David Camm attends Innocence Network Conference
PORTLAND, Ore. (WDRB) -- He spent 13 years behind bars, then a jury acquitted him of killing his family. Six months later, David Camm is moving forward with his life as a free man.
WDRB News followed Camm on his journey across the country, where he met with dozens of people who know his situation all too well.
For the last 13 years, the only traveling Camm has done involved police escorts and courtrooms. This weekend, he's a long way from Kentuckiana.
"In fact, this is the farthest I've ever traveled," said Camm.
Camm is hundreds of miles away in Portland, Ore.
"I'm not the only person that has experienced the negative side of the justice system -- experienced its faults, its weaknesses," Camm said.
In Portland, Camm comes face-to-face with dozens of people who share an unfortunate bond with him.
"And it will be good to meet with some of the other folks that have been through the same thing that I've been through," said Camm.
What Camm has been through is a 13-year journey to clear his name and earn his freedom. Despite an alibi and the testimony of 11 basketball players, two juries found the former Indiana State Police trooper guilty of killing his wife and two children in the garage of their Georgetown, Ind. home in Sept. 2000. Both convictions were overturned on appeal. After questionable evidence was banned from his third trial in October of last year, a third jury acquitted him, believing Charles Boney committed the crimes.
"You know, my family loves me, they support me, they are there for me, but they really don't know what it has been like," explained Camm.
At the conference, Camm rubs elbows with people who do know what it has been like, including some who have made national news like Amanda Knox, who is still fighting to clear her name.
Camm explains, "I had followed her case closely when she was going through that as with some others -- Ryan Ferguson also. You can walk around this place and you hear the stories and you know that Dave Camm is not the only person that has been falsely accused and convicted of a crime that he didn't commit."
That's why, despite having a full-time job, Camm is also working with the organization that helped free him: Investigating Innocence.
"It would be extraordinarily selfish of me not to do that," he said. "And I think I owe those people. I have an obligation to try to do something to try to help so that's our goal with investigating innocence."
"David's case has been one of the highlights of my professional career," said Bill Clutter with Investigating Innocence.
Clutter started Investigating Innocence after years of working with The Innocence Project. He helped disprove bloodstain pattern analysis that convicted Camm in his first trial.
"There's a consensus among blood stain pattern experts that these eight tiny stains that were on his shirt were transfer stains when he came into contact with his daughter's hairs," explained Clutter.
During the conference, Camm not only met other high-profile exonerees, but he also meets the man who started it all.
"I think I have met more individuals who have been wrongfully convicted than probably anyone in this country or walking this planet," says Barry Scheck, Innocence Project Director.
If Scheck's name sounds familiar, it's because he was part of the "Dream Team" that won OJ Simpson's acquittal in his murder trial. He has also followed the Camm case closely.
"Bill Clutter and his whole group and everybody who got behind it did a fantastic job," said Scheck.
In 2000, Scheck also helped clear a Louisville man, William Gregory, who spent several years in prison for a rape and burglary. DNA evidence later showed he didn't commit those crimes.
Scheck says, "William was arrested based on a ridiculous identification in one of the cases...and then they followed up on a second one, but there was a third and a fourth with a similar M.O. that he couldn't have done because he was in jail."
"And then we actually brought a civil lawsuit that changed that way that the city and county of Louisville did eyewitness identification procedures, because they had procedures in place that were unreliable," he added.
As director of the Innocence Project, Scheck specializes in clearing the wrongfully convicted, but it was hard to resist asking him more about the Simpson case.
Scheck says, "Not a lot of good came out of the Simpson case for the criminal justice system."
"Now the client, OJ, has always insisted on his innocence, and I have a duty of loyalty to him," he added. "It's not like he said to his lawyers, 'Hey, I did this.'"
What might be surprising is his answer when we asked him about the verdicts in Simpson's criminal and civil cases.
"Well, I think that both verdicts were right. The verdict of the criminal jury, that it wasn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt, I think that, given the evidence that jury had was the correct one. Then there was the civil case where the burden is more likely than not by a preponderance of the evidence, and I think that jury, given the evidence they had, did a good job as well," explained Scheck.
These days, Scheck is using his experience to help people like Camm and Knox. He says the innocence network conference was created to help them see they are not alone.
"It became very important for people to talk to each other and for the exonerees themselves to see other people who have been walking in those shoes. Because it's so impossible for the rest of us to understand what it's like to go through the worst nightmare imaginable and that is being convicted of a crime that you didn't commit."
Scheck says he understands why public opinion -- which in the past has been against Camm -- is slow to change.
"People get locked in," he said. "They have tunnel vision, they have confirmation bias, hindsight bias and, you know, it gets very hard to admit errors."
The conference ends with a banquet and videos of the exonerees. Then, one-by-one, they're brought on stage. It is a move that, despite 13 years, causes David Camm to have lots of emotions.
"Actually a bit overwhelming, not only the experience for me personally but seeing the number of people up there," says Camm. "What does it mean to be around other people who have been through the same thing?" Well, as I've said before, I mean, my family loves me, they've been behind me, they supported me throughout the entirety of this thing but they don't know the depth of what I've been through the last 13 years. Those folks on the stage down there do."
"You know, there's nothing set in place that would help a person to readjust into society, like with health insurance and getting a job and having a place to stay," Camm added. "You're just...one minute you're in and the next minute you're out."
And how did David Camm feel about going on-stage to share his experience?
"Well, it's really a mixed bag of emotions," Camm said. "It's nice to be acknowledged for surviving, I guess, and for people to acknowledge their understanding of what you've been through, and it is also, you have negative emotions because you know what everyone has been through...so it's multi-layered, the way that I felt about the whole thing. It is all positive and I enjoyed it, but it's a damn shame that so many people have been through such tragic times for nothing."
And finally, what's next for David Camm? Is he going to move forward with a lawsuit against the state of Indiana?
"Ah, yes I will be," Camm said. "Because you feel like they owe you. Well, they took 13 years of my life. Not only did they not even allow me to attend the funerals of my wife and my children, but discredit me as a human being and a person and take away my identity. The state of Indiana and all of its representatives have stolen 13 years of my life and that's not right and somebody needs to pay for that."
Camm says a Louisville law firm will represent him in his lawsuit against the state.
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