February 20, 2006: Day 31 -- Good News For The Defense

By James Zambroski

February 20th, 2006: Day 31
Good News For The Defense

If good news comes in threes, the David Ray Camm defense team has to be hoping their next witness hits on all eight cylinders when he takes the stand on Tuesday.

Two of Camm's experts put a big hole in one state theory of Camm's guilt and at least dented another during testimony at his triple murder re-trial in Warrick County on Monday.

Camm is accused of shooting his wife, Kimberly, and their two children, Bradley and Jill, to death on September 28, 2000. His original conviction was overturned after a court ruled improper testimony was offered in his first trial almost four years ago.

Defense lawyers Katherine "Kitty" Liell and Stacy Uliana had to think they were due after the prosecution's wrecking ball tore through their star blood stain expert on Friday.

On Monday, an angry and somewhat reluctant witness, Dr. George Nichols, the retired Kentucky Medical Examiner, took serious issue with prosecution witnesses who testified about the timeline and nature of non-fatal injuries found on five-year old Jill Camm when she was murdered.

Dr Tracey Corey, the current state medical examiner, testified she found contusions and abrasions on Jill's private parts during her autopsy the day after the murders. Corey told the jury the injuries were consistent with sexual abuse and were inflicted either at the time of Jill's death or up to 24 hours before.

Nichols's seeming impatience came from his proclaimed distaste in testifying for either side in criminal proceedings. Since retiring in the mid-1990s, his consulting work has been almost exclusively on the civil side of the law, where, he told the jury, lawyers are less "contentious."

But while under subpoena since just last week, Nichols said he was compelled for other reasons to testify in Camm's defense -- a rare moment, considering he almost never consults on behalf of the accused -- after testimony from Dr. Betty Spivack seemed to expand when injuries were inflicted on Jill and when Spivack and others opined that she'd been sexually molested.

Spivack testified that Jill Camm could have been injured up to two days before her death. The timing is important; if the injuries occurred eight or so hours before she died, as Corey and others have testified, Camm has an alibi -- he was at work, Jill was at school.

Spivack and Dr. Philip Merk also testified they believed the injuries were consistent with sexual abuse.

But Nichols said the lack of white blood cells near the injuries indicate they occurred closer to death. White cells are the body's natural defense against injury or infection. He also said he believes the injuries were caused by blunt force trauma, possibly from Jill being kicked, kneed or hit with something like a bottle or can.

"There's no pattern to tell me what caused that injury," he told the jury.

He said that Spivack calling herself forensic pediatrician is an example of "self-anointing," pointing out that there is no professional certification for the title.

Under cross-examination, Nichols admitted that the injuries could have happened up to 24 hours before Jill's death and that sexual molestation was possible, if improbable.

Jon Nordby is a Ph.D. scientist who said he was initially "stunned by the amount of brass" shavings on Camm's clothing.

But experiments he conducted and a Power Point presentation he made to the jury may have squashed the prosecution's assertion that brass shavings and lead on Camm's shirt and gym shorts came from loading ammunition into the clip of the Loricon .380 semi automatic pistol used in the killings and firing the weapon at least three times that night in the family's Georgetown garage.

Nordby said he tried to duplicate the brass deposits by handling and loading ammo into an identical weapon. He loaded and unloaded the seven round ammunition clip at total of 11 times while holding it over a piece of muslin stretched across an embroidery hoop.

The results yielded just a couple of pieces of brass and no lead. Nordby also test fired the weapon more than 200 times. Again, that experiment yielded only a fraction of the brass on Camm's clothing.

But it was after Nordby purchased a 1966 Ford Mustang from a junkyard (for $500) that he believes he found the way the brass wound up on the apparel.

Prior testimony indicated that Camm was restoring a 1966 Mustang and a 1973 Corvette in a stand alone garage on his property. Nordby said grindings and the byproducts of welding and brazing done on the Ford yielded copious amounts of brass and lead.

He told the jury that it was his opinion that was how the brass wound up on Camm's garments. The prosecution, which has yet to cross examine the defense expert, said that was a possibility, but discounted the effect on their case.

"I don't think his testimony was overly relevant," said Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson. "I think he's given another plausible explanation for the brass, which is just one fairly small component of our case."

Liell was more effusive in her assessment.

"He nailed it," she said. "And he was able to explain it and in what I thought was a very entertaining manner to the jury."

She was equally ecstatic about Nichols's testimony.

"Dr. Nichols, he was wonderful I think as well," she said.

Two for two; not a bad Monday.