally wounded the 5-year-old child. It meant, they said, that Camm had to be within four feet of his little girl when she was slain.
Sutton insisted, though, that the stains were transfer. Keith Henderson, during cross examination, asked her to explain how that happened. Sutton, along with her colleagues, were unified in saying such explanation was impossible, owing to the infancy of blood stain analysis.
So far, at that point, at least as far as the scientific experts are concerned, I have reasonable doubt; the experts are cancelling each other out.
But then Henderson went for the jugular, so to speak.
He asked Sutton if she saw any signs of a smear or a streak when she examined the stains under a microscope? No, she answered.
He asked her how long it would take for blood drops that small to dry. She was vague on that point, saying it depended if they were flowing from the wound.
He then said, "Do you mean he (Camm) stepped inside the Bronco, touched his shirt to her hair (straight on), stepped back and moved away" leaving stains with no smears or blurriness.
She said she couldn't say for sure, but remained resolute the blood was transfer.
I didn't buy it; I don't believe the jury did either; at that moment, I believed the prosecution had won the battle of the blood stain experts and they had sufficient evidence to convict David Ray Camm.
Am I Writing a Book?
Another frequent question. I don't know; but I have no interest in writing about the crime itself--that's already been done, "One Deadly Night" by John Glatt; 2005, St. Martin's Paperbacks.
I am mulling over a fact based novel on covering the trial. I have a fascination with the emotions, the side shows, the daily nuances I witnessed over two months, but I'm not certain if there's any mass market appeal for basically what I've written in this space over the last eight weeks. We'll see; right now, I just need a rest!
Will This Column Continue?
Yes, on an irregular basis, typically when I get some kind of exotic or unusual assignment (covering the hurricanes, last year, for example).
One Last Thing