Aug. 19, 2013
LEBANON, Ind. (WBKI) -- What's going on?
That's the question you get from time to time from the good people of Lebanon, Ind. The town's roughly 16,000 residents are starting to notice the colorful TV station logos on the bulky satellite trucks, parked within a one-block radius of the Boone County courthouse. There's an increase in law enforcement. More out-of-town license plates. Even a local restaurant employee noticed the tighter security when he delivered catered lunches to the courthouse.
"What's going on?"
The question was first posed to me a week ago today – on the first day of jury selection – as I was parking an SUV marked with our station logo in a two-hour parking spot in front of the courthouse. The man asking it bore a quizzical expression on his face.
"David Camm trial," I replied (I'm paraphrasing). "Former Indiana State Police trooper accused of murdering his wife and children. He's had two trials, two convictions – but the appeals courts reversed them. So he's going to trial a third time."
"Where are you all from?"
The man glanced back at the street, looking in both directions.
"Has he been brought in yet?" he asked. "I mean, are they gonna bring him by here?"
"Dunno," I replied.
A short time later, I realized I was parked in a two-hour parking spot. The polite passerby was kind enough to direct me a block away, where I could park for the entire afternoon. That would be the last time I saw him, but I would hear his question asked and re-asked in various forms by Lebanon residents throughout jury selection.
And you can't blame them. People are naturally curious. But there's one group of Boone County residents who are directly ordered not to be curious: prospective jurors. And Monday morning, a prospective juror's refusal to obey that order cost her a scolding – and some embarrassment.
We ended last week with 11 jurors for the third David Camm trial. We needed 19 (12 jurors and seven alternates.) On Monday morning, 24 prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom, sworn in, and individually questioned to see if they would make it through the first round of jury selection. All of the prospective jurors have filled out questionnaires. All of the prospective jurors were told weeks ago not to research or watch any media about the David Camm case.
Prospective Juror #208 was the first to be questioned. She was a middle-aged wife and mother, with her long brown hair waving behind her head in a dark ponytail.
"You're on the proverbial hot seat," Judge Jonathan Dartt said, smiling. "Take a deep breath. It will be fine."
Upon questioning, she told the court a little about herself, and the difficulties she and her employer would face if she was chosen for the 6-10 week trial. She's a secretary for a doctor, and in her words, "No one else could do my job…they don't have a backup for me." Though she admitted that prior to her arrival, her boss told her to, "come in and be truthful, and whatever happens, happens. We'll just have to deal with it."
She said that as a juror, she could be fair to both sides. But a problem arose when she was asked what she knew about the case.
"Bits and pieces," she said. She knew about David Camm's prior convictions – which is fine, because the judge already told all of the prospective jurors about them.
But then came the clincher.
"There's another suspect that supposedly had done it," she said.
That other suspect is Charles Boney, Camm's alleged accomplice, who was convicted for the same murders back in 2006 just weeks before Camm was.
And Prospective Juror #208 isn't supposed to know that. Not yet.
How did she find this out?
"I just Googled the name," she admitted.
David Camm's defense attorney, Richard Kammen, wasn't satisfied. (I mean, if you're Kammen, you're probably wondering what else the Google Machine told her about the case.) He pressed her about the Internet search. She told the judge that after she found out she might be a juror on the David Camm case, she wanted to learn more about it. She saw the call letters on the side of a Louisville TV news station's vehicle in front of the courthouse one day, so she decided to go to that station's Web site and type in the name "David Camm." Immediately her eyes were drawn to a complete timeline of the case, tracing it back to the beginning.
When Kammen asked her how long this pursuit of knowledge took place, she said she did the research over "a couple of days."
"Juror #208, why did you get on the Internet when my instructions in the packet specifically asked you not to?" a perturbed Judge Dartt asked.
"Just…out of curiosity," she replied.
#208 was excused from the case.
Later, Special Prosecutor Stan Levco would remark that he wasn't surprised that there were people in the jury pool who just couldn't resist the temptation to disobey their instructions.
"I guess I'm more surprised by the fact they admitted to it," he said.
Here is a partial list of some of the additional prospective jurors who were interviewed:
Prospective Juror #209: A middle-aged man with dark hair, a bald spot and glasses. When asked if he could set aside any biases he might have and render a fair verdict, he replied, "I would think so, yes." He was then asked about a son who was currently facing a felony charge.
"You know that this person over here is the prosecutor of your son, right?" Levco asked, indicating Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer, who was also on the team.
"I did not know that." #209 said, admitting later that "it would be hard" not to hold a grudge against the prosecution team. He was excused, as he had a vacation already scheduled which would interfere with the trial.
Prospective Juror #214: An elderly woman with short, brown hair and in injured foot. A breast cancer survivor, she said she was "very proud" of the fact that she was finally able to complete her higher education as a non-traditional student who is "a little older."
She said her background in accounting meant she was a "very analytical and can compartmentalize." And, she said, she brings something important to the jury: a real element of common sense, which she called, "the most important thing in life."
But does she want to serve?
"Interesting question," she replied. "It's very similar to, ‘Do you want to work the polls each election year,' which I have always done."
She makes it through the first round and is asked to come back tomorrow.
Prospective Juror #217: A middle aged man with a bald spot. He's struggling financially after a failed business venture, and his marriage is suffering as a result. He admitted he finds the fact that there have been two prior conviction in the case "concerning."
"In one respect, it makes me wonder, ‘Did they have enough evidence to convict?'" he said.
But he doesn't know much about David Camm, other than the he was an "ex-state trooper" who "allegedly had issues with his marriage."
Kammen is concerned. Where did #217 hear about marriage problems?
#217 replied that it was included in the information packet the judge had sent prospective jurors. But the judge told the court there's nothing like that in the packet.
"There might have been some things on Facebook," #217 said. "I didn't do any research."
But #217 is dismissed.
Prospective Juror #224: A middle aged woman with short brown hair and glasses, who made no bones about her reluctance to serve on the David Camm case.
"My past experiences in life have kind of rendered some pre-judgments," she admitted.
But could she give him a fair hearing?
She replied that she has "questioned that over and over" since she received notice to serve.
But can she be fair?
"I am not sure, because I am a victim of domestic violence myself," she said.
She was dismissed. She was in the chair less than five minutes.
It wasn't a nail-biting day filled with courtroom drama, but then jury selection rarely is. As mentioned above, eight more jurors are needed before the David Camm trial can begin. Today we heard from 24 prospective jurors: of that number, 13 were excused from serving on the trial, while the remaining 11 made it through the first round, and were ordered to report to the court at 8 a.m. tomorrow for further questioning as a group.
Hopefully, they'll refrain from going Web surfing to find out "what's going on."
If less than eight of those 11 remain after attorneys exercise their strikes tomorrow afternoon, another group of 24 will have to be called and the jury selection process could – in theory – stretch into Wednesday.
But Levco said he was "pretty confident" we would have a jury by the end of the day tomorrow – with an emphasis on the word "pretty." He's not sure.
"By and large, jurors want to be on this case," he said.
He didn't expect that.
Travis K. Kircher is a Web producer for WDRB and WBKI. He can be reached at email@example.com.