Indiana family's 2000 killings could go to third trial

Published: .
Updated: .

Indianapolis - Jill Camm should be looking forward to starting high school, texting her friends about homework, gossip and boys. But she never got the chance to experience the joys and angst of life as a teenager.

She died in her family's southern Indiana garage in 2000, fatally shot alongside her brother and their mother. Prosecutors have tried for nearly a decade to prove that her father, a former state trooper, fired the gun.

David Camm has protested his innocence to two juries. Both found him guilty in the Sept. 28, 2000, deaths of Jill, 5, Bradley, 7, and Kimberly Camm, 35. Twice state appeals courts set aside those verdicts. Today, Camm remains locked away in prison, waiting to see whether he will face a third trial in his family's murders.

"My biggest hope is that the prosecutor would look at this and say, 'I can't get a conviction without some new evidence,"' said Sam Lockhart, Camm's uncle. "And at that point, Dave will go free."

The case already has cost county prosecutors nearly $3 million, and another trial could add millions more to the tab. Prosecutors could be hamstrung by rulings that have stripped the state of much of its case. And finding an impartial jury could require traveling to the opposite end of the state. Equally as taxing is the emotional toll the case has taken on two families, one convinced of Camm's innocence and the other equally certain of his guilt.

"It's a shame ... the family has to be dragged back through the hell they've been through for the past eight years," said Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, who handled Camm's second trial in 2006.

The prospect of a third trial arose in June after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled prosecutors inflamed the jury at the second trial by arguing without any evidence that Camm had molested his daughter. The state has asked the court to reconsider and allow the guilty verdict to stand, and a decision on that request could take months.

Legal experts say that's unlikely to happen. Joel Schumm, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis who once clerked for the state high court, called a reversal "virtually impossible." Defense attorneys say they already are preparing for a third trial.

In striking down the first two convictions, state appeals courts have rejected two of the prosecutors' main arguments - that Camm killed his family at their home in Georgetown, Ind., 13 miles north of Louisville, Ky., so he could pursue extramarital affairs, and that he molested his daughter. Camm's family and attorneys have argued the three were slain by someone else while he played basketball in a church gymnasium with 11 other people.

"Based on the first and second reversals, the state is going to have no motive - none," said retired Indiana University law professor Henry Karlson, who helped write an appellate brief after Camm's first trial.

One man already is serving 225 years in the case. Charles Boney, who was linked to the murder scene by DNA testing after Camm's first conviction was reversed, was found guilty in 2006 of helping Camm with the murders. Lockhart said testimony from Boney could be a key to a third trial.

"I think there's a lot of things that haven't been answered yet, and I think the person that has to answer is Charles Boney," he said.

Stan Faith, who handled the first case against Camm, still believes tiny blood stains on Camm's clothing prove he was close to his daughter when she was shot. Defense experts testified that Camm likely got blood on him after discovering the bodies.

"Unless the laws of physics were suspended in that garage at that time, Mr. Camm was within four feet of a high-energy event that left blood spatter all over him," Faith said.

The trials of Camm and Boney have cost county prosecutors alone $2.9 million. In 2007, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill - motivated by the Camm case - requiring the state to help pay for criminal retrials ordered by state appellate courts. But that bill sets a limit of $50,000 in reimbursement per trial.

The prospect of more high-tech forensic testing, more expert witnesses and a possible change of venue to avoid widespread pretrial publicity in southern Indiana could make a third trial the most expensive yet. The state, which paid defense expenses but not legal fees in the second trial, would also bear the entire defense cost this time because the Camm family can no longer afford the legal fees.

Neither side relishes the prospect. Janice Renn, Kimberly Camm's mother, has said the 2006 deliberations were torture because "we have to relive it every day." Lockhart said a third trial would be bearable - only if it results in his nephew's freedom.

"I don't look forward to it, but you've got to go through whatever you've got to go through to get to the end result," he said.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)