By Maureen Hayden CNHI Statehouse Bureau
---- — LEBANON - For the past two months, the extraordinary third murder trial of former state trooper David Camm has pitted two of Indiana’s most experienced litigators against each other.
Between them, special prosecutor Stan Levco and court-appointed public defender Richard Kammen have spent nearly eight decades in courtrooms, involved in a multitude of high-profile cases ranging from public corruption to terrorism.
That experience has proven invaluable, given the challenges that the Camm case presents: An error-filled investigation of a triple murder 13 years ago, two previous convictions overturned, appeals court rulings that bar the jury from hearing evidence of a motive, and contradictory testimony from forensic experts and other witnesses.
Presiding over the trial in Boone County is special judge Jonathan Dartt of Spencer County, who also has experience with high-profile cases. As a prosecutor, he argued successfully for the death penalty in a 2001 rape and murder case where the victim was a 15-year-old girl.
“Here you have a very complicated and difficult trial,” said retired Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, who knows Levco, Kammen and Dartt well. “I’d say its good fortune that such able people are all in the same room together to try to help the jury find their way to justice.”
Previous juries have tried. Camm has twice been convicted of the September 2000 slayings of his wife, Kimberly, and their two children, Bradley, 7, and Jill, 5, in the garage of their Floyd County home.
But both convictions were overturned. Each in case, the appeals courts found that testimony about Camm’s alleged motives – his extra-marital affairs in the first trial and evidence that his daughter had been sexually molested in the second trial -- shouldn’t have been heard by the juries because it wasn’t connected by the prosecution to the murders.
Levco, Dartt and Kammen were all appointed to their roles in the third trial. Dartt was picked by the Indiana Supreme Court after the previous trial judge was removed from the case; Dartt then appointed Levco after the former prosecutor was removed from the case. Dartt also appointed Kammen, after the Floyd County public defender’s office claimed a conflict of interest in representing Camm, whose relatives had paid for his first two defense teams.
Both Levco and Kammen have co-counsels with significant experience aiding them: Boone County Prosecutor Keith Meyer, now in his third term; and criminal defense attorney Stacy Uliana, who worked on Camm’s second trial and helped win the reversal of that conviction.
“I’m sure nobody wants a fourth trial,” said Indianapolis criminal defense attorney Kevin McShane, whose been watching the case since Camm’s first conviction was overturned in 2002. “So there is pressure on everybody.”
To reduce some of the pressure and to avoid a jury tainted by the publicity surrounded the case, Dartt moved the third trial far away from the crime scene to Boone County, north of Indianapolis. But the trial is still being covered heavily by the media, including CBS’s 48 Hours and NBC News.
Levco, Kammen and Dartt are accustomed to the scrutiny.
In his five terms as a prosecutor in Vanderburgh County, Levco argued more death penalty cases than any other prosecutor in the state. Two of those cases involved men accused of murdering their wives and families.
His work as a special prosecutor includes the 2008 case of Glenn Murphy Jr., former national president of the Young Republicans, who was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual battery. Earlier this year, Levco successfully prosecuted a former Democratic Party county chairman, Butch Morgan, and three others for their roles in forging names on petitions needed to get Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the 2008 primary election ballot.
David Powell, head of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said Levco’s reputation as a fearless and diligent prosecutor with a talent for translating complicated evidence into a narrative that a jury can understand has won him respect from his peers.
“There are prosecutors all over this state who’ve helped him with research on this case, without getting paid for any of that extra work,” Powell said. “He can pick up the phone, call them at any time of the day or night and they’ll answer. That’s how much they respect him.”
Kammen has handled more than a dozen federal and state death-penalty trials, including a 2010 case in which he persuaded a jury to spare the life of a Michigan man convicted of gunning down an armored guard during a bank heist. In another case, he won an acquittal for a defendant whose earlier death penalty conviction had been overturned.
Kammen, who started practicing law in 1971, also has expertise in defending white-collar criminals in federal court. But his expertise in murder cases is what lead to what may be his highest profile case: In 2011, he was appointed to defend accused war criminal Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Guantanamo Bay detainee charged with masterminding the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole battleship that killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 others. The case has yet to go to trial.
Joel Schumm, who teaches who teaches at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, said Kammen has built a national reputation for taking on tough cases.
“He’s certainly one of the best known, most respected criminal defense lawyer in Indiana and beyond,” said Schumm.
The final work on the Camm trial begins Monday, with Levco and Kammen set to deliver final arguments. The case is expected to go the jury Monday afternoon.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at email@example.com