March 11th, 2006 -- Final Chapters, Part 2 - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

A Reporter's Notebook

March 11th, 2006 -- Final Chapters, Part 2

by James Zambroski

 

David Ray Camm -- Final Chapters, Part 2

 

It was an extraordinary event, a full blown press conference starring the David Ray Camm jury, all 14 members (12 jurors, two alternates), held inside the courtroom where they'd tried the case for the previous eight weeks.

 

Typically at the end of a criminal trial, jurors sneak out of the courthouse, mindful of the judge's declaration that they can speak or not speak to whom ever they wish. Most just want to get home; few if any desire to shred their anonymity by going on the 11:00 news.

 

Depending on the trial, the press spends the next hours or days tracking down the triers of truth, seeking insight into their decision. Well prepared journalists have lists gleaned from paid subscription computer databases revealing home addresses and phone numbers, built from merely having a name and home county.

 

Ours is called AutoTrax; Faces of the Nation. We pay a fee per name; do it from our desk.

 

But Warrick Superior Court Judge Robert Aylsworth had a different plan in mind, brilliant really in it's simplicity: Give the press time now, while the panel is still here in the courthouse and avoid the mad scramble against privacy later, especially with this pack of hounds who will return to their home environs 100 miles away momentarily.

 

As the cameras were set up in the courtroom, allowed now that no legal proceedings were underway, the room considered just another part of the public area, the jury filed into their seats as they'd done for 44 plus days before.

 

After brief remarks from Aylsworth (his first in front of the microphones), the jury foreman, Robert Crowell stepped to the forefront, acting as jury spokesman.

 

Crowell's service was probably the number one disaster for the defense, turns out.

 

Here was a guy who told the judge on his first day during the selection process that he couldn't be away from his job for the anticipated two or three months of the trial.

 

A plastics executive with a law degree, Crowell was told by Aylsworth that his initial reason to be excused wasn't sufficient. Everyone underwent some kind of sacrifice to render their civic duty of jury service.

 

During individual voir dior (seek truth), Crowell revealed another bombshell that he may have hoped would knock him out of the jury box: He knew a lot about the Camm murder case.

 

Crowell told the judge and lawyers that he'd downloaded the Indiana Court of Appeals decision granting David Ray Camm a new trial. He knew all about the missteps in the “prior proceeding” (the code words used to refer to Camm's first trial).

 

He knew that Camm had been found guilty once already; knew about the serial illicit affairs evidence that had torpedoed the first verdict; learned the Court's opinion about evidence (or lack thereof) concerning possible sexual molestation of Jill Camm; knew that her father had spent close to five years in prison for the crime already.

 

Despite being forthcoming with that information, he escaped challenge and was left on the jury.

 

A point of order: Potential jurors can be removed for cause if in the opinion of the judge (generally after a motion by either side) that he or she will be unable to render an impartial verdict, based on evidence presented at trial.

 

Let's say, for example, that a juror candidate has strong opinions about the murder of a child. Suppose this person believes that someone accused of such a crime is likely guilty simply because of their arrest and nothing anyone says will pursuade them otherwise.

 

That person will be dismissed from jury duty “for cause.”

 

Go another direction. Suppose a juror candidate tells the judge that they absolutely must pick their child up after school everyday, that there's no one else who can do it and that serving on a jury will present a real hardship.

 

That person will likewise be struck for cause. Technically, the judge can say 'tough—work it out', but neither the defense nor prosecution wants someone like that sitting in judgement; they'll be too angry to be openminded; they'll believe they're being screwed by the system and they won't be able to be fair.

 

Now the other way a person is eliminated from the final panel of 12 is by something called preemptory challenge from either side.

 

Under this legal doctrine, the prosecution and defense are given a specified number of 'pre-empts' that they can use to eliminate someone from serving on the jury. Under the law, they don't have to give a reason, although there are provisions that prevent the use of preemptory challenge to strike a potential juror because of race or gender.

 

In a murder case, Indiana lawyers are given 20 premptory challenges each. Doing the math, you need at least 55 people to get a jury; this case had 500 potential jurors who were mailed notices requiring them to come if called.

 

Incredibly, neither side exercised a premptory challenge regarding Mr. Crowell.

 

The defense would later acknowledge not doing so was a collossel blunder. Katherine 'Kitty' Liell and Stacy Uliana apparently thougth that Crowell would favorably guide the jury through the concept of reasonable doubt. They also thought he might view the blood spatter experts with a certain distain that would lead to each side's paid experts cancelling the effect of the other.

 

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, on the other hand, said he hoped all along that Crowell wound wind up being foreman, although it's impossible to know if that was Henderson 's version of revisionist history.

 

In any case, the prosecution got someone they wanted, as evidenced not only by the three guilty verdicts, but also by his comments afterward.

 

“I personally believe that David Camm pulled the trigger,” he told the assembled press.

 

I specificially asked him which part of the state's case was strongest.

 

After several seconds of thought, he said, “There were many strong points.”

 

Crowell also gave us spot on insight into what the jury thought of Camm's alibi.

 

The defendant maintained that he was playing basketball that night and that 11 people (ten players and one spectator) could account for his whereabouts while the murders were being committed: He was at the Community Life Center of the Georgetown Community Church the entire evening.

 

Seven players and the spectator, church elder Tom Jolly, testified that five minutes didn't pass that night without them seeing Camm either on the gym floor playing hoops or on the sideline, sitting out a game (talking to Jolly).

 

A litte more math is needed here to understand the workings of this part. The pick up league played full court, five on five basketball. Games lasted anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes. It means that 10 players are on the floor at any one time. Since 11 showed up that night, September 28, 2000, it meant that one player had to sit out a game at a time.

 

Camm's statements and testimony indicated he sat out either the second or third game, played around 8:00 to 8:20 p.m. The family was murdered close to 7:30, the coroner thought.

 

Crowell said the jury dismissed testimony from the players and Tom Jolly as blatantly wrong from everyone but, ironically, Sam Lockhart, Camm's uncle and public voice of the Lockhart family insistence that their loved one was innocent.

 

On the stand, Lockhart testified that's he's always maintained he arrived at the gym around 7:15 but didn't begin playing until shortly after 8:00. His nephew, the defendant, sat out then, giving his place on the five on five team to Uncle Sam.

 

But in a stunning move on the last day of the trial, Frank and Janice Renn, Kimberly Camm's parents, testified that Lockhart told them he actually began playing around 7:15. That would mean that either Camm hadn't yet arrived or that he was able to be away for up to a half hour before all the others began noticing him closer to 8:00.

 

As prosecutor Henderson said during Lockhart's blistering cross examination, if he, Lockhart was playing at 7:15, Camm has no alibi.

 

The defense tried to paint their testimony as something new. I saw Frank Renn in a rage after Lockhart testified, telling Keith Henderson out in the hallway that Lockhart was flat out lying.

 

 It was likely at that moment that Henderson decided to put the couple on the stand. All the defense could do on cross examination was complain that the Renn's had told no one of the conversation previously. It's kind of tough to verbally beat up the grief stricken Mom and Dad.

 

Crowell said the jury concluded that Lockhart believed his time testimony was correct, but in fact, he was mistaken. They chose not to say he was lying. And they acknowledged the impact of the last minute Renn testimony: They believed the grieving parents over the defendant's uncle.

 

Another juror we heard from was my personal favorite, an auto mechanic by the name of Daniel Mason.

 

This guy had a full black beard, black hair sort of thinning in the front and was someone who I never, ever saw smile.

 

During voir dior, he made it clear he was a man of  his convictions, someone not easily pushed around. He had an open mind, he said, but the mind was his own.

 

I'd see him almost every afternoon during the jury's smoke breaks. They'd be at a side door of the courthouse; I'd be across the street near the door of our satellite truck. Mason would smoke; I would smoke. He'd look in my direction; I'd look in his.

 

I dug this guy because here was a Boonvillite (or would it be, Boonvillonien) who got his hands dirty everyday making a living and had now been given the task of deciding whether an ex-cop should spend the rest of his natural life in prison for murdering his family.

 

I was also hip to his game face. Some tell me I wear mine the same way.

 

Nothing in his demeanor during the trial gave indication he relished the task but I noticed he paid close attention, always.

 

I asked him to step to the microphone, because, frankly, I just wanted to hear his voice, to see if it matched what we saw.

 

I asked some kind of lame question about whether he was intimidated about anything in the process. He deadpanned that he had “no inhibitions.” Way cool.

 

He also told us that the new Indiana law allowing jurors to discuss the case as evidence came in merely reaffirmed what he believed—that Camm was likely guilty—early on.

 

He was also forthcoming in his admission that  he'd likely be affected by the trial for a long, long time.

 

We also heard from Darlene Short, a school teacher, who informed us that she was convinced of Camm's guilt in part by the basketball timeline. She wasn't swayed by the testimony of the alibi witnesses, saying the time from 7:30 to 8:00 “never closed up.”

 

She also described the harmony within the jury room during deliberations, saying she was shocked when she realized they'd deliberated for four days without an argument.

 

And wasn't that absolutely wild? While everyone was outside wondering if the jury was split, wondering if there were holdouts, wondering who was with what faction as we waited one, two, three and into the fourth day for a verdict, the jury hadn't even voted yet.

 

Often juries will take an initial vote as soon as they elect a foreperson, just to see where they stand. But Crowell said the Camm jury took their first vote Friday afternoon, just hours before they reached a unannimous verdict that night.

 

The first tally: 9-3, guilty. The three unidentified jurors didn't necessarily believe Camm was innocent; they just weren't sure beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty.

 

One more vote ... and then the final, unannimous tally. A quick smoke. A note to the judge; the lights come on and it's time to tell the world of what they think of David Ray Camm.