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Supreme Court orders special judge for third high-profile trial

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The Indiana Supreme Court has appointed a southern Indiana judge to preside over the third trial of a former state trooper charged with murdering his family a decade ago, and one of the initial decisions he’ll consider is whether to move the trial outside that region.

Granting what is sometimes known as a “lazy judge” motion under Indiana Trial Rule 53.1(F), the state’s highest court issued an order Friday that removes Warrick Superior Judge Robert Aylsworth from the case of David R. Camm, a former Indiana State Police trooper accused of killing his wife and two young children at their home in September 2000. Spencer Circuit Judge Jonathan A. Dartt will now hear the case.

Camm has been convicted twice for the murders, once in Floyd County and again in Warrick County after the trial was moved, but both times those convictions were reversed on appeal. Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson decided late last year after the latest remand that he’d pursue a third trial, and attorneys have been sparring back and forth since then about where to hold the case to ensure a fair trial.

Camm’s defense attorneys had asked the Supreme Court to appoint a special judge after Judge Aylsworth failed to rule on a venue change motion within 30 days, as required by the trial rules. The defense had filed a motion to move the case out of Warrick County to northern Indiana because of media exposure. Judge Aylsworth sent questionnaires to 200 potential jurors to determine how much they knew about the case and whether a fair trial could be held there. Camm had filed a motion in mid-April to seek a new venue. The state objected April 30, Camm filed a response May 6, and then Camm’s defense attorneys filed the special judge request 33 days after that.

Defense attorney Stacy Uliana in Indianapolis couldn’t be immediately reached for comment today, but Floyd County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owens said a decision had been put on hold for the past month since the special judge request had been filed.

Now, Judge Dartt will be responsible for all hearings in that case, including the venue change motion and likely the third trial no matter where it’s held.

Both sides have disputed what the surveys reveal about the venue location – Henderson said the prosecution could easily select an impartial jury in Warrick County because more than 50 of the 176 who responded had little or no knowledge of the case; while Uliana said at least half responded that they believed Camm is guilty and that means they’re tainted in that part of the state.

Owens doesn’t foresee any change in how the case is handled, but he does expect that the special judge will need to take some time to get up to speed and review Judge Aylsworth’s work before moving ahead. No new court dates had been scheduled as of this afternoon, he said.

“The case is prosecuted the same no matter what county you’re in, what prosecutor or judge you have,” Owens said. “This will have no impact on us, and Judge Dartt knows best about how it may proceed.”
 

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