Oct. 24, 2013
LEBANON, Ind. (WDRB) -- On Oct. 24, 2013, shortly after 12:30 p.m., a Boone County jury acquitted defendant David Camm of three counts of murder.
The courtroom was packed, filled with representatives of the Renn, Camm and Lockhart families, as well as media and curious onlookers. Several chairs were added to the back of the courtroom to accommodate the interest.
I personally counted 12 law enforcement members standing in the room, representing the Boone County Sheriff's Office, as well as the Lebanon Police Department.
Court was gaveled into session. I couldn't tell exactly what time because the digital clock at the front of the courtroom didn't have a reading -- and my cell phone was turned off.
"Thank you, be seated, and good morning!" Judge Jonathan Dartt said.
He began by issuing a stern warning.
"I know for all of you this is an emotional event," he said, but he added that he wanted to "remind everyone this is a courtroom."
He warned everyone against emotional outbursts, telling them a story of a case he sat on in which several people became irate when the verdict was delivered.
"About 12 people were in jail the whole next day," Judge Dartt said, dryly.
"Cell phones should also be off," he said.
Moments later: "Let's bring the jury in. All rise!"
Everyone stood, including defendant David Camm, who was near the front of the courtroom in a black sport coat and blue and red striped tie.
The jury filed in.
Judge Dartt: Have they reached a verdict?
"We have your honor," said a female juror. It is the first time we've heard her speak in two months.
The verdict was delivered to Judge Dartt by the bailiff and he began to read: On the count of the murder of Kim Camm: Not Guilty. On the count of the murder of Bradley Camm: Not Guilty. On the count of the murder of Jill Camm: Not Guilty.
From the first "not guilty," there was a collective gasp from several in the Lockhart family, then many of them burst into tears. Donnie Camm -- David Camm's brother -- was wearing what appeared to be a red baseball jersey with the word "Camm" on the back, and was rocking and weeping. Julie Blankenbaker, David Camm's sister, was crying. Gary Dunn, a private investigator for the defense team, was crying. Katharine Liell, David Camm's defense attorney in his second trial, was crying.
David Camm himself was weeping, with loud sobs coming from the front of the courtroom.
The jurors appeared unemotional.
It was a different story on the other side of the room. Frank and Janice Renn sat in their chairs, their heads bowed, silently.
Judge Dartt congratulated the jurors, as well as the alternates, adding that, "sometimes the alternates have the worst job in the world." He then ordered that David Camm be escorted out of the courtroom "for processing and release."
When the final "All rise" was called, Camm stood only briefly, then seemed to sink back into his chair, sobbing.
His defense team asked if he could meet with four of his family members before he was escorted from the courtroom.
As court was adjourned, several Lockhart family members applauded.
Frank and Janice Renn still sat quietly on the other side of the courtroom, their heads bowed. It appeared that family friends were praying with them.
Moments later, everyone having anything to do with The State of Indiana vs. David Camm was asked to leave the courthouse.
* * *
(NOTE: The following blog entry was written on Monday, Oct. 21, and Tuesday, Oct. 22, days before the verdicts were read. This will serve as the final entry in this blog, which was created to cover The State of Indiana vs. David Camm.)
LEBANON, Ind. (WDRB) – If you're reading this, it means the jury in the third David Camm triple murder trial has finally delivered its verdict.
The trial is over. No doubt, by now you – the reader – know the verdict. I don't have that luxury. I'm writing from the past. At this moment, I'm sitting at a desk, writing from a hotel room in the Holiday Inn Express in Brownsburg. It's 9:45 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, the night before attorneys expect to deliver closing arguments and give this case to the jury.
I have no idea what the verdict is. I'm writing this now because I have to say what I have to say unpoisoned by any foreknowledge of the outcome of this case.
First: to the jury – and that includes not just the 12 jurors themselves, but the seven alternates as well. Can I be the first to say congratulations? You have endured one of the longest, most expensive trials in Indiana history. I'm just a layman, but everyone I've talked to says you're spot on. You've been attentive. You've asked roughly 200 questions (many of which had subparts – SUBPARTS!) and – at least at this point – none of you have been excused. You've successfully served on a David Camm trial, and that's an experience very, very few in this world have shared. It's also an experience that very, very few in this world can relate to.
Can I be blunt? I'm glad I'm not you. Everyone I have talked to is glad they're not you. There's not a fiber in my being that would want to be you. I'm sorry to put it in those terms, but compared to what you do, we in the media have it easy. We just report the facts of this trial, without bias, and bearing no responsibility for its outcome. We are not required to form an opinion – in fact, in our business, neutrality is a virtue. We are the Switzerlands of the courtroom.
You on the other hand, must reach a decision – one that will dramatically affect the lives, not just of David Camm, but of countless family members on either side of this case. You must live by that decision for the rest of your lives. And no matter what you decide, someone is going to think you're dreadfully, woefully, indescribably wrong.
I'll say it again: I'm glad I'm not you.
As I said, closing arguments are tomorrow, and many of us in the media are trying to guess how long you'll deliberate. I spoke with one woman who thinks you'll have this case decided in two hours. Another believes we'll still be here on the weekend. Fair enough. I'm willing to put my guess on paper: I'm guessing the verdict will come down on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 4 p.m.
But you will, of course, take as long as you need.
To the attorneys in this case: Thanks for showing us how the pros do it! Whenever I saw Stan Levco and Todd Meyer, I knew the defense was going to be gritting their teeth at some argument they disagreed with or some technical piece of evidence they feared might implicate their client. You gave them a run for their money. That's what good prosecutors do. Conversely, I don't think I've ever seen defense attorneys go to the mat for their client like Richard Kammen and Stacy Uliana have. I didn't know what a "stutter" or an "allele" was before this trial. In fact, I STILL don't. But you mastered the finer points of DNA terminology because it was your job to see reasonable doubt there. You are the wizards of reasonable doubt.
And Judge Dartt: In additional to being a professional judge, thanks for lending tactful humor to a trial that would otherwise be grim, depressing and draining. Regardless of how dreary things got, we could always count on a daily witticism from you – whether it be about what's on the lunch menu (like Butterfinger Cake from Brenda Cubbard), or the daily grind of legal logistics. That would often put a smile on the face of everyone in the courtroom – and that's an accomplishment in a triple murder trial involving children.
And most importantly, to the families in this case: Over the course of the past 10 weeks, we've gotten to know you. We've seen you in hotels, we ran into you in restaurants, cafes, and on the street. We've spoken with you at length about this case –on camera, on the phone and privately. And although emotions always ran high, you were respectful, both to us and to each other.
To the Renn family: Frank and Janice, you have endured four trials – and countless graphic images – with dignity and grace. You say much with few words, and the adjectives that first come to mind when I think of you are "quiet strength." You once told me that the driving reason – or reasons – that bring you to this courtroom every day are Kim, Brad and Jill. I have no doubt that they would be proud of you, and honored by your faithfulness. Thanks for handling our endless barrage of questions with kindness, even when they were inconvenient.
To the Lockhart family: I hope David Camm – whether he's guilty or not -- understands how blessed he is to have family members who stand behind him the way you do. It seems clear that you believe he's innocent. I've said before that the easy way out for you would be to simply give up on David Camm – to satisfy so many in the general public and just move on. But you risk anger, time, money, resources, to stand up for what you believe is right. There's a word for that: it's called integrity.
Many have commented – rightfully so – on the gruesomeness of this case. Specifically, the horrific images of dead children this jury has been subjected to repeatedly. The images are so saddening, they become seared – like a brand -- into your mind. That's not something you ever forget. It's disheartening for us in the media. I can't imagine what it's like for those directly impacted by the loss.
But several in the courtroom drew strength, despite the horror. My Christian faith tells me we will all – all of us – see Brad and Jill alive again, and in turn, glorify God. The word we most commonly use to describe this is "hope." That brings comfort enough to me as a dispassionate observer. I know it brings immeasurably more comfort to those in the courtroom who actually knew them, who share that faith.
Regarding the verdict, which still, as I write this, hasn't come. There's no doubt that one side in this case is going to be horrified at the verdict, regardless of which way it falls. If you believe Camm is guilty, you believe he has committed one of the coldest, most calculated, most selfish acts that can be imagined. He wanted out. He killed his own. He murdered his wife and children. The thought of him getting away with that is unimaginable.
Conversely, if you believe he's innocent, the idea of a guilty verdict is equally horrific. A guilty verdict will imprison a man – a victim who did nothing wrong – behind bars, probably for the rest of his life. Not only has his wife and children been taken from him, but also his freedom, his reputation, holidays, vacations, experiences with his family and countless other life experiences.
My only response to this is the same response of Prospective Juror #62 – a man who never made it to the jury. An elderly man with gray hair and a bald spot, #62 served in Vietnam. He's also worked at racetracks and serves at an institute for higher learning that focuses on engineering. When he was questioned in the courtroom, on Aug. 13, he was asked about his biases in this case, and ultimately, admitted that there was a tiny part of him that felt David Camm was guilty. But he was respectful, telling him "I wish you all the best."
He said something else. Something poignant here:
"Ultimately, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will judge the defendant."
Again, the word for those of faith, is "hope." Hope that, in the final analysis – when it's all said and done -- all wrongs will be righted. The accounts will be settled. The scales will be balanced. That will be the final outcome, even if the guilty man is set free, or the innocent man is imprisoned.
Thanks to everyone who has been following this blog for the past couple of months. Many of you have sent in your encouragement, via e-mails or online comments. And several of you have come up to us personally and spoken with us in the courtroom. We're honored that you would trust us to provide you with coverage of this trial.
More than anything, I hope we were fair. And I hope we covered this case in a way that was respectful of the parties involved, especially Kim, Brad and Jill.
This concludes the David Camm Blog, which covered the trial beginning with jury selection on Aug. 12, to the final verdict.
-Travis K. Kircher
Travis K. Kircher is a Web Producer for WDRB News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.