February 27, 2006 -- Day 36: Now The Wait

By James Zambroski

February 27th, 2006 -- Day 36
Now The Wait

You wonder how David Ray Camm slept last night as we move to the part of a criminal trial that everyone hates -- waiting to hear the verdict.

After more than three hours of closing arguments on Monday, the jury will return to the Warrick County courtroom, as they have every day since testimony began on January 16, and start the final process of determining whether Camm murdered his family nearly five-and-a-half years ago. Judge Robert Aylsworth is expected to instruct the jury as to the applicable law--how the panel is to apply Indiana statutes to the evidence -- before turning over the case to them for deliberation.

Under prior agreement, the jury can only find Camm guilty or not of murder; there will be no verdict on any lesser charge, such as manslaughter. A hung jury, the term used when the group is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, remains possible. That conclusion will come only after several days of unsuccessful deliberation. If he is convicted, Camm is likely to spend the rest of his life in a state penitentiary.

By Indiana law, the prosecution makes their argument, followed by the defense, with the prosecution speaking, again, last in front of the jury. This is because the burden of proof lies with the state.

Each side was given about an hour-and-a half for their closings.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson spent the majority of his first go-round with the jury emphasizing Camm's behaviors the night of the murders and the two days leading to his arrest. He argued the much talked about blood spatter evidence; eight experts, four from the prosecution, four from the defense, testified about stains on Camm's clothing and shoes. And he spent several minutes recounting what the state says is the motive for the killings of Kimberly, Jill and Bradley Camm: The sexual molestation of 5-year-old Jill Camm.

Kimberly Camm was preparing to leave her husband because she believed their daughter had been sexually molested by David Camm, Henderson told the jury. "This mother was going to leave to protect this child," he said.

Later, he called the abuse "the secret of the Camm household."

Concerning the evidence of Camm's alleged odd or unexplainable behaviors, the state believes he tried, at least initially, to control the investigation and that later, did not act like a typically grieving husband or father, Henderson told the jury. He used a rope as prop, saying that individually the incidents described might not seem important, but, taken as a whole, like single fibers that comprise a length of rope, they were significant and pointed to Camm as the killer.

"We know now that this man, David Camm, was the problem," Henderson said, pointing at the defendant. "The odd behaviors, the odd actions that point to the guilt of David Camm."

Henderson told the jury it was no accident that Camm called the Indiana State Police Sellersburg Post, rather than 911, when he says he found his family slain.

"From the beginning, at least in the first 24-48 hours, David Camm controlled this investigation by the people he called," Henderson said.

Camm, a former Indiana State Trooper, had been assigned to the post, resigning from the force about four months prior to the murders on September 28, 2000.

Henderson reminded the jury of at least two confrontations Camm had with police, one with the Detective Sean Clemmons, the lead investigator and a chest bumping incident with Lt. James Biddle, Jr., the commander on the scene. Testimony indicated the incident with Biddle surrounded his refusal to let Camm or his family inside the Georgetown home to retrieve clothing for the victim's funeral.

"Is that the action of a person who has lost his family," Henderson asked. "Or is that the action of someone who had committed murder?"

Defense lawyers Katherine "Kitty" Liell and Stacy Uliana made a joint argument to the jury and, as expected, hammered the concept of reasonable doubt throughout their presentation, saying the words at least a dozen times.

"The blood on David Camm's T-shirt, there's a lot of reasonable doubt there," Uliana said, citing the subjectivity in the whole field of blood stain interpretation.

"What reasonable doubt might be to anyone of you is the whole subjectivity of blood stain patterns," Liell said

"Let common sense be your reasonable doubt," she told the jury.

Evidence showing two particles of gunshot residue on Camm's clothing is "consistent with reasonable doubt," Uliana said, saying the metallic byproduct of gunfire was bound to be inside the garage where the family was slain.

No one would speculate on how long the jury will be out. The panel in Camm's first trial -- which ended in a conviction that was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals -- considered their verdict for three days.

But a new Indiana law allows the jury to discuss the case on a continual basis while they are hearing the evidence. Each day during the trial, the jury took boxes of evidence with them when they retreated to a room during breaks or for lunch.

While they were admonished to wait until the end to reach their individual decisions about Camm's guilt, no one knows what was being discussed on an ongoing basis behind closed doors during the trial.

Once a verdict is reached, the judge will notify all parties and courthouse security at least a half hour before it is made public. The wait promises to be awful for at least one person, Janice Renn, Kimberly Camm's mother.

"Even though I think he's guilty, I can't get too one way or another because I've had my heart ripped out too many times," she said Monday night as she left the courtroom with her husband, Frank, and their family.