Monday, Aug. 12, 2013
LEBANON, Ind. (WDRB) -- Day One of the third David Camm triple murder trial.
There's something about courthouses in Indiana. Their footprint tends to be cube-shaped, with each side looking identical to the other, and they always seem to be planted snugly inside a city square that includes small shops and undiscovered family-owned restaurants, offering specialty sandwiches and home-cooked meals.
The Boone County Circuit Court building is no different.
Inside, it becomes apparent that the history and aesthetics of the courthouse are just as important to Boone County as what goes on inside its walls. The courtroom where David Camm will be tried is enormous by most standards, with high ceilings paned with stained glass panels. There are vertical columns built into the walls with ornately colored carvings, and a long line of portraits – I think they were former judges – grace its rear wall.
The floor where the judge, the witnesses, the accused and the attorneys sit is spacious – it's more like a stage – with the audience, including the jury and the spectators, sitting far behind.
Boone County's one big courtroom makes the myriad of small courtrooms in Jefferson County, Ky. look pale, drab and antiseptic by comparison.
But on Monday morning, security was the top concern as a handful of journalists arrived a few minutes early for the 9 a.m. session. They converged at a metal detector, each signing in to receive one of 16 coveted media passes.
Among the journalists were representatives of two nationally broadcast network documentary shows.
When someone showed up with a package to be taken past the metal detector, a sheriff's deputy gladly accepted it. Then – surprisingly – he placed it on the floor where a bomb-sniffing dog – an honest-to-goodness-bomb-sniffing-dog – sniffed it and declared it clean. I asked the sheriff's deputy if this was a security measure put in place solely because of the David Camm trial. He said it was.
Before I go into detail about what happened this morning, I should explain a few things about how we'll be covering this trial. In an effort to preserve security, and make sure the accused gets a fair case (did I mention this is the third David Camm trial?), the court has ruled that no electronic recording devices of any kind (cameras, laptops, iPhones, etc.) can be used inside the courtroom. This challenges us journalists in a couple of ways:
1) There will be no video of what happens in the courtroom. As broadcast journalists, we love pictures. They're how we tell stories. It's one thing to simply describe what a witness said in court. It's another to actually show you video of that witness tearfully recounting a horrific event in front of 12 strangers. There will be none of that video in this trial. Journalists who are normally armed with laptops and video cameras will have to make due with legal pads and ball-point pens, and they'll have to use their creativity to get the story across (as well as the generosity of attorneys and legal experts who will provide soundbites outside the courtroom.)
2) There will be no substantial "live updates" from inside the courtroom. At previous trials we've covered, journos could post stories, and instantly launch them into the Facebook-LinkedIn-Twitterverse with the click of a mouse, right as they happened. Without laptops and a Web connection, this becomes challenging. And it's no use trying to go back-and-forth from the courtroom to your car. According to the rules, the courtroom is a little like Hotel California: you can check out anytime you like, but you can't get back in until there's a break (which could be hours.)
A Few Good Jurors
There was one thing on the minds of the parties in the David Camm trial Monday morning – the same thing that will occupy their minds for several days: jury selection.
How do you find 12 jurors (and seven alternates) who don't know anything about the David Camm case? About his two convictions and subsequent reversals? About his alleged lengthy history of sexual affairs, and past prosecutor allegations of sexual molestation of his daughter Jill?
That's the challenge the court faces, as David Camm and his two attorneys, Richard Kammen and Stacy Uliana (a familiar face from the last trial), enter the courtroom.
Camm was dressed smartly in a gray sport coat and a blue shirt, sporting a yellowish-white tie. As he sits, one of his attorneys hands him a copy of the Indianapolis Star, with a front-page story about the trial. Just before court is called into session, Camm dons a pair of eyeglasses and begins to read.
Throughout the day, the court heard from a pool of 30 prospective witnesses, with a few who didn't show up. The potential jurors were brought into the courtroom as a group in the early morning, then taken out and shuttled in one-by-one to be individually questioned by the judge and the attorneys about how they felt about David Camm, and whether they could give him a fair trial.
Here were some of the more striking characters:
Prospective Juror #3: A retired 71-year-old white male who admits he "might be a little biased" because he feels that the evidence favors the prosecution and that criminals often "try to get off on technicalities." At one point he and Kammen, who is 67, compared ages and health problems.
"Now it's getting personal," said Special Judge John Dartt, laughing. "This is what voir dire is all about!"
The juror was excused from the case.
Prospective Juror #12: A high school economics teacher, Prospective Juror #12 was older, with graying hair and a pleasant smile. A self-confessed "news junkie," she said she had heard about "that police officer who killed his family" on the news. When questioned about her ability to be fair and impartial, she invoked the Watergate scandal, telling attorneys that she didn't want to be like Congressman Earl Landgrebe, who famously stated, "Don't confuse me with the facts! I've got a closed mind!"
Prospective Juror #13: A soft-spoken young woman with short, dark brown hair. She said all she knew about the case came from a brief TV-news report that featured "a star on a map where New Albany was" and indicating that "DNA is going to be allowed in the case." There's just one problem: her husband, who works in government, is out of considerable work because of the nationwide sequester, and she doesn't think she they can survive for six-10 weeks on the meager $40-a-day that jurors receive. She was excused.
Prospective Juror #18: A young man with brown hair, a goatee, wearing blue jeans. He says he wants to be a juror because, "I find the whole legal system-type-stuff fascinating." When the attorneys congratulate him on his recent marriage, he proudly boasts that it "was a shotgun kind of a thing." He says he found out about the baby – who is due on Dec. 12 – on April Fools Day.
Prospective Juror #??: One of the jurors, who was not identified by number, didn't show up to be questioned. The judge was presented with a doctor's note, whereupon he told the attorneys that the juror was excused because he, "had a contagious bug that I don't think any of us want."
By the end of the day Monday, several prospective jurors had been excused from the case, while others had been told that they had survived the "first round" and should report back to court on Friday to see if they would continue. Several more prospective jurors are expected to face the microscope tomorrow.
Court was adjourned at 4:47 p.m.
Travis K. Kircher is a Web producer for WDRB.com who attended the second David Camm trial in Boonville, Ind. From Jan. 8, 2006 to March 3, 2006. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.