Monday, October 28, 2013
Ind. Court - Death penalty and high-profile murder monetary costs and other issues as illustrated by the David Camm trial
There have been a number of articles over the years on the costs of the David Camm trials and how it is bankrupting Floyd County. The most recent was quoted in a September 30th post. And on Jan. 3rd Grace Schneider of the Louisville Courier-Journal reported "Price of justice for David Camm: $3.3 million and rising fast."
The ILB has had many posts on death penalty costs, this Google search lists a number of them. [Note: Camm was not a death penalty case, I don't believe, or at least the third trial, but was a high-profile triple-murder trial. I'm checking on this. More: Prof. Schumm tells me: "None were death. Two and three were life without parole."]
A "My view" column in the Indianapolis Star on Oct. 25th, from Shawn Boyne, a professor of law with the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, writes on other problems illustrated by the David Camm trials [ILB emphasis]:
More than 12 years after Charles Boney fatally shot Kimberly, Brad and Jill Camm, a jury has set former state trooper, David Camm, free from prison. In her closing argument, Stacy Uliana, one of Camm’s defense attorneys, claimed that “the state is trying to tell you a story.”
The question remains, what kind of story did the state try and tell in this case and did that “story” serve the cause of justice. While I’m sure, that after spending over a decade in prison, Camm does not feel like a “lucky” man, in many ways, he is. Most individuals in his predicament, whether innocent or guilty, would have “confessed” and pled guilty. The “modern” American system is set up just to accomplish that result.
Although the eminent English legal theorist, William Blackstone, wrote centuries ago that “it is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” the American criminal justice system has become one of the most punitive in the democratic world. It is a system that cannot function unless more than 95 percent of individuals charged with crimes admit that they are guilty. Armed with the threat of long prison terms, prosecutors often rely on the threat of punishment and an overburdened public defender, rather than a jury’s independent eye to secure a conviction. To be sure, understaffed public defender departments themselves could not function if they were forced to take every case to trial. But all too often the “bargain” that emerges from our courtrooms today is less the product of the strength of the evidence, than it is of the prosecutor’s leverage. The fact that David Camm stuck to his claim of innocence and refused to plea is an anomaly in the present day where the disparities in resources and the inherent coerciveness of the system work to produce plea agreements.
In the final work of his distinguished career, Harvard law professor William Stuntz wrote in 2011, that the American criminal justice system had collapsed because in the majority of cases, “prosecutors now decide whom to punish and how severely.”
Stuntz’s antidote — place more cases in the hands of jury to decide.
Yet, juries too, may be an imperfect diving rod. Especially if, as in the first two trials for Camm, judges allow jurors to hear specious claims of motive designed to paint the defendant with a broad stroke of guilt and moral condemnation and overcome a lack of physical evidence. I cannot say with certainty that Camm is innocent, but I can say that the state overreached in the first two trials and that overreaching did not serve the cause of justice.
While the Camm acquittal may be one small step forward for the cause of justice, as a country, all too often we short-circuit the truth-finding process.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 28, 2013 09:57 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts