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Prosecutor faces ethics sanction for book deal in Camm case

August 24, 2016
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Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson should be reprimanded by the Indiana Supreme Court for a book deal on a high-profile murder case against former Indiana State Trooper David Camm, recommends a hearing officer in Henderson’s discipline case. The hearing officer blasted the conduct of lawyers on both sides of the ethics matter.

Meanwhile, Camm was awarded $450,000 in a settlement with Floyd County parties — chiefly investigators — announced Aug. 16, days after the Indiana Supreme Court received the report recommending Henderson’s discipline.

Camm spent years behind bars after he was twice convicted of murdering his wife, Kim, and children Brad, 7, and Jill, 5, in 2000 in Georgetown. Camm was found guilty in the first two trials, but both convictions were overturned, and in 2013, he was acquitted after a third trial.

In 2014, Camm sued Henderson and more than two dozen others in a 74-page, 10-count civil-rights complaint alleging he was framed. As a state employee, Henderson is not among the parties who settled. He remains among the “primary bad actors” from whom Camm is seeking $30 million in damages in federal court, said his attorney in that case, Garry Adams of Louisville. “We will continue to march forward” against Henderson and other defendants, “until we either reach resolution or trial,” Adams said.

The suit claims, among other things, malicious prosecution, fabricated evidence, the employment of fake experts, and investigators’ failure to pursue evidence that pointed to another suspect —a felon on probation with a long history of violent crimes.

“We think it’s pretty clear Charles Boney was the murderer and acted alone,” Adams said. The complaint points to such overlooked physical evidence as Boney’s blood-stained, prison-issued sweatshirt and his DNA and fingerprints that were left at the crime scene. Boney was convicted in the murders in 2005 and is serving a 225-year prison sentence.

Adams said Henderson’s continued prosecution of Camm despite such evidence added years to Camm’s incarceration.

‘Gamesmanship’ in discipline case

While Camm was appealing his second conviction, Henderson agreed with a book publisher to co-author a book on the Camm case. Ten days after Henderson received a $1,700 check from the publisher, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed Camm’s second conviction, according to the record in Henderson’s discipline case.

Henderson ultimately returned the check and the book deal was later abandoned. At the time Camm’s second conviction was overturned, though, he wrote his agent and co-author that the Camm case was “a great story that needs to be told. However, the book cannot come out prior to the completion of a potential third trial. It would jeopardize the case, potentially getting me removed from the case due to certain disclosure and opinions we are writing into the book. This cannot happen,” the record says. The Court of Appeals eventually removed Henderson from the third Camm trial because of the book deal.

The hearing officer in Henderson’s discipline case, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP partner David Pippen, highlighted the struggles the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission had in getting evidence into the record and the highly combative posture between commission lawyers and Henderson’s counsel, Barnes & Thornburg LLP partner Don Lundberg.

In his findings of facts and report recommending the Supreme Court reprimand Henderson, Pippen wrote he “was disappointed to encounter the inability to conduct attorney conferences without a court reporter because the two sides do not trust each other, the inability of counsel on both sides to leave personality conflicts out of the case, and the desire to ‘win’ overshadowing the betterment of the profession.

“The prosecution of this case, the conduct of the hearing, and the writing of this recommendation were complicated by the tactics of counsel rather than facts of the case. The facts of the book deal were not questioned though it took four years to get the facts into a complaint,” Pippen wrote.

Pippen declined to comment beyond his findings submitted to justices earlier this month. He noted in his report, though, the extent to which Henderson’s discipline case was atypical. “Particularly disturbing … was the subpoena issued to a former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court whose questioning amounted to a history lesson on how Henderson became a prosecutor. Henderson’s actions were at issue, not his general reputation. The subpoena to the Chief Justice came across as unnecessary gamesmanship.”

Former Chief Justice Randall Shepard was questioned in the case, but he said he could not comment on the pending matter.

The prosecutor’s defense

Pippen concluded the commission presented “clear and convincing evidence that Henderson violated the Rules of Professional Conduct when he retained a literary agent and co-authored a book proposal and manuscript of the Camm case prior to his withdrawal from the case.” Henderson’s defense that he canceled the contract “misses the point of the rules. Once he took action to secure his personal interest in the Camm case, his loyalty and independent judgment were subject to question.”

But Pippen wrote the commission hadn’t proven Henderson violated ethics rules when earlier attorney fees in his disciplinary case exceeding $27,000 were paid by Floyd County.

“Mr. Henderson respectfully disagrees with Hearing Officer Pippen’s recommendation regarding whether he had a conflict of interest related to the Camm case,” Lundberg said in a statement. “Mr. Henderson is considering whether to petition for Supreme Court review of that recommendation, and looks forward to receiving definitive guidance from the Court on that issue.”

“More importantly, Mr. Pippen found no misconduct regarding a series of claims related to Floyd County’s payment of a small portion of the attorney fees Mr. Henderson, a long-time public servant, incurred to defend himself during the Commission’s investigation. Mr. Pippen found that Mr. Henderson sought the opinion of county officials about payment of the fees and was transparent about the purpose of the fees when he submitted vouchers for their payment. The Hearing Officer was correct when he stated that he was unconvinced by the Commission’s allegations that Mr. Henderson engaged in any professional misconduct related to the county’s payment of those fees.”

The ethics case against Henderson, a Republican, prompted Floyd County Democratic Party chairman Adam Dickey to call for his resignation as prosecutor and removal of his name from the November general election ballot. Henderson is the Republican candidate for Floyd Circuit Court judge, running against Democratic incumbent J. Terrence Cody. Henderson ran unopposed for the party nomination in the May primary despite the disciplinary complaint that had been pending against him for more than a year.

Floyd County Republican Party chairman Chris Lane told the News and Tribune of Jeffersonville that Dickey’s criticism and calls to withdraw were politically motivated.•

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