Oct. 3, 2013
LEBANON, Ind. (WBKI) -- "We have our own little experiment here."
That's how defense attorney Stacy Uliana described the third David Camm triple murder trial Thursday afternoon -- an experiment. She was trying to score a point with the jury at the time. Defense witness Dr. Robert Shaler was on the stand, and Uliana had been questioning him about the differences in opinion between various blood stain pattern analysts who have reviewed evidence in this case.
Her point -- more or less -- was that the outcome of this trial would speak to whether there's anything thing to blood stain pattern analysis, or whether it's just a form of "junk science."
Not a big deal. Unless you're a blood stain pattern analyst.
The truth is, witnesses on both sides of this case have testified that blood stain pattern analysts worldwide are watching this trial very closely. Why? Because many believe David Camm's innocence or guilt hinges on how you interpret a handful -- there are differences of opinions as to how many -- of microscopic dots that appear on his t-shirt. And blood stain pattern analysts are the ones who get to interpret those dots.
If you think they're what's called "high velocity impact spatter" -- that would be a form of blood "mist" that is present after a victim is shot with a gun, and can only travel four feet or less -- then David Camm murdered his family. Or at least his daughter, Jill Camm.
But if you believe the microscopic dots are what's called "contact stains," Camm may have simply got them when he brushed up against Jill's bloody hair as he tried to pull the body of his son Bradley out of the Ford Bronco.
Or, the defense postulates, you could fit into a third camp. That would be the camp that says that blood stain pattern analysis isn't scientific. It's subjective. They're making it up as they go, and there's no possible way to determine where those stains came from.
A lot is riding on this case for a lot of professionals. If legal opinion turns against blood stain pattern analysis as a science, that means a lot less work -- and income -- for a lot of expert witnesses, who make a living teaching, analyzing and testifying in trials. I suppose it could also mean fewer convictions. A lot more is riding on this case than just the fate of David Camm.
And we're getting the feedback to prove it. Since this blog has launched, we've received e-mails from forensic scientists. We've also seen our Web stories linked to by blogs, Yahoo groups and Web sites related to forensic science.
What will be the outcome for blood stain pattern analysts? I started to say "the jury's still out on that." But we haven't had closing arguments yet.
Witness: Jeff Dickey
Basketball player on the night of Sept. 28, 2000
Shortly after court was gaveled into session at 9:16 a.m. Thursday, the jury heard testimony from Jeff Dickey, one of several men allegedly playing basketball with David Camm on Sept. 28, 2000 -- the night Camm's family was murdered.
With short brown hair, a bald spot, glasses and a red I.U. basketball shirt, Dickey began to explain to the jury what he saw that night, just over 13 years ago.
"You like basketball, right?" defense attorney Stacy Uliana asked. "I can see your shirt."
Dickey said that he did.
He said that on Sept. 28, 2000, his brother, Martin Dickey, brought him to the Georgetown Community Church gym to play pickup basketball.
Uliana asked him to describe exactly what pickup basketball is.
"Just several -- probably anywhere from 8-10 people -- showing up at a court, or gym, or whatever," he said.
How long does a game of pickup basketball last?
"It can vary," Dickey said. "Roughly 10 -- maybe 15 -- minutes."
"Does it depend on how balanced the games are?" Uliana asked.
Dickey agreed that it did.
He said that he could remember David Camm playing basketball that night. Does he remember him warming up?
"I can't remember right now," he said. "It's been a long time ago."
Was David Camm part of the first game?
"I think so. I can't remember."
Uliana then asked if he saw anything about David Camm that was out of the ordinary.
"No," Dickey said.
Does he remember David Camm's demeanor at the time?
"No I don't," he said.
But if there was something add about Camm at the time, he would have noticed?
Dickey, whose responses were subdued and lackluster, admitted that he had been working until 3 a.m., and had only gotten about 90 minutes of sleep.
Uliana later asked Dickey if the events of Sept. 28, 2000 -- the murders of Kim, Brad and Jill -- had had a profound effect on him.
"Yeah, I pretty much didn't touch a basketball for roughly 10 years after that," he replied soberly.
At any point that night, did Dickey ever see David Camm leave the gym?
"Not that I can remember."
Uliana asked if he ever noticed David Camm missing from the gym.
"Not that I can remember," he replied.
Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer then rose to cross examine Dickey. He apologized for making Dickey relive the events of that night.
"I'm sorry to hear about your departure from basketball," Meyer began.
"David was a good player," Meyer said.
Dickey agreed. He said he'd only played one game with Camm at the Georgetown Community Church, but he'd played Camm several times when Camm was a state trooper. He said they would often play basketball at Jeffersonville High School, Silver Creek High School and River Valley Middle School.
Meyer then turned back to Sept. 28, 2000. Dickey said he arrived at the gym shortly after 7 p.m. He also said he and his brother had more stamina than the other players, and weren't as interested in taking breaks as they were.
"I played twice a week, and then sometimes in leagues, so I was in a little bit better shape," he said, adding that he had been used to playing two hours straight, and this was "a more relaxed session."
At one point, Dickey testified, most of the players took a break, and he and his brother played a short game of 2-on-2 basketball.
Dickey said he only people he knew at the game were his brother and David Camm.
Meyer then asked Dickey if, just before the second trial, there was a meeting of the basketball player witnesses with the defense team.
"Yeah, I believe so," Dickey replied. He said it was at the home of Sam Lockhart -- David Camm's uncle -- in a converted garage.
Meyer asked if Sam Lockhart was present during the meeting.
"I don't think he was there when they actually started talking to us," he said. "I believe he left the room."
Meyer asked Dickey whether he saw David Camm running up and down the sidelines of the gym, dribbling a basketball. Dickey eventually said he did, but he couldn't tell Meyer what time this happened, only that it was during one of the 5-on-5 basketball games. Meyer then pointed out prior testimony in which Dickey said that Camm sat out a game around 7:30.
But defense attorney Stacy Uliana challenged this. Could he be wrong about the time? Dickey admitted that he could.
Uliana then asked Dickey whether he could recall testifying in the second trial that he saw David Camm sitting and talking with Tom Jolly -- a member of the church -- on the sidelines during the game he sat out.
"I can't remember if I said that or not," Dickey said.
Uliana then showed him a transcript of his prior testimony.
"Do you remember saying that?" she asked.
"I don't remember, but..." Dickey's voice trailed off.
"You worked until 3 a.m. this morning," Uliana said. "So you're operating on about three hours of sleep."
"About an hour and a half," Dickey replied.
"We'll be done soon," Uliana said.
Uliana then questioned Dickey about the meeting of the basketball players that he said took place just before the second trial at Sam Lockhart's home.
"Was it Sam Lockhart telling you what to say?" she asked.
"Did he ever try to tell you what to say?" she asked again.
"No," Dickey replied.
The jury had one question for Dickey: Did he think it was odd that David Camm offered to sit out a game?
"Not really," Dickey replied. "People just randomly try to be courteous to other players and volunteer to sit."
Just before Dickey got up to leave, Judge Jonathan Dartt had his own question for Dickey, but it had nothing to do with David Camm or alibis. It did, however, have something to do with basketball.
"Mr. Dickey, do you follow I.U. recruiting closely?" Judge Dartt asked, referencing Dickey's t-shirt, before quickly adding, "I follow that too."
Uliana assured him that it was okay to answer the question.
Judge Dartt then quizzed Dickey on his opinion of forward Goodluck Okonoboh, and whether he would sign on with Indiana University.
There was laughter all around the courtroom.
Witness: Martin Dickey
Basketball player on the night of Sept. 28, 2000
Moments after the exhausted Jeff Dickey was escorted out of the courtroom, the jury heard testimony from his brother, Martin Dickey.
A big guy at over 6'-1", bald, with a blue polo shirt, Martin Dickey was somewhat less subdued than his brother.
"You always go after your brother for some reason, right?" defense attorney Stacy Uliana asked.
"Yes," he replied.
Martin Dickey told the jury he'd known David Camm since he was 16. Dickey said his brother played basketball with the Indiana State Police troopers, and soon he was playing as well.
"They started calling me because I was better than him," he said, to much laughter.
He said that on Sept. 28, 2000, he and his brother arrived at the Georgetown Community Church gym just after 7 p.m.
Why did he bring his brother with him?
"So we could dominate the court," he said. More laughter.
"Did you dominate the court?" Uliana asked.
"Pretty much," Dickey said. More laughter.
Dickey said he remembered David Camm playing the first 5-on-5 game. He later sat out a game.
"I think it was just one," Dickey said, adding a moment later that he couldn't remember if it was the second, third or fourth game.
"He was just sitting on the side," Dickey said. "There was someone who came in he was talking to."
Does Dickey remember Camm stretching and running up and down the sidelines?
"I don't remember," he said. "It's been so long."
He does remember the 2-on-2 game he played with his brother. He said it was quick. Why quick?
"Because they couldn't have stopped me and my brother," he said. Laughter again.
Dickey said he never noticed any blood on David Camm that night, and described his demeanor at that time as "happy-go-lucky," even going so far as to discuss pressure washing the church the next day.
When Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer cross-examined Dickey a few minutes later, he quickly pointed out that Dickey probably wouldn't have been able to see blood stains on Camm's shirt, if the stains were smaller than a millimeter.
He also noted that Dickey didn't see ANYBODY leave the gym, but that doesn't mean they didn't. Couldn't Camm have left at some point when he was sitting out a game?
"Well, if he left, he was back before the game was over," Dickey said.
Meyer then pointed out that in the first trial, Dickey testified that he didn't recall David Camm sitting out of the game talking to anyone. But in the second trial, Dickey allegedly testified that he saw David Camm sitting in a chair talking to Tom Jolly.
"That testimony came after you had your meeting at Sam Lockhart's house, right?" Meyer asked.
"Yes," Dickey said.
After this, Uliana quickly pointed out an Oct. 2000 interview with police in which Dickey allegedly said, "He [Camm] was just sitting somewhere talking to someone."
But Meyer was undeterred.
Did Dickey see David Camm every second in the gym that night?
"No," Dickey said.
"You would not lie for David Camm, would you?" Uliana asked.
"No," Dickey replied. "I'd have no reason to."
He was excused a few moments later. The jury would hear from two other basketball players -- Anthony Ferguson and Jeremy Little -- before the end of the day.
Witness: Dr. Robert Shaler
Founding Director of Penn State Forensic Science Program
Former Director of the Department of Forensic Biology
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City
With the Dickey brothers out of the way, the jury then heard the testimony of Dr. Robert Shaler. Shaler -- who looks like he could be defense attorney Richard Kammen's twin brother -- is bald, with white hair, and describes himself as "90 percent retired."
"I'm a forensic biologist," he said.
He said he has a doctorate degree in biochemistry, and worked as the Director of the Department of Forensic Biology at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City during the events of September 11. In fact, he said he wrote a book about the office's efforts to identify human remains in the aftermath of that tragedy.
"I just felt that nobody cared about what the scientists were doing," he said, adding that he wanted to document the actions of the medical examiner's office for the "historical record."
He said he later went on to launch Penn State's forensic science program, retiring in 2010. Today, he says he still teaches Penn State's online crime scene investigation class.
But that's not what he was there to talk about. He was there to testify about crime scene reconstruction and blood stain pattern analysis -- and how, he felt, they weren't handled appropriately by the investigators in the David Camm case.
Defense attorney Stacy Uliana questioned him about a 2009 report issued by the National Academy of Sciences called, "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward." Shaler said he was one of 17 people who served on a committee who helped develop the report, which was critical of the reliability of forensic testing.
Shaler said his committed was comprised of, "a well-represented cross-section of the criminal justice system."
"We listened to scholars," he said. "We listened to acting forensic scientists."
After hearing testimony in public and private hearings, Shaler testified, his committee issued 13 recommendations. He said two of those recommendations "are important for this trial."
Uliana honed in on that.
"Have you reviewed materials in this case?" she asked.
"Yes," Shaler said, explaining that he'd read testimonies from Camm's second trial, as well as numerous depositions from the witnesses.
Shaler said the first recommendation from the report that has a bearing on the David Camm trial is Recommendation #3, which states that, "Research is needed to address issues of accuracy, reliability, and validity in the forensic science disciplines." It goes on to state that the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) should competitively fund peer-reviewed
research in areas such as the scientific basis for forensic science, as well as quantifiable ways to measure the reliability of forensic science -- including blood stain pattern analysis.
Shaler said blood stain pattern analysis is "essentially guesswork" if "you do not have the supporting underlying science" to explain how you reached a particular conclusion.
He then blasted the blood stain pattern analysts in the David Camm case, pointing out that the spent a large amount of time arguing whether a particular blood stain was above or embedded in the weave of Camm's t-shirt.
"I think first you have to have some definitions. What do you mean by 'weave?'" he asked. "I don't think that it's been defined for this case. I don't think it's been defined for the blood stain community as a whole."
He claimed the term "high-velocity impact spatter" isn't even used anymore.
"It's not and it shouldn't be," he said.
He also criticized what he said was a lack of testing in the case, adding that if investigators are going to "opine" about high-velocity impact spatter landing on a t-shirt that has a 50/50 cotton/polyester makeup, they should confirm it through tests on a shirt with the same makeup.
Shaler pointed out that blood stain pattern analysts are divided on the David Camm case, with some claiming the blood on his t-shirt is high-velocity impact spatter, while others say they're simply contact stains.
"We have two opinions in this case," he said. "That, in essence, is a 50 percent error rate."
He added that this was "not fair."
Additionally, he said, investigators in the David Camm case would have benefited from following Recommendation #5 of the National Academy of Sciences report, which, he said, seeks to identify and eliminate sources of "human observer bias" and "human error" in forensic science.
He described "observer bias" as a tendency of investigators to "unconsciously devise methods" and "interpret data" to reach a preconceived conclusion. He said the cure to observer bias was to "rigorously follow the scientific method."
Does Shaler see evidence of bias in the David Camm case?
"Yes," he replied.
"Let's talk about the opinion that high-velocity impact spatter is on the shirt," he said.
He accused one blood stain pattern analyst in the case -- he refused to name a name -- of failing to follow the scientific method in his investigation. He said that particular analyst did tests, but made no effort to disprove his own hypothesis. He added that if an analyst cannot disprove their own hypothesis, then he or she has proved it -- but they can't start out by trying to prove it.
"Real science isn't just based on expectations," Uliana said.
"Expectations are not sciences," Shaler said, adding that experiences weren't either. "If you're basing everything on your experiences, you're not being objective. And a hallmark of science is objectivity."
"Either blood stain pattern analysis is based on science or it's an art form," Shaler said. He said that if it's an art form, then "anyone" can comment on it. He called blood stain pattern analysis an "interesting field" because "it's populated by non-scientists and it's populated by scientists."
At one point, Shaler's testimony took a tangent where he decried what he called "DNA wienies" -- people who look at DNA under a microscope but never leave the lab to visit a crime scene.
"This is a very complex case," he said a moment later. "It's very difficult. It it were easy, everybody would agree."
He said he didn't believe any of the blood stain pattern analysts were being "deliberately fraudulent," but "the tendency is to render an opinion along the sides of the people who have brought you in to testify."
Shaler went on to criticize investigators who arrested Camm because of the alleged high-velocity impact spatter on his shirt.
"The problem in this case is the number of stains are minimal," he said. "I think you're really on the edge of reliability."
He argued that there were only three or four stains, with one tissue deposit. (NOTE: Experts disagree on the number of stains, with as many as eight having been identified on the shirt.)
Next on Shaler's hit list was the claim that a microscopic deposit of Jill Camm's brain tissue was found on Camm's t-shirt amid alleged high-velocity impact spatter stains. Shaler said he believed the tissue came from David Camm, not Jill.
A short time later, Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer rose to cross examine Shaler.
"Sir, when were you contacted to do work on this case?" Meyer asked.
Shaler replied that it was Oct. 2011.
"What were you doing back in 2011?" Meyer asked.
"Basically waiting for Ms. Uliana to send me material," Shaler said.
Upon questioning, Shaler admitted that he made $450 an hour to analyze evidence in the David Camm case, and was charging $2,500 per day of testimony. He said he expected to bill roughly $5,000 - $6,000 for his involvement in the case.
Meyer asked if Shaler felt that Tom Bevel, a blood stain pattern analyst and witness for the prosecution, was also an expert.
"I believe a lot of people believe that," Shaler said.
Regarding Shaler's claim that the tissue found on David Camm's shirt is not from Jill Camm, Meyer pointed to the numerous examples of Jill's brain tissue found on the headliner inside the Bronco at the crime scene.
"So you just completely discount that there is similar type of tissue in the headliner?" Meyer asked.
Shaler replied that he felt the tissue in the vehicle was not similar to the tissue on Camm's t-shirt, but after questioning, admitted that he'd only seen photos of what was found in the Bronco.
And what about the investigators? How can Shaler be so sure they were biased? Did he interview them?
"I just read their testimonies," Shaler admitted. "That's the only information I have."
Meyer pointed out that proving the stains on Camm's t-shirt are merely contact stains doesn't mean Camm is innocent. But if the stains on his shirt are high-velocity impact spatter, then David Camm is guilty based on his prior statements.
Shaler said he wasn't aware of Camm's prior statements.
Meyer told Shaler that some of the defense experts failed to follow the scientific method he outlined. Specifically, Meyer said defense witness Barie Goetz, a blood stain pattern analyst, attempted to show that the stains on Camm's t-shirt were contact stains, but to do the demonstration, he used a 100 percent cotton shirt, when he knew the shirt Camm was wearing was a 50/50 cotton-polyester mix.
Shaler said the experiment was "not necessarily invalid," but admitted that he would have done it differently.
"You would agree with me that blood stain pattern analysis is not based on hard sciences?" Meyer asked.
"It's based on biochemistry, and it's based on physics, so yes, it is hard science," Shaler said.
Meyer also attacked Shaler's assessment of the Area 30 evidence on Camm's shirt.
"It is incorrect for you to say here that we're only looking at three stains," Meyer said.
Shaler said he wanted to know if all experts saw eight stains, telling Meyer he was only given photos of three.
Meyer then criticized the National Academy of Sciences committee Shaler served on.
"You indicated there was a prosecutor on that committee," Meyer said.
When Shaler couldn't name a prosecutor, or find one in the list of committee members, he replied that, "I thought there was a prosecutor. I don't believe I see one."
Meyer said the omission, "represents a tremendous void in the presentation of the criminal justice system, does it not?"
Shaler agreed that there should have been a prosecutor on the committee.
Meyer added that a disclaimer appeared on every page of the report, indicating the "opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice."
Shaler said the National Academy of Sciences puts this disclaimer on everything it publishes.
If the report was so important, why hadn't Congress moved to implement the relevant recommendations it made?
"Well, it's the federal government," Shaler replied. "What can I say?"
What about supposed bias on the part of the prosecution's expert witnesses? Wasn't Shaler just as likely to be biased toward the defense team, since they're the ones who called him as a witness?
"I would hope not," he replied.
When Uliana rose to re-question Shaler, the topic became the future of blood stain pattern analysis.
She said it was safe to say "we have our own little experiment here" in the form of the David Camm case, the outcome of which would shape the legal community's view of that branch of forensic science.
"Apparently, this case has got the attention of a lot of different people of that profession," she said.
A short time later, Shaler summed up his criticism of blood stain pattern analysis as a whole.
"It has to do with the people involved in the cases," he said. "Most of the opinions are rendered by people who are not scientists. Some are."
Not long after that, he was excused from the stand. Before he left, he walked to the prosecution desk and shook Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer's hand.
Travis K. Kircher is a Web Producer for WDRB News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.