February 15, 2006 - Day 28: Mood Schmood

By James Zambroski

February 15th, 2006 - Day 28:
Mood Schmood

I've said it before -- reading a jury is a fool's occupation -- but you have to wonder if the triers of David Ray Camm are getting sick of hearing about his moods and behaviors before and after the murders of his family.

Camm as a weirdo dominated the first two weeks of the state's case, with police officer after police officer testifying about what they considered peculiarities in the defendant's statements, behaviors and attitudes the night of the murders and the two days prior to his arrest.

The defense -- they say out of necessity -- has picked up on that theme and expanded it to include how Mrs. Camm and the children were perceived up to three weeks before they were found slain in the garage of their Georgetown home.

Defense lawyers say they have no choice, that such testimony is needed to counter prosecution claims that Camm didn't react like a typical grieving husband and father in dealing with police immediately after the crimes.

Camm's lawyers also believe testimony from family and friends of Mrs. Camm and the children is the only way to cast doubt on prosecution speculation that there was marital discord in the Camm home and that Jill Camm was sexually molested up to two days before her death.

But by all accounts from legal experts I've spoken with, testimony about Camm's alleged bizarre behavior is easy to counter and a quick ticket to reasonable doubt. That's because the jury will understand, they say, that everyone reacts differently to tragedy, that there is no set pattern for how one should behave after finding their family wiped out by gunfire.

Even Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, who initially advanced the he-acted-so-strange-he-must-have-killed-them theory, acknowledged it's a hard nut to crack.

"Did he act like someone who just killed three people? What does someone act like who just killed three people?" he said.

Jan Poyser, a self employed decorator and an active member of the Georgetown Christian Church, pastored at the time by Leland Lockhart, one of David Camm's nine aunts and uncles, testified that she had completed redecorating the Camm's master bedroom about three weeks before the murders.

"I don't think there could have been a much better mother," she said of Kimberly Camm.

She had seen the family, sans David Camm, the night before the murders at the church.

"Bradley was a delightful little boy. He always wanted to please," she said.

Karla Farnsley, one of David Camm's innumerable cousins, testified that she had visited the Camm home on September 27 to drop off invitations to her baby shower that Kimberly Camm planned to host.

She told the jury that the Camm's were "pretty low key" but found nothing out of the ordinary in her dealings with either one.

And then there was Debbie Ter Vree, the baby sister of The Lockhart Nine. She was a housewife at the time of the murders, having worked as a Jefferson County EMT. Bob, her husband, was an over the road truck driver. They have one child, a daughter, Hannah, who was a year older than Bradley Camm.

Ter Vree and her family lived right next door to Camm on Lockhart Road, across the street from her father, Amos "Paw-Paw" Lockhart. She spent several tearful hours on the stand describing ordinary family interaction she, Bob and Hannah, now 14 years old, had with Kimberly, Brad, Jill and David.

She considered the Camm children as two of her own, describing how her child and Jill and Bradley were almost interchangeable between family members who lived on Lockhart Road, a private, gravel street off of Alonzo Smith Road in rural Floyd County.

Bradley often tooled around the neighborhood on his bicycle. Jill road a Hot Wheels tricycle, her dress blowing in the breeze. The children had their own parking spaces at Debbie's house. Brad didn't use his often, flopping his bike in the yard as he jumped off and ran into Debbie's house. Jill, though used the space, near the basketball goal.

Absolutely no witness, either from the prosecution or defense, has spoken of less than angelic behavior from little Jill. This despite the testimony of Dr. Betty Spivak, a forensic pediatrician with the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office, who testified about non-fatal injuries found on Jill during her autopsy.

Spivak testified that contusions and abrasions found on Jill's private parts by Dr. Tracy Corey, the Kentucky Medical Examiner, had to be painful. But Spivak's timeline on those injuries -- up to two days prior to Jill's murder -- is perhaps what made the testimony about Jill's demeanor important to the defense. Why wasn't she withdrawn, complaining, holding herself, crying, anything at all indicating she was hurt?

The prosecution -- and Spivak -- claim that little girls tell their mothers when they have such problems. We'll never know what Jill might have told her mom.

But that's just hard to believe. Within the closeness of this large, close clan, someone would have noticed something wrong with this little girl. And not only just family. Neither Jill's kindergarten teacher, her after school teacher or even Janice Renn, her grandmother, testified on the stand that Jill was anything but a typical, happy, well adjusted five year old.

But Poyser's and Ter Vree's testimony may have opened the door for yet another witness -- this one, from the prosecution -- who will speak in less than glowing terms about the harmony, or lack thereof, inside the Camm household.

Marcia McCloud, who lives in Florida, has been described as Kimberly Camm's closest friend. She says Mrs. Camm called her about three weeks before the murders and told her she wanted to take Jill and Brad out of school and come to Florida because of problems, apparently, in her marriage.

When the state tried to call McCloud during its case, Warrick Superior Judge Robert Aylsworth ruled against it, agreeing with defense assertions that anything McCloud would testify to was hearsay.

Hearsay testimony -- when I tell you what somebody told me -- is almost always forbidden in court trials. One obvious reason, you can cross-examine me, but you can't cross-examine the person who told me something, because, obviously, they're not in the courtroom. The problem is made worse when the person who told me is dead; there's no way on earth that person can be questioned directly about what they told me.

There are certain exceptions. Deathbed statements, for one; that doesn't apply here.

But the reasoning behind Aylsworth initial ruling on McCloud had to do with how far back her conversation with Mrs. Camm took place -- three weeks from the murder.

That roadblock was eliminated, though, when the two defense witnesses spoke of (in glowing terms) of what they observed about Mrs. Camm in the weeks prior to her death.

So McCloud will likely take the stand during the prosecution's turn at rebutting the defense case, in about two weeks.

The defense will most certainly object to Marcia McCloud telling the jury what Kimberly Camm said, but there will be nothing stopping her from telling them what she saw in the mood and behavior of her friend in the days and weeks prior to her death.

P.S. Since I'm out of the office, I can't access my WAVE 3 email account. If you wanna reach me while I'm in Boonville, send email to: zamman1953@yahoo.com.