The first verdict was for the murder of his wife, Kim. As soon as the words “not guilty” came out of Special Judge Jonathan Dartt’s mouth, David Camm let out a loud cry of relief and bent over, sobbing.
Camm, 49, was unanimously acquitted Thursday by a Boone County jury of all three of the murders for which he’s been imprisoned for the last 13 years, including those of his young children, Brad and Jill. After the first two convictions were overturned — in 2004 and 2009 — and charges were refiled, Camm is a free man.
On his way out of the courthouse, Camm didn’t speak to anyone. He was processed out of the Boone County Jail, was handed over to family at a nearby truck stop and drove off.
Sam Lockhart, Camm’s uncle, said he was always confident that this trial would lead to acquittal for his nephew, but Camm kept a muted optimism throughout the trial.
“I believe he has a way of blunting his expectations,” Lockhart said. “He was hopeful and so was I. I expected it to come out like it is, but Dave did not cross over that threshold of thinking that it was going to come back not guilty because of the emotions he had to deal with in the past.”
David’s father, Donald, was overwhelmed.
“I don’t have the words, I can’t tell you what I feel,” Donald said. “I’ve never had this feeling before.”
He said he thinks this trial was different than the previous two one key way.
“Truth, that’s the one word, truth,” Donald said. “It was brought out in front of 12 people who stopped, looked at it, analyzed it and said ‘Hey, this is factual. This is what we’ll go with.’”
But a statement from Kim Camm’s family — the Renns — through its attorney, Nick Stein, said the end of this trial doesn’t mark the moment the family “lost.” Kim, Brad and Jill were found murdered in the garage of their Georgetown home Sept. 28, 2000.
“They would like to convey the fact that they lost 13 years ago when they lost their family, the kids and Kim,” Stein said. “They are also complimentary of the prosecution, the court system and wish to thank all their friends for helping them out. They want to thank the man upstairs.”
He said though the Renns are trying to stay optimistic, he’s still got his opinions on how the case went.
“I think the Renns have always been pretty upbeat and confident,” Stein said. “As far as myself, I felt only one full day of deliberation was not enough to send somebody away for the rest of their life. I think 13 years after the fact is too long.”
A FREE MAN
Though he’s spent much of the last 13 years in a cell at the Pendleton Correctional Facility and the Wabash Correctional Facility, Lockhart said his nephew is the same man before he was imprisoned. He said he might be a little different in some ways, but overall, he’s the man he knew years ago.
But he also expressed some frustrations with how the justice system has treated Camm up to this point. He said the prosecutors in the two previous trials have done more damage to Camm than prison has. Charles Boney — who testified in this trial — was convicted of the murders in 2006 and is serving 225 years in prison.
“I can’t tell you what he would be like if he hadn’t been there for 13 years,” Lockhart said. “He’s the same guy, but he’s been damaged by the state of Indiana and by Stan Faith and [Floyd County Prosecutor] Keith Henderson. He’s mentally and physically been abused by them and the system.
“This trial was cleaner [than the last two]; there was just a little bit of garbage in there.”
Floyd County has spent about $4.5 million on the trials against Camm — a point of controversy as officials seek to dig the county out of a financial hole. Stacy Uliana, one of Camm’s defense attorneys, said it wouldn’t have cost taxpayers that much if the prosecution had owned its missteps.
“For 13 years, we’ve known he was innocent, it’s always been there,” Uliana said. “I know it’s cost the taxpayers of Floyd County a lot of money, but it’s simply because those in charge wouldn’t admit they made a mistake.”
She said had prosecutors done that, it could have saved Floyd County a lot of money.
“If there’s anyone they want to blame for the amount of money they’ve had to spend, they need to look at the prosecutors and those who’ve been in charge and who have continuously gone down this path when people have told them over and over and over again, ‘you’re going the wrong direction,’” Uliana said.
Floyd County, however, could get some financial relief. Because it’s in the public defender reimbursement program, 40 percent of trial expenses for public defense is reimbursable to the county, according Kathryn Dolan, spokeswoman for the Indiana Supreme Court.
Special Prosecutor Stan Levco, who argued the 10-week trial, was confident that the evidence would lead to a conviction.
“We put on the best case we could,” he said outside the courthouse. “The jury spoke pretty clearly.
“I thought it was going to be a guilty verdict.”
Though acquitted, Camm still spent more than a decade of his life in prison that the jury in Boone County — where the trial was moved to because of media coverage — decided he didn’t commit. Uliana said with that, Camm could seek a wrongful imprisonment or wrongful prosecution case.
“Dave could possibly sue,” Uliana said. “I’m not a civil attorney, I don’t know anything about that, but there was a lot of misconduct in this case, a lot, especially with the first prosecutor. So there’s definitely a basis for a lawsuit.”
Camm’s sister, Julie Blankenbaker, said she doesn’t know what her brother is going to do now or whether he wants to pursue a wrongful imprisonment or prosecution case.
“We’re tired of fighting,” Blankenbaker said.
Lockhart said he’s also not sure whether his nephew will seek retribution for the time he’s spent in prison, but it’s not something he’s worried about just yet.
“I have no idea at this point, that’s going to be up to the attorneys,” Lockhart said. “Right now, that’s the furthest thing from my mind at this point.”
Blankenbaker said whatever direction Camm takes after this is up to him, but she said there’s a chance he could provide some advocacy for others who may have experienced wrongful imprisonment.
“I think this experience is something he translates into something to help other wrongfully convicted people,” Blankenbaker said. “I know Dave’s wrongful conviction is not the last one I’m going to be concerned with, and I think the same is probably true for Dave, as well.”
— Rod Rose of the Lebanon Reporter contributed to this article.