Oct. 8, 2013
LEBANON, Ind. (WBKI) -- Touch DNA.
It's a term that's new to the David Camm case. To my knowledge, it wasn't brought up in David Camm's first murder trial in New Albany in 2002, nor was it referenced in Boonville, Ind. during Camm's second trial in 2006.
But now, in 2013, Camm's defense lawyers say new tests have uncovered new evidence based on so-called "touch DNA" -- and it's evidence they hope will clear their client and implicate someone else...
Almost a month ago today on Sept. 10, Charles Boney -- a man who has been convicted of the murders of Kim, Brad and Jill Camm -- testified before the jury in this case that he was present at the Camm home when the three were murdered. He told the jury he heard David Camm shoot his family, and saw their bodies. (NOTE: To read about Boney's testimony, CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE and CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO.)
Boney also told the jury he never touched Kim Camm that night.
"That's your story?"defense attorney Richard Kammen demanded at the time.
"Yes sir," Boney replied.
"That's your bluff," Kammen said.
"No bluff, sir," Boney replied.
Today, the defense team hoped to prove that Charles Boney was lying, while casting doubt on David Camm's guilt at the same time.
But Special Prosecutor Stan Levco already has his doubts about touch DNA evidence. On Aug. 1, shortly before the trial began, he went so far as to question its admissibility.
"We feel like it is not reliable," he said, back then. "I don't know that it has ever been done before, the kind of thing that he's doing."
Today, the jury heard the evidence for the first time. What followed was highly technical testimony, reports, DNA charts and hard-to-decipher statistics. I am going to be the first to admit to you that this testimony is very, very, very, VERY difficult to distill into words. That's not a statement for or against the witness, it's simply an acknowledgement of the limitations of this blog as an analytical treatise, rather than a simple narrative.
And as someone who once thought "thermodynamics" was a sporting event in the Winter Olympics, it's also an indictment of my own scientific knowledge. I'm jesting there, of course. But not by much.
Here is my attempt to explain what the jury heard today -- things that are much bigger than me.
Witness: Richard Eikelenboom
Partner at Independent Forensic Service
Expert witness in the area of Touch DNA
On Tuesday morning, David Camm's defense team brought their next witness: Richard Eikelenboom.
Speaking with a thick Dutch accent, Eikelenboom told the jury he was originally from the Netherlands. The balding, middle-aged witness wore a white shirt, dark sportcoat and crimson tie.
"Is your first language Dutch?" defense attorney Stacy Uliana asked.
"Yes," Eikelenboom replied, adding that he hoped he was able to speak fluent English.
"Every once in a while, there's a word that trips you up," Uliana said.
"Yes," Eikelenboom admitted.
Eikelenboom explained that he was a forensic scientist who started his career by working at the national laboratory in the Netherlands, before leaving in 2005 to work with his wife at a private laboratory, called Independent Forensic Services. (He met his wife, incidentally, at a course on blood stain pattern analysis in Canada.)
He said he specialized in a relatively new area of forensic science called Touch DNA.
In the past, has he testified more for the prosecution, or for the defense?
"In the Netherlands, we don't have a jury system," he said, explaining that witnesses are not called to testify for one particular side. "You just testify for the court."
But, he added, most of his testimony in the United States has been for "law enforcement and the prosecution."
He has testified as an expert in cases in the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom and Australia.
He said next week, he planned to travel to Missouri, where he was expected to exhume a body and recover DNA evidence for a 30-year-old cold case.
Eikelenboom said his laboratory has a unique philosophy.
"The way we work is somewhat different than the bigger laboratories," he said, adding that his time working with those laboratories gave him the opinion that they were "compartmentalized."
"A lot of people were involved in the process," he said. "We don't think that's the best way to work."
Uliana asked him if he saw the bigger laboratories as "assembly lines" and Eikelenboom agreed, arguing that the investigator who obtains DNA evidence from a crime scene should follow that evidence all the way to the point when reports are made.
"Our lab doesn't leave anything behind," he would explain a few minutes later. "We're transparent...we always give DNA tables...then you can see for yourself how our results were obtained."
So what is "Touch DNA?"
Calling it a form of forensic evidence that is "very young," Eikelenboom explained that Touch DNA is DNA that "mainly comes from the hands." He said the greater forced that is applied by the hands, the stronger the chance that DNA evidence will be left.
"'Skin cells' and 'epithelial cells' are the terms we use a lot," he said.
He said Touch DNA profiles can come from items such as watches and frequently worn clothing (usually a strong profile), items used to forcefully bind victims, like tie wraps or duct tape (moderate profile) or skin cells left over from touching an object, like a doorknob (usually a weak profile).
Strangulation, he said, is a form of murder where Touch DNA can play a major role in finding the killer.
"If we're lucky, we'll get a good profile from that," he said.
He added that a suspect's stress level can also play a role in the amount of Touch DNA left at a scene, given that the more stressed out a suspect is, the greater the likelihood that they'll leave a profile, and "you don't kill someone every day."
He said the national lab in the Netherlands first began experimenting with Touch DNA in 1995.
Uliana asked if he believed Europe was ahead of the United States in this area of forensic science. Eikelenboom said that it was.
"The United Kingdom and the Netherlands -- we fully embraced it," he said.
Eikelenboom's testimony then turned toward the David Camm investigation. He told the jury he conducted about 355 DNA tests on a number of items of clothing involved in the case, including Kim Camm's sweater, Jill Camm's shirt and Charles Boney's grey sweatshirt. He said he also analyzed evidence related to nail clippings and finger swabs taken from Kim Camm.
"This case is complicated because we actually have two suspects," he said. "David Camm and Charles Boney."
Over the next few hours, he detailed his findings, most of which will be summarized here.
Eikelenboom told the jury that two abrasions on Kim Camm's left elbow, ranging from 0.1 inches to 4.03 inches, led him to examine the corresponding area of her sweater. He said that after conducting tests for Touch DNA, he discovered DNA consistent with Charles Boney on the left sleeve.
"This is the strongest support that Boney actually touched Kim Camm?" Uliana asked.
"Yes," Eikelenboom replied.
That's not the only place Eikelenboom claimed to have found Charles Boney's DNA. He said he also examined Kim Camm's underwear, and told the jury he found DNA consistent with Charles Boney in three places.
"Based on the DNA results, there is strong support for the hypothesis that Charles Boney donated DNA on the waistband on Kim Camm's underwear," Eikelenboom's PowerPoint demonstration stated.
He said that after examining Jill Camm's shirt, he found Touch DNA consistent with Charles Boney in the stomach area, noting prior testimony by prosecution witnesses that Jill Camm's body showed petechial hemorrhaging, which he described as "small breaks of small vessels," on Jill's chest.
He added that the person who left the Touch DNA evidence on Jill's shirt, "might have put pressure on the stomach area."
Eikelenboom told the jury he also examined Charles Boney's grey sweatshirt, which was found at the scene.
"Now I'm gonna ask my co-counsel to stand up and be my dummy," Uliana said, asking fellow defense attorney Richard Kammen to rise and don a mock-up of the grey sweatshirt so Eikelenboom could point out the areas of the sweatshirt that he tested.
"You've got to play to your strengths, your Honor," Kammen laughed, playing along.
Eikelenboom explained that he found DNA consistent with Kim Camm in three places on the shirt: 1) on the front of the right sleeve, near the cuff, 2) in the middle of the left sleeve, and, 3) in the abdominal area.
"Would that be consistent with a struggle?" Uliana asked.
"Yes," Eikelenboom said, adding that, "I don't know what really happened there, but we can form a hypothesis."
"That would support the hypothesis that there was fighting between the victim and the wearer of the shirt," he said, admitting a few moments later that this was only a hypothesis.
He would go on to testify that he found DNA consistent with Charles Boney in the finger
At one point, a graphic image of the bodies of Kim and Bradley Camm -- as they were found in the Camm family garage -- was flashed on several screens in the courtroom. It seemed to catch several people in the courtroom by surprise. Frank and Janice Renn -- the parents of Kim Camm and grandparents of Brad and Jill Camm -- quickly bowed their heads, as they frequently do when such images are shown. Several members of the Lockhart family averted their eyes as well.
Eikelenboom also testified that he looked at the contentious Area 30 of David Camm's t-shirt -- the area on the front of the shirt near the hem where witnesses for the prosecution say they found high-velocity impact spatter, while defense witnesses say the microscopic stains were caused by contact with Jill Camm's bloody hair.
Also controversial is a piece of tissue found in the same area as Jill Camm's blood stains. Prosecutors say the tissue belonged to Jill Camm and was part of the blowout from her gunshot wound. A defense witness has testified his belief that the tissue came from David Camm.
Today, Eikelenboom testified that when the DNA in Area 30 is combined, there is a mixture of DNA from both David Camm and Jill Camm -- with the majority of DNA coming from David Camm.
Uliana asked if body tissue would contribute more DNA than blood stains would.
"Well, blood is a very good source," Eikelenboom said. "But yes."
Cross examination begins
Late in the afternoon, Special Prosecutor Stan Levco began his cross examination of Eikelenboom.
"Mr. Eikelenboom, what is a proficiency test?" Levco asked.
After some prodding from Levco, Eikelenboom explained that -- among other things -- a proficiency test is "just a very small example of all the work you do on DNA."
Eikelenboom said he takes one proficiency test a year.
"Are you aware of your results in 2011 and 2012?" Levco asked.
"Yes," Eikelenboom replied.
Levco then produced some documents he attempted to place into evidence.
"Isn't this the proficiency test you furnished us that you took in 2011?"
Eikelenboom at first said he didn't recognize the proficiency test, but eventually recognized the writing of a co-worker on it. He said he supervised the co-worker's answers, giving his "stamp of approval."
"Is there any reason for these test results...to be less accurate than the results you testified to?" Levco asked. Eikelenboom said there was not.
Levco then confronted Eikelenboom about the his lab's performance against 10 other labs considered in the proficiency test, according to commentary on one of the documents he provided.
He asked Eikelenboom if his lab found two "unexpected alleles" on the proficiency test -- alleles that the other labs wouldn't verify. (Note: An "allele" is a genetics term that refers to a form of gene found on a chromosome.)
Eikelenboom denied that this was true, noting his lab's propensity to report everything, and adding that this finding was placed in brackets in the test to mark it as questionable.
"We never delete things," he said. "If it comes up, we put it in there."
"Okay, what question do you think I just asked you?" Levco demanded. "You don't think you did detect unexpected alleles?"
"When you put something in brackets, that means you're not sure that an allele is there, is that correct?" Levco added a moment later.
Eikelenboom became flustered and questioned the validity of the commentary on his lab's proficiency test, which was outlined in the document Levco handed him.
"It seems manipulated," he said. "I have to see the raw data."
At this point, Uliana objected to the admissibility of the commentary.
"I'm at a loss, and I think it's prejudicial and misleading," she said.
"Judge, it may be prejudicial," Levco said. "I don't think it's misleading...I think it's accurate."
Judge Jonathan Dartt allowed Levco to submit the document into evidence, but added that the defense would be allowed to question it's veracity.
Levco then asked Eikelenboom if he thought he would be removed from a case if he found unexpected alleles while working for a lab in the United States.
"Well it's not up to me," Eikelenboom said. "I'm not working for a lab in the United States."
"I don't know," he admitted a moment later.
Levco then asked Eikelenboom how much he's billed for his services in this case thus far. Eikelenboom said he'd billed about $200,000.
Levco was incredulous. He said that's the total Eikelenboom gave him when he questioned him four months ago in preparation for this trial.
"That was four months ago, and you're telling me you haven't checked in the last four months how much you've billed?" he demanded.
Eikelenboom said that was correct.
"It could be a $1 million, correct?" Levco asked.
Eikelenboom said it could.
A moment later, Judge Dartt adjourned court for the day.
Levco's cross examination of Eikelenboom is expected to resume tomorrow at 9 a.m.
Travis K. Kircher is a Web Producer for WDRB News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.