February 21, 2006: Day 32: Tired And Ready For An Answer

By James Zambroski

February 21st, 2006: Day 32
Tired and Ready for an Answer

Maybe it was the two defense experts having their first look at evidence 32 days into this trial.

Perhaps it was prosecution complaints about too little time to prepare for cross-examination of those witnesses.

Or was it the increasingly sharp attacks by both sides on the integrity or competence of the other during daily post trial press conferences?

In any case, the attorneys trying David Ray Camm for murder came to a consensus Tuesday that is the ultimate truism: It's time for the jury to make its decision.

By mutual agreement, both sides have decided that next Tuesday will be the beginning of deliberations on the fate of Camm, charged with three counts of murder for allegedly shooting his family to death on September 28, 2000, according to defense lawyer Katherine 'Kitty' Liell, in post-trial comments to this reporter after testimony had concluded for the day on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The reason is as obvious as the tired look circling Liell's eyes and the persistent hoarseness of Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson's voice: Everyone, including, most importantly, the jury, is bone tired as this trial drags into its second month.

Liell is firm in her intention to finish her case on Friday. Witnesses the rest of this week will include Paulette Sutton, a defense blood spatter expert, who examined slides and snippets from Camm's T-shirt for the first time Tuesday at the Indiana State Police crime lab in Evansville.

The defense will also call participants in a pickup basketball game held at the Georgetown Christian Church, Camm's alibi for the crime. He has steadfastly maintained he was working out with these 10 men the night of the murders. One of those witnesses will be Sam Lockhart, Camm's uncle and the person most deeply immersed in the efforts to free him since his arrest three days after the killings.

On Monday, both sides will be given the opportunity to call rebuttal witnesses, but it appears that list has shrunk dramatically over the last couple of days. Henderson said Tuesday he's not sure if he'll call anyone, including Kimberly Camm's two girlfriends, who were expected to tell the jury their troubled view of the Camm marriage, based on Mrs. Camm's demeanor and behaviors before she was killed. Henderson told reporters Tuesday that he will not call witnesses just for the sake of calling them, perhaps an acknowledgement of the timetable agreement in the works already.

And then, both sides will give the jury their closing statements, a summary by the defense and prosecution of their case. On Tuesday morning, Liell said, the judge will instruct the jury as to the applicable law in this case and then they will begin deliberating whether or not Camm is guilty of murder.

For Camm to be found guilty as charged, the jury must unanimously find there is no doubt whatsoever that he committed these crimes, using what is reasonable to each one of the jurors uniquely. Reasonable doubt is the simple complexity of the American judicial system.

By prior agreement, this is an all or nothing decision. The jury does not have the option of convicting Camm of anything but murder. A fourth count of conspiracy was dismissed when the judge ruled two weeks ago that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence to let the jury vote on that charge.

Under Indiana law, the jury will be sequestered -- kept in a hotel overnight -- until it reaches its unanimously verdict or until the judge decides such an outcome is not possible -- a hung jury. That won't happen until at least several days of deliberations have passed.

Courthouse scuttlebutt has it that Warrick Superior Court Judge Robert Aylsworth is noted for keeping juries at work late into the night, one person saying the judge has been known to keep the lights on until close to midnight. My past personal experience has been that the jury makes it clear when they want to call it a night while trying to reach a verdict.

If the jury votes Camm guilty, it will return to decide his punishment. Those deliberations are designed to come up with a nonbinding recommendation to the judge. Under the law, he can follow that verdict or decide a lesser term; he cannot increase the amount of years voted by the panel.

The penalty phase is like a new trial, albeit shorter. Witnesses can be called, although there is not any retrial of the facts of the case. Typically, the defense presents extenuating circumstances and character witnesses during the penalty phase. The prosecution often calls victim's family members to testify.

When the jury begins that part of its duty is mutually agreed upon by all parties, but it is generally soon (the next day) after the verdict. The only exception is when a verdict is returned on a Friday night; judges have been known to send a jury home then and begin anew on the following Monday.

When the jury sends word to the judge that its reached a verdict, he calls the attorneys back to court. If hours have passed since the panel began their work, it'll like take at least a half-hour to summon Henderson and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen back from their hotel in Evansville. Liell and co-counsel Stacy Uliana, headquartered in Bloomington, are staying in a rental home in Warrick County.

And then, with all solemnity -- and tension -- Lady Justice will take off her blindfold as the jury foreperson reads the verdict. Only then will all present learn if David Ray Camm goes home with his family or begins a new life at the Indiana State Penitentiary.