By James Zambroski
January 31st, 2006 - Day 17
Hating the Press/Loving the Press
Tensions in and out of the courtroom continue to mount as the David Ray Camm murder trial moves into its fourth week.
On the defense side, the word, "liar," is uttered more and more, aimed both at state witnesses and the prosecuting attorneys.
Across the aisle, the prosecution side continually dismisses anything the defense says, often making fun of them as they do.
And complaints about the coverage of this trial by the Louisville media is becoming more and more aggressive.
Business as usual; it's what happens when a young family is slaughtered, with the father and husband standing in the dock, facing forever in the penitentiary.
For the second time.
Before the jury even made it to the courtroom Tuesday, Katherine "Kitty" Liell, Camm's lead defense attorney, was on her feet, asking Warrick Superior Court Judge Robert Aylsworth to hold Chief Deputy Floyd County Prosecutor Steve Owen in contempt of court for an interview he gave WAVE 3 News the day before.
During that interview, Owen said that "there were brass shavings found, particularly in the waist area of Mr. Camm, that there is GSR (gunshot residue) in his pocket, on his pants, on his shirt, on his socks."
Liell said that quote violated Aylsworth's gag order and that the information was a lie.
In making her argument for contempt, Liell cited the WAVE 3 News story, holding a copy of the broadcast script that had been downloaded from www.wave3.com, saying that dealing with comments such as these, which she described as trying to convince the press, as distracting from her primary job of defending Camm.
"Enough is enough," she told Aylsworth.
Owen told the judge he was merely commenting on testimony given by Indiana State Police Sgt. Edward Wessel, Jr., the prosecution firearms expert who described how specks of brass and gunpowder residue were shed by the weapon, a .380 Loricon, used to slay Kim, Jill and Bradley Camm.
The judge said he hadn't, up to this point, become involved in lawyer/media relations, noting he expected all parties to be self-policing regarding his gag order in the case, which he recommended they re-read if they had questions. He then denied the motion for contempt of court.
Aylsworth's limited gag order forbids the lawyers from discussing upcoming evidence and testimony until it's heard by the jury. After that, exhibits and daily testimony are fair game. Outside the courtroom, a member of Camm's family showed me a report obtained by Susan Orth, the assistant prosecutor, who, along with Stanley Faith, tried Camm in 2002. The guilty verdict in that trial was overturned on appeal.
The report, prepared by McCrone Associates, details analysis of Camm's clothing for gunpowder residue. The company says exactly two grains of GSR were found on Camm's clothing and about 1,500 other particles that could be GSR.
"I think every time Steve Owen lies, his nose doesn't grow, but his stomach does. But don't use that," the family member said.
A prosecution team member says gunpowder residue is gunpowder residue, no matter how much, or little is found. "They got nothing," he said. "This doesn't mean anything" and "I think somebody didn't get enough sleep last night," referring to Liell's request of Aylsworth.
Still later, another Camm family member complained when I used the comment about Owen in an afternoon broadcast.
'Course, they were sitting in the courtroom and didn't see it; someone back in Kentuckiana must have phoned in a complaint They told me they couldn't control what I say, but could control what they said to me.
"We'll just stop talking to you, James," they said after court concluded for the day. I didn't take it as a threat; the reporting continues irrespective of who does or doesn't decide to speak with me. And I hope that doesn't happen, but it's not something I can do anything about; I've done nothing wrong.
Another reporter told me she'd received complaints about her coverage from Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson. Apparently what upset Henderson was how she reported his promise of a new investigation, the second set of eyes investigating the Camm family murders. She told me later that after checking her stories, she was mystified over Henderson's complaints.
But as I said, this is business as usual on a high-profile murder case; I don't take any of it personally. I can't imagine the stress these people are under so I don't get too jacked when confronted in this manner. Still, it highlights the relationships between all parties and the media in a story like this: they love us when they think they can use us and hate us when they learn they can't.