DAVID CAMM BLOG: A Courtroom...in a Garage?
Sept. 11, 2013
LEBANON, Ind. (WDRB) -- Today was, perhaps, one of the more bizarre chapters of the trial thus far. At least for me. It began, ominously enough, with several law enforcement officers and court staff standing on the courthouse lawn, preparing to remember the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001.
But the strangest bit would occur inside the Lebanon Police Department garage. More on that in a moment.
Court was gaveled into session at 9:27 Wednesday morning, and the attorneys – outside the presence of the jury – prepared to resume hearing testimony from prosecution witness Rod Englert, a blood spatter expert.
Once again, defense attorney Richard Kammen expressed his disdain for Englert's methods.
"We believe that all of this testimony is not scientifically based," Kammen said, adding that, "It's based on his alleged experience, rather than any scientific principles.
Kammen also said that "there is not going to be an adequate scientific foundation" for his testimony.
As a result, Kammen requested that he be allowed to show a continuing objection to Englert's testimony, rather than having to object at every turn. The judge agreed.
Witness: Rod Englert (cont'd)
Retired Homicide Detective
Crime Scene Reconstructionist and Blood Spatter Expert
At 9:33, the jury was brought into the courtroom and Rod Englert again took the stand to resume his testimony from the previous day.
Englert, a older, bald gentleman with a well-trimmed white beard, black suit and striped tie, recalled how he was brought in to investigate the murders of Kim, Brad and Jill Camm.
"I was contacted by the prosecutor in Floyd County, Indiana, Mr. Stan Faith," Englert said. He testified that this phone call came on Sept. 29, 2000, the day after the murders.
Englert said he was at a conference at the time and couldn't visit the scene, so instead he sent Rob Stites, an associate he described as "an independent contractor" to take pictures of the crime scene.
Englert emphasized that he did not send Stites to offer opinions on the evidence.
It would be early January before Englert himself would be able to visit New Albany, the blood spatter expert testified. He said he reviewed all the evidence he could, including video of the crime scene, the Ford Bronco where Jill's body was found, clothing, police interviews and the autopsies. Englert also said he spoke with the medical examiners who performed the autopsies.
At this point, the prosecutors showed Englert – and the jury – several photographs from the crime scene, most of which were extremely disturbing.
One of them was a shot of the bodies of Kim and Brad Camm, both lying on the floor of the garage. Brad Camm appeared to be lying face-up, his arms splayed out. Kim's arms were also out, one of which appeared to be reaching for Brad's shoe. There was a large pool of blood around Kim's head, which narrowed into a trail leading out of the garage. Kim's pants were off, and she wasn't wearing any shoes or socks.
Englert noted the pool of blood, and the fact that Kim's pants had been removed.
"In my opinion, she has been laying on her left side, and she has been moved onto her back," he said.
The jury is shown another picture of Kim Camm – this one a closer image of her face. It's turned slightly and some of her brown hair – which is in disarray – is swept across it.
Englert referenced blood on her index finger and called it "out of place."
"Her body had been moved, in my opinion," Englert restated.
Englert testified that he believed that Kim Camm was standing within the confines of the open passenger-side door when she was shot. After she fell to the floor, he said he believed that her pants were removed, her body was placed on top of the pants, and then later her body was moved.
"In my opinion, it's a posed, staged scene," he said.
Englert said that, using what he called "reverse engineering," he could determine where Kim was when the murders took place.
"She's within that open door and leaning in when she was shot," he said. He added that with an "incapacitating shot like that, she would have buckled," and "dropped to the floor."
He said the bullet entered through the left side of her head and exited out her right.
The jury was then shown a photograph of one of David Camm's tennis shoes. Englert pointed to a faint longish-stain on the right side of the shoe, arguing that it was a "projected stain" from blood that struck the concrete floor of the garage when Kim was shot.
"This stain has been away," Englert said. "It is a recent stain that has been wiped away," adding that, "it has a skeleton," referencing the outline of the stain.
"In my opinion," Englert added moments later, "this shoe was in the zone of the blowback from the entry wound of Mrs. Camm."
"At some point after the blood dried, it was wiped away," he said.
"So in your opinion," Special Prosecutor Stan Levco asked, "that shoe was present when Mrs. Camm was shot?"
"Yes sir," Englert replied. "Within 3-4 feet."
Levco then drew Englert's attention to the gray t-shirt David Camm was wearing on the night of the murders.
Englert said that he had "spent hours on this t-shirt." He identified what he called "tiny, tiny stains of what appeared to be blood" in what's called "Area 30" of the shirt.
Area 30 is an area on the front of the shirt, near the hem.
Here, Englert said he found "very tiny," "less than a millimeter," "pencil-dot-type stains." He said these stains penetrate the weave of the t-shirt and are consistent with what's called "high-velocity" blood spatter – spatter that appears when a victim is shot with a bullet.
He also said the person wearing the shirt would have had to be present – and close – when the victim was shot, because the spatter doesn't travel far.
"It goes 3-4 feet," Englert said. "It cannot go farther."
Englert added that surface tension makes further travel impossible.
The jury was then shown several photographs of the interior of the Bronco, including an image of the seat where Jill Camm was found. Her body had been removed, and a rod had been inserted, tracing the supposed trajectory of the bullet, through a paper reconstruction of Jill's head.
Moments later, the jury was told that they would not only be taking an early lunch today, but they were also going on a field trip, of sorts. At 1 p.m., court was to convene a block-and-a-half away at the Lebanon Police Department garage, where the jurors would be allowed to see Kim Camm's Ford Bronco for themselves. The bailiff was brought before the judge, sworn in, and ordered to escort the jury to the garage at the appropriate time.
Court dismissed for lunch.
Lebanon Police Department Garage
201 E. Main St.
After lunch, the media gathered outside the Lebanon Police Department. Judge Jonathan Dartt had issued an order: we were to meet at the East Street entrance (to avoid the jury) and assemble together to be brought in.
For all intents and purposes, Judge Dartt said, the garage would become the courtroom until the jury's examination had concluded. That meant that all the courtroom rules applied: no photographs would be taken inside the garage, no recording devices would be allowed and all phones must be turned completely off. The media would be allowed to shoot pictures of the Bronco after all the jurors had left.
Oddly, I found that court session to be unexpectedly jarring, in a psychological way – and I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because I'm so used to seeing everyone in the Boone County courtroom, with its vast expanse, stained-glass ceiling, marble columns and ornately carved walls.
There was something strange about walking into the garage and seeing the Bronco – that dark ghost that haunted the grisly images we'd seen a few hours earlier – in the center of the room, surrounded by crime scene tape. There's something strange about seeing the judge in his long robe settle down behind what amounted to little more than a makeshift card table and a folding chair. And there was something odd about the adherence to ceremony – with everyone standing silent at attention and the loud air conditioner blaring in the background – as the jury slowly filtered in and were led to metal bleachers set up inside.
An apologetic Judge Dartt spoke over the air conditioner.
"We are dealing with – of course – limited space, tight space," he told the jury.
As Englert walked through his paces, showing the jury where he believed Kim Camm was standing when she was shot and providing a brief tour of the Bronco, David Camm was sitting about 15 feet in front of me. He held his chin in his hand and stared, expressionless.
Englert demonstrated – using his own body – how he believed the shooter leaned into the front of the Bronco, holding the seat forward, to shoot Brad and Jill. Englert said the position would have meant that the front seat would have received most of the high-velocity blood spatter, but "Area 30" of Camm's t-shirt would have received some of it.
"In my opinion, he had to be on the inside of the vehicle because the shell casings are inside," he said. "You can't do it from the outside of the vehicle. It just can't be done."
At one point, Camm rubbed his eyes and shook his head.
Kammen challenged Englert's assertions, pointing out where Boney's palm print and doing his own demonstration of the shootings.
Englert stood his ground, arguing that his own demonstration was the one that "most probable."
"This is the one that is most probable to YOU," Kammen said.
After the jury asked some questions, court was recessed and the jurors were taken back to the courthouse.
We in the media remained and were allowed to shoot the exterior of the Bronco. We stayed about 15 minutes, and for the most part, the pictures were taken in utter silence, save for quiet whispers among the journalists. A sheriff's deputy stood as a silent sentinel in front of the vehicle the entire time. Today, 13 years later, there were few obvious reminders of what happened inside and around the Bronco, save for a bullethole in the front window and -- from what we could see outside (we weren't allowed inside) -- a portion of the front passenger seat that had been removed by investigators to study blood stains.
The license plate, ominously, had registration stickers on it indicating that it would expire in March 2001.
(NOTE: To view the images we took, click on the "filmstrip" at the top of this page.)
Witness: Rod Englert (cont'd)
Retired Homicide Detective
Crime Scene Reconstructionist and Blood Spatter Expert
Back at the courtroom, and out of the presence of the jury, Judge Dartt congratulated the attorneys on how well the examination went.
"Anytime you go into a garage for court, it's a little different," he said.
Kammen added that he believed it went really well, given the circumstances, and Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer added that he was "really proud" of the job that law enforcement did during the unconventional court session.
Shortly after 3:00, the jury was ushered in and defense attorney Richard Kammen began his cross-examination of Englert.
"While we were over at the garage, I may have been shouting at you," Kammen said. "If so I apologize." He added that the noise of the air conditioner made speaking difficult.
"Blood stain pattern opinions are subjective, correct?" Kammen asked.
"Yes sir," Englert replied.
What about crime scene reconstruction opinions?
"They're not exact," Englert said.
Kammen then brought up the tensions between professionals with a police background and those with a blood spatter analysis background.
"You're aware of that tension, are you not?" he asked.
"Yes sir," Kammen replied, adding that his background was in police work.
Kammen then took aim at Englert's qualifications, pointing out that he'd taken no classes in physics and claimed that one didn't need to understand algebra to be an expert in blood stain analysis.
"You have to know measurements to be able to measure a scene," Englert replied, "but you don't have to be a mathematician." Englert also admitted that he's not a certified forensic scientist.
The cross-examination then turned to Rob Stites and his role in the investigation of the Camm murders in Sept. 2000. Kammen claimed that Stites represented himself as a blood stain pattern analysis expert.
"I would not classify him as an expert," Englert replied.
Kammen then focused on Englert's business, Englert's Forensic Consultants. Englert admitted that he currently charges $425 an hour (which was up from $325 an hour from 2000, when the murders took place.)
"And Floyd County has been a pretty good customer," Kammen said.
Englert said that, thus far, he'd billed over $300,000 for his involvement in the Camm murders investigation – and had been involved in a handful of other Floyd County cases.
Englert testified that Stites charged $250 an hour for his involvement.
"Mr. Stites was your protégé?" Kammen asked.
"He was my photographer and animator," Englert replied, adding that he wouldn't call him a protégé.
"He's out of the blood spatter work, to your knowledge, isn't that true?" Kammen asked.
Englert said that was correct.
Kammen pointed out that in 2000, after Stites told then-prosecutor Stan Faith that he believed high-velocity blood spatter was on David Camm's t-shirt, Camm was arrested almost immediately. It wasn't until early January before Englert himself would be able to visit Floyd County himself.
What would have happened if he disagreed with Stites' opinion? Kammen said it would have meant that Englert's company would have had to admit that its representative made a mistake.
"It wouldn't have been a problem," Englert said.
Kammen pointed out that the police would probably have had to let David Camm go.
"It's not the first time it's happened," Englert replied.
It would have embarrassed Stan Faith, Kammen pointed out.
"I would have done it," Englert said.
Kammen asserted that because Englert stuck by the opinion money kept coming to him from Floyd County, noting that the "meter kept rolling…for the next 13 years."
"Yes sir," Englert replied.
Kammen again grilled Englert on Stites' qualifications, pointing out that Stites had never had a basic course in blood spatter.
"That's correct, yes sir," Englert said, adding a moment later that, "I remember telling Mr. Stites, ‘Do not give any opinions, just keep your mouth shut!'" Englert admitted that Stites "went overboard."
At the end of the day, the jury asked several questions of Englert. Here are SOME (i.e., not all) of the questions. The questions have been rephrased for clarity, and – except where noted by quotation marks – neither the questions nor the answers are given verbatim.
QUESTION: If cotton absorbs liquid, would high-velocity impact spatter remain on the outer portion of a garment?
ANSWER: Yes, because it could not be absorbed onto the other side.
QUESTION: Do you review your previous testimony in the other Camm trials?
ANSWER: Yes, because he has to protect himself from being taken out of context.
QUESTION: Can blood from medium-velocity spatter go into the weave of the shirt? What if the quality of the shirt is poor?
ANSWER: Medium-velocity spatter will typically go through the shirt and come out the other side. High-velocity spatter will not because it is so small.
QUESTION: If you know, was gun oil found on Charles Boney's sweatshirt?
ANSWER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Was Charles Boney's shirt tested for gun oil?
ANSWER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Who would know?
ANSWER: Someone from a crime lab.
QUESTION: Does thread count in a shirt make a difference in blood spatter penetration?
ANSWER: Yes it does.
QUESTION: Is it possible for a transfer stain to appear as high-velocity impact spatter?
ANSWER: High-velocity impact spatter cannot be duplicated unless you use high-energy.
Other questions were asked and answered, and then Englert was excused, his testimony now ended. Judge Dartt took a moment to praise the jury.
"I continue to pay attention to your attention in this case," he said.
Court was adjourned for the day. Next up Thursday: Mala Singh Mattingly, Charles Boney's girlfriend at the time of the murders.
Travis K. Kircher is a Web Producer for WDRB News. He can be reached at email@example.com.