February 23rd, 2006 - Day 34: Strategic Error?

By James Zambroski

February 23rd, 2006 - Day 34
Strategic Error?

Now that the experts have finished testifying, did the defense make a strategic error by engaging in a scientific fight they could not win?

Only the jury knows for sure and we won't learn what they think until (hopefully) sometime next week when a verdict is reached.

By most accounts, the contest between the Sultans of Serology, the judicial tag team match among eight defense and prosecution blood spatter analysts, earned favorable reviews for those trying to convict David Ray Camm of murdering his wife, Kimberly, and their two children, Bradley and Jill.

But that might be because there are no real rules in determining for certain which viewpoint amongst the two teams carries the most scientific weight.

By their own admission, the defense wasn't able or willing to demonstrate their theories with the same certainty as the prosecution. And that could've hurt them with the ultimate critics, the eight men and four women of the Camm jury.

On the prosecution side, we had Henderson's Heroes: Robert Stites, Rod Englert, Tom Bevel and Indiana State Police Sgt. Dean Marks. They all swear that blood droplets on Camm's T-shirt is high velocity impact spatter and could only have been deposited with the defendant being within four feet of his daughter Jill when she was shot to death. For good measure, they also threw in a single drop on Camm's tennis shoe, calling it projected blood propelled by Kimberly Camm at the moment she was slain inside the family garage on September 28, 2000.

And in this corner, Liell's Liberators: Paul Kish, Barton Epstein, Paulette Sutton and Stuart H. James. These four consultants claim that the blood on the shirt is an example of transfer stains stuck in a small section on the lower right front, termed Area 30, when Camm somehow came in contact with his daughter's blood after she was deceased.

Englert and company were very clear in the mechanism of the spatter, demonstrating for the jury where Camm was and exactly how the blood wound up on his shirt. Englert's testimony included a minute by minute, step by step courtroom performance of how he believes the murders went down. The play included five hastily assembled courtroom chairs arranged as the seating inside the Camm family Bronco, with Englert the star performer in the role of Camm as he supposedly shot his wife and two children, one at a time. Englert's extended finger and thumb, raised and cocked at shoulder level, played the Loricin .380 semi-automatic allegedly used to fire the fatal shots.

It was clear that Rodney D. Englert was no stranger to the Bard's craft as he conducted the re-enactment with all the verve of a stage veteran.

Pity the defense who had no such Oscar candidates. But the truth is, they forewarned the audience during the monologue (testimony) portion of their time in the spotlight.

Kish, the leading man in the defense drama, told Liell and the jury that he was unable to precisely detail the moment of blood transfer from Jill's lifeless body to the fabric of Area 30, because, he said, there is no scientific authority to do so.

He did so bravely, under the mantle of subjectivity that overrides blood stain interpretation. But his work lacked the props and stagecraft of the H.H. performance. Oh, there was a Power Point and slides on the wall, but they were about as entertaining as dad's Grand Canyon photo album.

The point of all this is that Kish and Company set themselves up for hit after hit by the prosecution on cross examination by simply being true to themselves.

The defense claims that's being honest; the prosecution counters it's the reality of having no choice.

They did so from within the scholarly haunts from which their views were born. The books, the schooling, the laboratories, the experiments, the seminars that collectively formed the learning of their craft.

And herein lies the defense dilemma. The Liberators didn't detail the mechanisms of transfer because, they believe, it is irresponsible to do so; the science from which it springs is not yet advanced enough to allow that leap.

A couple of them went so far as to speculate that blood droplets on Jill's hair somehow wound up on Camm's garment, but they lacked Englert's reconstruction creativity in opining exactly how that was done.

The Heroes, on the other hand, had no such angst, coming as they did from the rough and tumble world of cops and robbers (or killers).The seed corn of their opinions about Camm's guilt grew from years of being police officers first to respond to crime scenes, of snapping the cuffs on bad guys, of a career's worth of hands on experience, the printed word useful only when penned by themselves later, in pursuit of a buck.

One wonders if the defense erred in taking the fight to prosecution turf, especially when they said in advance there was no solid ground on which to rely.

Might it not have been better had Camm's defense outflanked the prosecution with simple disdain of a science that lacks gravitas?

As it is, they are now left with the hope that the jury will view the competing ersatz scientific views as a tie, which should mean the defense wins the war, if not the four toe-to-toe battles.

But wait, there may be a cavalry of sorts on the horizon -- the alibi witnesses.

Late Thursday, Liell and co-counsel, Stacy Uliana, may have snatched something from the jaws of something with a group of men who swore Camm was with them when his family was slain.

Powerful eyewitness testimony from the Georgetown Community Church Basketball Players may yet save the day for the Camm Company.

More on them tomorrow after we hear from the leader of this act, Tom Jolly.