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September 18, 2013

Camm defense denied mistrial but keeps hammering blood evidence

LEBANON — David Camm doesn’t know whether his third trial will be stopped, and prosecutors prevented from ever charging him again with the murders of his wife and their young children almost thirteen years ago.

Special Judge Jon Dartt has yet to rule on Tuesday’s defense motion for a mistrial, on grounds that a prosecutor’s failure to make written statements available for the second trial denied Camm an opportunity to clear himself.

The statements came from Mala Singh Mattingly, the ex-girlfriend of the other man convicted of the murders, Charles Darnell Boney. But in denying another defense call for mistrial Wednesday morning, Judge Dartt may be closer to changing his mind, and allowing jurors to hear more about Boney.

Wednesday’s motion came after prosecutors asked blood pattern analyst Tom Bevel whether he believed Camm’s wife had been a victim of domestic violence rather than sexual assault, given the position in which her body was found.

“This is the kind of evidentiary harpoon that has tainted the past two trials,” defense counsel Richard Kammen claimed after Dartt excused the jury.

“There has been no evidence in the previous two trials of domestic violence. How do you un-ring that bell?”

Special Prosecutor Stan Levco argued that Kammen had raised the issue himself in questioning Bevel prior to trial. Prosecutors allege that Camm “staged” his wife’s killing to make her appear to have been sexually assaulted.

“I did not try to sneak it in,” Levco said.

“Saying that a large pool of blood could be consistent with domestic violence is implying there was past domestic violence,” Kammen responded. “They want it both ways; you can’t fix it.”

Short of a mistrial, jurors need to hear the full history of Charles Boney, the serial felon convicted of the Camm murders in 2006, Kammen told the court.

Indiana’s Supreme Court, and Dartt, have ruled that the pattern of Boney’s past crimes isn’t similar enough to the Camm murders to come into play.

“But does this [domestic violence] question not allow us to show what Mr. Boney did with his victims, “ Kammen asked. “His history of violence against white women, taking them to the ground, and taking their pants, shoes and underwear?”

Kimberly Camm’s pants had been removed when investigators viewed her body on the garage floor at the couple’s Georgetown home September 28, 2000. Her shoes were found on the roof of her Ford Bronco.

Though denying the motion for mistrial, Judge Dartt said he remains open to reconsidering his decision regarding Boney’s criminal history.

When jurors returned a half-hour later, Dartt’s instructions gave Camm’s lawyers want they wanted: an order to ignore the question about domestic violence, and a reminder that Camm never has been accused of, or charged with it.

As it has with previous blood-pattern analysts, Camm’s team’s questions to Bevel sought to portray his conclusions as more subjective opinion than hard science.

“If you were to go back to the blood-spatter community, and say ‘I made a mistake,’ it’d be a huge deal.” Kammen said.

“I would disagree, we all make mistakes,” Bevel replied.

Bevel’s conclusions dovetail with those of Dean Marks and Rod Englert — that blood dots found on Camm’s T-shirt are “high velocity” blow-back spatter — prove that Camm had to be the shooter, standing so close to his wife and 5-year-old daughter Jill that their blood “misted” onto his clothing.

Bevel also has pronounced that stains on Camm’s left gym shoe as “projected”:  blood thrust forward when his Kim Camm struck the floor after being shot.

Camm has maintained that his daughter’s blood got onto his shirt by brushing against blood on her hair as he removing his 7-year-old son Bradley from the back seat before trying to revive him.

But Bevel testified that Camm’s scenario is highly unlikely, given the Bronco’s tight quarters.

“There should be obvious smearing from still-wet blood,” Bevel told the jury. “You would have to move perfectly straight in [to the Bronco] and then straight out to get [blood] transfer from her.”

Bevel testified that blood dots on the Bronco’s roll-bar and roofliner are similar in size and shapes to those on Camm’s T-shirt. Conclusion: Jill Camm’s head-wound created all of them.

But Camm’s team argues that Bevel relied upon poorly labeled photos and his own, less-than-detailed notes.

Specifically, Kammen referred to a single stain on the Bronco’s roll-bar, confirmed to be a drop of Jill Camm’s blood.

“It’s not part of the main group of stains, that’s not what you told the jury,” Kammen stated.

“It is farther to the left than I said it was,” Bevel replied.

“It’s kind of hard to admit you were wrong, isn’t it?” Kammen asked.

“I believe I’m saying the same thing,” Bevel responded.

Bevel also was unable to explain how one photograph shows no blood on the back of the bench seat after Jill Camm’s body was removed, yet another photo indicates a collection of blood.

“I don’t recall seeing them [amounts of blood],” Bevel said. “I wasn’t focused on blood drips, but on spatter.”

“You were never asked to examine it,” Kammen asked.

“No, sir,” Bevel replied.

Bevel conceded that he never has detailed his findings in the Camm case in a full formal report, though his firm tells other clients that such reports are standard operating procedure.

“If I had any idea that I would be testifying in court about it, I would have,” Bevel told jurors when they pressed the question. Bevel said he was hired strictly as a “second opinion” to confirm or debunk other analysts’ findings prior Camm’s first trial.  Subsequently, Bevel has testified in depositions and in Camm’s second trial.

Jurors also were curious about other blood stains on Camm’s shoe, and why he got no blood on his shorts.

“Again, it depends on the [blood drops’] angle of flight,” Bevel answered. “The fact that we don’t have any [on the shorts] doesn’t alter my opinion that that shirt has back-spatter.”

Other blood on Camm’s shoe fits a different pattern, he concluded.

“[Camm] didn’t get it at the same time,” Bevel told prosecutors.

“But blood dries quickly,” Levco asked.

“Smaller [spot] means faster,” Bevel responded. The message, though unstated, was obvious: differing blood patterns don’t clear Camm as the shooter.

Later Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors implied that Camm may have been trying to destroy evidence when he encountered a friend from grade school at his father’s home the day after the murders.

Lisa Sowards told jurors that Camm asked her twice to clean his wife’ Bronco. Until two years ago, Sowards and her husband had owned a business specializing in crime-scene cleanup.

“I told him we couldn’t,” Sowards testified. “The case was still active and we needed to let investigators find out who did it.”

Forensic document examiner Diane Tolliver told the court that she was able decipher part of a “scribbled out” paragraph from Boney’s written statement, crafted March 4, 2005. Detectives had linked him to the murder scene via DNA found on his sweatshirt. Boney has testified that he heard Camm kill his family, after he dropped by Camm’s house to deliver an untraceable gun.  

Tolliver testified that microscopic and infrared analysis reveals the following message under the markouts:

“David Camm asked me to follow him to a secluded area. He wanted to talk to me about something that could help me financially, He said. I followed him from the Better Way Food Mart to the parking lot of Target."

The rest was indecipherable, Tolliver said, except that handwriting analysis allowed her to conclude that the author of the scribbled out portion, and the rest of the statement were “one and the same.”

“But the fact that somebody wrote something doesn’t make it true,” Kammen said.

“No, it doesn’t, “ Tolliver replied.

Testimony continues Thursday.

— This article was produced as a partnership between the News and Tribune and WAVE 3 News.



 

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