January 30th, 2006 - Day 16: Will A Microscope Mean A Guilty Verdict
February 1, 2006 at 3:56 PM EST - Updated June 29 at 7:05 PM
By James Zambroski
January 30th, 2006 - Day 16 (Addendum) Will a Microscope Mean a Guilty Verdict?
Police say microscopic evidence on two fronts ties David Ray Camm to the murders of his wife and children almost five-and-a-half years ago.
On Monday, Indiana State Police Sgt. Edward M. Wessel Jr. told the jury that a .380 caliber Loricon semi-automatic pistol was used in the slayings, which took place on September 28, 2000, even though that weapon has never been found by investigators.
Wessel based his conclusions on three spent shell casings found in the garage of Camm's Georgetown, Ind. home that night. A shell casing is what's left after a bullet has been fired.
Wessel classified the weapon as a 'Saturday Night Special,' a cheap handgun likely favored by criminals because of its low cost.
The state police firearms expert also testified that the casings -- which are composed of 70 percent copper, 25 percent and trace amounts of nickel -- shed microscopic metal shavings when loaded into a magazine. When the bullets are pushed one at a time into the magazine, a spring loaded carrier roughly half the size of a soda can, the force needed peels off pieces of metal from the casings that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Wessel testified those metal shavings are also emitted when the weapon is fired.
Gunpowder residue of the same size also sprays from the gun when it is discharged, Wessel said.
Wessel also confirmed that the Loricon is a hammerless semi-automatic weapon. A hammer is a spring-loaded device near the rear of a pistol containing metal that comes to a point. When the trigger is squeezed, the hammer falls, with the pointed metal striking the back of the bullet, igniting the gunpowder that fires the projectile.
That information was considered critical by ISP Detective Gary Gilbert, who testified he was told that the Loricon was hammerless during an interview. While he didn't say so on the stand, the state left no doubt when speaking with reporters during a break that the information was likely provided by Charles Boney. Boney has said he provided Camm the gun used in the killings.
Later in the trial, the prosecution will present evidence that Camm's T-shirt, gym shorts and a sock contain brass and gunpowder residue, although no tests are available to determine that they came from the exact shell casings recovered from the scene.
The FBI has those conclusions in criminal cases in the past, but has since suspended the practice because of controversy over their testing method, the prosecution told reporters.
Camm has said in previous statements that he owned only rifles. Police did recover .380 caliber ammunition in his home, but it is of a different brand than the shell casings they found in the garage.
Also on Monday, ISP analyst Lynn Scamahorn testified she found blood from the victims on Camm's clothing and shoes.
Scamahorn, a civilian employee at ISP's Evansville crime lab, testified that the Camm murder case was the largest she worked on during her 14 year career with the state police.
During all-afternoon questioning by Chief Deputy Floyd County Prosecutor Steve Owen, Scamahorn opened several paper bags containing the evidence and detailed hundreds of blood and DNA tests she had performed on stains she found on the clothing.
Camm's T-shirt and a sweat shirt owned by Boney were shown to the jury, then hung on hangers nearby while Scamahorn testified, using photographs and hand drawn diagrams to show where each stain was found. The jury was given summaries of the tests done on each garment.
She drew no conclusions about what the stains she identified might mean; that will come later when the state's blood spatter experts try to interpret Scamahorn's work for the jury.
They will testify that some of the blood is high velocity impact spatter and could only have been deposited because Camm was near his daughter, Jill, when she was shot to death.
The prosecution has said that forensic evidence found inside the garage will make the case that a conspiracy existed between Boney and Camm.
Camm's defense team will present experts who will say that the blood was transferred to the garment when Camm came in contact with his daughter after he found her dead.
January 30th, 2005 - Day 16 Did Camm Do It?
Surprisingly, I don't get too many questions like that, at least flat out.
What I do get are people and lots of emails coming to me with their theories about what happened on September 28, 2000 in the garage of an upscale home in Georgetown, Ind.
But maybe the reason no one asks me point blank is because they know enough about journalism to understand, that, professionally speaking, I can't say whether I believe David Ray Camm murdered his wife, Kim and their children, Bradley and Jill, even if I have a personal opinion about it either way.
My job is just to report what's happening in a Warrick County courtroom everyday as Camm sits through a trial to decide if he's a killer or an innocent man. That's all I'm doing here, to the best of my ability.
But that still begs the question: Did David Camm pull the trigger and will he be found guilty?
As a decidedly ordinary human being, I, like many of you, have my thoughts -- and I'll get to that in a second -- but the ethics of journalism require that I leave my personal feelings out of anything I report.
Let's be honest: it ain't easy. I mean, I'm just an ordinary working stiff trying to do my job the best I can, but I'm not an unfeeling robot. You can't help wanting to get whoever did this, especially after seeing pictures of those beautiful kids with the life shot out them.
Despite covering this crime almost from the beginning, despite being spun everyday by the defense and prosecution to where they think the evidence leads, I can honestly sit here and tell you I don't know if Camm did it or not. Key phrase there being I don't know.
How can that be? you ask. How can we rely on what you report and write about what is arguably the Kentuckiana crime of the decade? Don't you know we're relying on you to steer us right about this thing?
Well, if the latter's the case, you're in luck.
Quite conveniently, a reporter's ethics and my personal beliefs are merging, allowing me perhaps more than other times to stay right in the middle of this story.
I've decided to be a mutated juror in this case. I'd probably be struck from the selection process the first day because of what I already know about it. But, truth is, prior knowledge doesn't automatically disqualify a potential juror. If that were the case, we'd never get 12 men and women to decide guilt or innocence, since very few people live in a cave, isolated from current events.
The question is: Can you set aside what you may know about something, no matter if the source is court documents (we have one juror who downloaded and read the Indiana Court of Appeals decision overturning the first verdict), news accounts or something you heard at the beauty shop, and make your decision solely based on what's presented as evidence, in court?
After everything, that's what I'm trying to do.
I formally met David Camm only a couple of weeks ago during a break in the trial. I was standing about two rows behind him while we both got up to stretch. When he looked at me, I said, "We've never met. I'm James Zambroski from WAVE 3 News." Camm replied, "I know who you are," and then complained about something the prosecutor had just said. We didn't shake hands; too far away.
I do know and like Sam Lockhart, David Camm's uncle and chief cheerleader of his nephew's innocence. I've interviewed him tons of times over the years. I like Frank Renn, Kimberly Camm's father, who has attended almost every legal proceeding connected to this case. My heart aches for him every time they throw up a picture of his slaughtered little girl.
I liked former prosecutor Stanley Faith, who always had time for me and I really dug Mike McDaniel, Camm's first lawyer, because you could always smoke cigarettes in his office.
I'm cool with Katherine "Kitty" Liell, Camm's current defense lawyer. She works the room like the best of a politician on the stump. I'm all right with Keith Henderson, the prosecutor who decided to bring Camm to the bar of justice a second time after his office (and the former judge) got smacked by the court of appeals.
And I like Steve Owen, Henderson's aw-shucks assistant, mainly cause he's a great interview and because I'm on to him: He plays that I'm-just-a-country-lawyer bit to a tee.
But all of these people have an obvious vested interest in the case. I use them to help me understand what's going on in court, what something means or doesn't mean (that's dicey, depending on which side it came from and to whom you're talking).
So come, Zam, cut it out. Did Camm do it or not?
All right. This is the best I can do.
The question may not be whether he's guilty or not, but whether he can be successfully defended. In the legal profession, if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bull****. Both sides are likely to have some of both (from an independent perspective). It just depends on how the jury grabs on to it. Blood experts will mean a lot, but I've had outside defense lawyers say there's plenty of maneuvering to be done around the theory of high velocity impact spatter.
Will David Camm be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? That means beyond all doubt whatsoever, with the jury applying what's reasonable, to them. Camm's behaviors, his alibi, the blood on his shirt, other vestiges of gunfire and his own statements. There's a lot there for the jury to ponder.
Maybe by the end of this thing I can say better. Right now, I just don't know.
And please, don't think I'm wimping out. What I'm doing here is trying to let you inside of me a little; I'm not afraid of showing you some of my struggle; that's a big part of what this trial is all about. They didn't find David Camm standing in the garage with a smoking gun in his hand.
By the way, the day before I left the office to head out to Boonville, I sealed a prediction inside an envelope and left it with Steve York, our assistant news director. I'll let you know how that comes out in the end.
But right now, I just don't know. And I'm fine with that.
P.S. Since I'm out of the office for the next several weeks, I can't access my WAVE 3 email account. If you wanna reach me while I'm in Boonville, send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Later.