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The David Camm Case: An American Miscarriage of Justice

This August, former Indiana State Trooper David Camm will go on trial for the third time in the murder of his wife and two young children, Jill, age five,  and Brad, age seven. His two previous convictions have been overturned on appeal. David Camm is completely innocent. Along with the horrific loss of his family, David has spent the last 12 years in prison. After years of botched investigations it is now plain as day that the crime was committed alone by a career criminal named Charles Boney, a man with a long history of armed violence against women and no known connection to David Camm.

But the evidence against Boney only emerged five years into the investigation when the courts finally compelled prosecutors to run previously unidentified DNA through a national criminal database. The search produced an immediate hit and police quickly determined that his fingerprints and clothing had also been left at the crime scene.  Boney had been released from prison only a few months prior to the murder after having spent 10 of the last 11 years behind bars. His crimes included eight separate attacks on thirteen different women, including three incidents where the victims were held at gunpoint.  Always he acted without accomplices.

As often happens in miscarriages of justice, the prosecution team, instead of properly reassessing new “game changing” evidence, simply modified their theory to include a conspiracy between the person already convicted and the newly identified suspect. Boney was convicted of the murder in early 2006 and sentenced to 225 years in prison.

The Case

On September 28, 2000 at  9:35 PM, David Camm arrived home after playing basketball at a nearby gym for about two hours.  In the family garage he found the bodies of his wife and two children.  All had been shot to death.  The murder weapon was a .380 semi-automatic pistol  that has never been recovered.

Between the time of his frantic call to police and the arrival of first responders, David had tried to revive his wife and two children.  Blood, tissue, and gunshot residue from the victims were transferred to his clothing at this time. The most contentious piece of evidence against David would later turn out to be the opinion of a prosecution expert that patterns of blood on David’s shirt were actually “high velocity impact spatter” (HVIS), indicative of a shooting at close range.

David Camm  was playing basketball at a local gym at the time of the killings.  All eleven people in the game vouch for his presence there from slightly before 7:00 PM until 9:22 PM when the building’s alarm was set.  Based on examination of the level of coagulation of pools of blood at the crime scene, it is undisputed that David could not have committed the crime immediately before calling police.  Prosecutors allege that he must have left the basketball game and returned, an assertion  flatly contradicted by ten people at the gym.  David’s son was also found in the same swim trunks he was wearing at a local pool between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM that day, meaning that the crime was almost certainly committed about the time the family returned home around 7:35 PM.

David Camm was arrested a few days later and went on trial in early 2002.  The main evidence against him was the testimony of two controversial experts in Blood Spatter Pattern Analysis (BSPA), Rodney Englert and Robert Stites.

The prosecution asserted that eight small spots of blood at the bottom of David’s shirt were high velocity impact spatter resulting from a shot he had fired.  Defense experts testified that the spots were consistent with David’s claim of reaching over his daughter to remove his son from the car.

Even though the Indiana State Police had a blood spatter expert available, Sergeant Dean Marks, they decided to spend nearly $300,000 on Stites and Englert.  Rod Englert is best known for his bitter feud with the acknowledged foremost expert in the field, Dr. Herbert MacDonell.  According to court documents from a defamation suit filed by Englert, MacDonell had called Englert a “forensic whore” and a “liar-for-hire”.  Stites had no experience in crime scene analysis at the time of the murder and seriously misrepresented his educational background in sworn testimony during the first trial.

The first jury was also evidently heavily influenced by the testimony of several women who had had extra-marital affairs with David.  This type of testimony can be powerful stuff in the Bible belt but an appellate court ruled it was irrelevant and found it the basis for overturning the first conviction.

Charles Boney

Police had known all along of a sweatshirt left at the crime scene inscribed with the name “Backbone.” It contained the unknown DNA of both a man and a woman, along with blood from the victims.  There was also a high quality unidentified hand print on the door of the Ford Bronco driven by Kim.  The prosecutor in the first trial, Stan Faith, had known Boney’s mother for years and actually represented him in civil matters several years after the murder. The defense had long called for the unknown DNA to be put through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) but it was delayed for years.

Finally, in early 2005, the DNA was run through the database and Boney was identified as a suspect. The fingerprint was his and the female DNA was of his then girlfriend, Mala Singh Mattingly. Boney’s DNA had been in the CODIS system since 1997, four years before the murder.  His nickname in prison was “Backbone.”

Early on Charles Boney did not believe in the Fifth Amendment.  In two important CBS 48 Hours documentaries about the case, he speaks openly and confidently with investigators and CBS News.  In one interview following the identification of his DNA on the sweatshirt, but prior to the matching of his handprint, he confidently proclaims that he was never at the Camm house and had never met David Camm.

He provides specific details of how he had dropped off the sweatshirt at a Salvation Army location. When he finds out that his fingerprint had also been identified, his story changes dramatically.  He now says he was there and had watched David Camm shoot his family with a gun he had just bought from Boney.

When interviewed by investigators, Charles Boney repeatedly changes his story.  In his own words:

Q:  “Did you ever have contact with David Camm?”
Boney: “I’ve never met him before… I’ve never heard of him prior to the case…nor have I ever worked around him, played ball with him, and I’m a ball player too.” 17-Feb-05

Q: “Have you ever had possession of any gun since you got out of prison?”
Boney: “No. There’s no need for me to have possession of any weapon.”  17-Feb-05

Boney: “My fingerprints would not appear at that crime scene because first and foremost, once again, I would have had to have been there in order for my fingerprints to appear at the crime scene.”  28-Feb-05

Boney: “I first met David Camm July 2000 at Community Park.  We played ball against one another and I lost that game.” 4-Mar-05

Boney: “When I discussed the purchasing of a handgun to David Camm I was in his Bronco.  David Camm paid me two hundred fifty dollars for a 300 or for a 380 uh…caliber weapon.”  4-Mar-05

Q: “Did you see David Camm shoot Kim Camm?”
Boney: “I didn’t actually see him shoot her, I just heard the pop.  And when I heard the pop that’s when I looked.”  7-Mar-05.

Curiously the above recorded statements were admissible in Boney’s trial but not in David’s second trial which occurred around the same time in early 2006.  Defense attorneys had sought to present the interviews based on David’s Sixth Amendment right to present a defense.  The judge ruled it was hearsay – it isn’t – and the jury never knew of Boney’s repeated lies about his role.

In the upcoming third trial, the interviews will  be admissible as “prior inconsistent statements.”  The difference is that in the third trial Boney will be compelled to testify while in the second he was able to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  In the upcoming trial Boney’s Fifth Amendment rights do not apply because he has already been convicted and his appeals have been exhausted.

The unidentified female DNA on the sweatshirt was of Boney’s then girlfriend, Mala Singh Mattingly.  When interviewed by police she describes how Boney showed her a gun in the period immediately following the killing and she goes on to describe injuries to his knee. There is not a shred of evidence of any association between Boney and Camm.  There are no emails, text messages, phone calls between the two and no witness has ever seen them together.

In the late 80’s while attending the University of Indiana, Boney had been involved in a series of bizarre attacks where he stole women’s shoes.  Typically he would wrestle the woman to the ground and abscond with one shoe.  There were five such attacks of which he was convicted for three and served a few months in a county jail.  A bad check conviction ended his probation and he returned to jail until the summer of 1992.

Only a few months after his release Boney was back to his old ways, but this time he used a gun.  In three separate incidents he held his victims at gunpoint while robbing them.  The first robbery targeted a taxi driver and the other two involved groups of female University of Indiana students.   Arrested at gunpoint, Boney did the next eight years in prison and was released in June 2000, only three months prior to the Camm family murders.

The Upcoming Trial

David Camm was convicted for a second time in early 2006.  The defense was crippled by their inability to properly submit evidence related to Boney, particularly the videos where he lies through his teethe about his involvement. Prosecutors also used allegations that David Camm had molested his daughter even though there was not a shred of evidence to believe that it might have happened.  The Indiana Supreme Court agreed there was no evidence to suggest molestation and overturned the conviction because prosecutors had used the unsupported allegation in closing statements.

So how was David Camm ever convicted? The testimony of the blood spatter experts was apparently critical.  While blood spatter analysis can be valuable in some cases, it remains more an art than a science.  At the time of the killings, Robert Stites had never had any formal training in blood spatter analysis.  In the first trial he testified under oath that he was working toward a PhD in fluid dynamics and that he taught physics at the college level.  In fact he hadn’t taken any college classes in years and was not enrolled in any masters or PhD program.  The defense considered this testimony to be perjury.

The case also illustrates the need for public access to the CODIS database. Most undisputed miscarriages of justice feature long overdue analysis of DNA that points to a new suspect.  At present police and prosecutors have free access to CODIS while defense attorneys do not.  The restrictions are based on privacy concerns, but why not allow access to the information without revealing real names until there is a hit?  In David’s case prosecutor Stan Faith had even told defense attorneys in 2002 that the sweatshirt DNA had been run through CODIS without a hit which was completely false.

David Camm’s third trial will take place in August 2013 with a new judge and prosecutor.  By all accounts the defense strategy will focus on Charles Boney. What is the most likely scenario?  A murder by a lone intruder with a long history of armed violence and incarceration or a collaboration between him and the family’s father.  If the jury looks only at the evidence, their decision should be obvious.