Aug. 20, 2013
LEBANON, Ind. (WBKI) – After seven days, roughly 150 interviews, questionnaires and what amounts to several games of musical chairs, the attorneys and the judge in the third David Camm triple murder case have finally seated a jury.
The jury proper consists of 12 individuals – eight women and four men.
There are also seven alternates – that would be jurors who step in to fill the void if one of the original 12 jurors is dismissed for any reason. Alternates must sit through the 6-10 weeks of the trial, alongside the jurors, prepared to be called into service at any time. They can discuss the trial with each other and the jurors (as long as they are in the jury room), but all of that changes during jury deliberations.
During jury deliberations, alternates must be present and listening, but they can't speak. They can't take part. They have a *figurative* piece of duct tape over their mouths. In short, alternates have a thankless job.
One prospective juror put it this way: "I don't think the whole process and the whole sacrifice that we made would be as meaningful in the end," if they didn't get to finally deliver a verdict.
I should note that seven alternates are A LOT for a murder trial. I'm only speculating, but that tells me that this court believes that, between the length of the trial and the potential for these men and women to be tainted by outside influences, this is a very, very fragile jury.
Special Prosecutor Stan Levco admitted this afternoon that he would not be surprised if alternates were called into service before the end of the trial.
"I think it's a probability that at least one will serve," he said.
And, earlier in the day as we saw prospective jurors being interviewed, we again witnessed the potential for jury bias. Of David Camm, Prospective Juror #269, a man who works for a small telecom company, stated, "He's already had two convictions…two convictions probably should have settled it." She was excused from serving.
Prospective Juror #296, an elderly woman with short dark hair and glasses, expressed a similar opinion.
"My opinion is, if he shot his family, he shot his family. It's not nothing else."
But the bias can flow in the other direction as well. Prospective Juror #285, a tall, middle aged man with grayish blond hair, told the court that he was biased in favor of the defense.
"I think that based upon the other two trials, I think it's time to stop," he said, indicating that the prosecution should not re-try David Camm.
"I've already made my decision," he said. He was likewise dismissed from the pool.
Stars and stripes…but mostly stars
There was one humorous moment today that I have to relate.
It came this morning, when Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer, who is assisting Special Prosecutor Stan Levco, interviewed the prospective jurors about a legal concept they've heard a lot about over the past seven days: reasonable doubt, and what it means.
"The law does not require us to prove things beyond all doubt, because there are very few things that can be proved with absolute certainty," Meyer said, adding that prosecutors are not going to be able to catch all crimes on video.
He asked the prospective jurors whether they believed the government had cameras in all their homes to record crimes for trials like this.
"I don't know," said one prospective juror. Almost everyone laughed.
"That's not going to happen," Meyer said. "We have this thing called the Constitution, that will hopefully prevent that." More laughter.
Then he tried another tactic.
Was it beyond a reasonable doubt to assume that the American flags in all of the Indiana courthouses had 50 stars on them?
There was a brief silence before one of the prospective jurors – an older one – meekly responded.
"I would want to count them."
He then asked her if it wouldn't be unreasonable to have to go to all the Indiana courthouses and count the stars on the flags before we could make that assumption.
"Yeah, because I wouldn't care enough," the woman replied.
Later, a laughing Meyer would respond that, "The law doesn't require us to bring in every flag and count them. Do you understand that?"
Words from two attorneys
But of course the big news of the day – this day – is that the jury is finally seated. And looking at it purely from a news perspective, that's a good thing. Because, frankly, jury selection isn't the most exciting thing about the legal process. Alright, I'll say it: jury selection is boring. So when it's over, there's a professional satisfaction you receive being in the news business, rushing out of the courthouse door and calling your assignment desk to break the news that the goal we've been trying to reach has been achieved. Text alerts are sent out. Announcements take place on the air. And it's a rewarding feeling, two minutes after you make your phone call, to hear the quiet chirp on your phone and know that your station has just distributed your news to the masses.
And as the writer of this blog, I have a sense of personal satisfaction that I won't be typing the words "prospective jurors" anymore.
Again, that's purely from a professional perspective. But there's a lot more riding on this jury than our professional perspective -- and there's a lot more to consider beyond what we journalists think is "boring." There are two sides with a lot invested in the outcome of this trial. We spoke with both of them today.
Special Prosecutor Stan Levco talked to us briefly outside the courtroom, just before the final jury was seated. When a reporter asked if the popularity of crime shows is making it harder for prosecutors like him to get convictions in cases like this, he admitted that there has been a move in that direction in recent years.
"I think that's been happening since CSI became popular," Levco said.
He added that it's likely we will be seeing members of the victims' families – the Renn families and the Karem families – in attendance later in the trial.
Richard Kammen, David Camm's attorney, also opened up to the media briefly after the trial. He said he's afraid the prospective jurors think it was "David's fault" that the two prior trials were unfair.
I also asked him whether Camm is taking an active role in the jury selection. I've seen him with his eye glasses on, whispering to his attorneys and marking things down on paper.
"It's his life," Kammen said. "Like anybody else, you would expect him to be engaged."
Another question: Why is the defense bringing up the prior convictions anyway? Wouldn't they want to keep that under wraps?
"Because it's been 13 years," Kammen said. "If you don't bring it up, people would understandably fill it in."
Another question: During their individual interviews, prospective jurors brought up the prior allegations of marital problems, infidelity and child molestation made against David Camm by prior prosecutors. These are things the jury members are not supposed to know about. In the defense's mind, can David Camm get a fair trial anywhere?
"That remains to be seen, honestly," Kammen said.
One last question: The crimes were committed in 2000, and Camm has been in jail for the vast majority of the time since then. That's a long time. How has prison changed him?
A beat. Then…
"I could answer that..." Kammen said.
But he declined to comment.
Travis K. Kircher is a Web producer for WDRB and WBKI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.