Ex-trooper Camm’s civil suit linked to wife’s slaying trials revived

Ex-Indiana State Police trooper David Camm, who was convicted then cleared of murdering his wife and young children in multiple trials, partially won an appeal for a new civil trial after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor on some of his claims for damages.

Camm was charged and acquitted more than once of the murder of his wife and two children after the three were found dead in the garage of the family’s Georgetown home.

Camm’s first trial and conviction for the murders took place in early 2002, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the conviction in August 2004. The following year, DNA evidence collected from a sweatshirt found at the scene revealed a new suspect, Charles Boney. Camm and Boney were then charged as co-conspirators, and a second trial began in January 2006.

Both men were found guilty, and Camm was sentenced to life without parole. In 2009, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed and remanded Camm’s second conviction, and a third trial began in August 2013. However, Camm was ultimately acquitted on all counts after spending 13 years in custody.

Camm subsequently sued numerous defendants alleging malicious prosecution; due process violations; conspiracy to violate civil rights; a Monell v. Department of Social Services claim; and state law claims against the prosecutors, investigators and law enforcement officials involved. Southern District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled in favor of the defendants, finding the state employees named in the complaint were immune from liability for Camm’s Indiana tort claims pursuant to the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

In David Camm v. Stanley Faith, 18-1440, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals addressed three issues, starting with Camm’s assertion that the defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by including false statements in probable cause affidavits.

The 7th Circuit first clarified in its decision that Camm and the district court’s use of the term “malicious prosecution” was incorrect. That claim was rather one of wrongful arrest and detention in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The appellate court proceeded to find that a reasonable jury could conclude that prosecutors and investigators all either knowingly or recklessly made false statements or withheld information in procuring the first warrant for Camm’s arrest. It also found the false statements and omissions were “clearly material.”

“So the Fourth Amendment claim may proceed to trial as it relates to the first probable-cause affidavit,” Circuit Judge Diane Sykes wrote. “The second and third affidavits, however, are a different matter.”

No recklessness was found in Gilbert’s inclusion of Camm’s statements made to lead case officer Sean Clemons on the night of the killing that “This is what they do to you when you kill your wife and kids,” nor in the inclusion of a confidential jailhouse informant’s report that Camm had confessed. Additionally, by the time the second affidavit was written, the 7th Circuit noted that several forensic experts had offered opinions confirming a blood-spatter conclusion.

“The third affidavit contained even more incriminating evidence against Camm. Charles Boney told investigators that he provided the murder weapon and was present when Camm killed his family. In addition, Gilbert learned that Camm called his wife’s employer early in the morning following the murder to calmly inquire about collecting on her life-insurance policy. And a second jailhouse informant had come forward claiming that Camm confessed to the killings. No evidence suggests that Gilbert acted recklessly by including this information in the third affidavit,” Sykes wrote.

Next, Camm argued a violation of his rights under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), in the suppression of three categories of evidence — the extent of a forensic investigator’s lack of qualifications; the fact that the DNA on Boney’s sweatshirt was never tested and experts allegedly lied about this; and Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson’s book deal about the case. The 7th Circuit concluded Camm had enough evidence to proceed to trial on his first two Brady claims, but it found Henderson’s conduct could not be subject to a Brady claim.

Finally, Camm asserted the investigators fabricated Boney’s confession by using coercive interrogation techniques to obtain it. But the 7th Circuit found that claim could not succeed without more than Camm’s contention that the investigators used suggestive interrogation methods to elicit a story they should have known was unreliable.

The panel therefore reversed and remanded for trial on Camm’s Fourth Amendment claim solely in regard to the first probable cause affidavit, as well as on the two surviving Brady claims. The district court’s judgment was affirmed in all other respects.

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