Indiana State University Newsroom



Wrongfully convicted men to speak at ISU Wednesday

April 21, 2014

Two men, who spent decades in prison before being exonerated and set free, will speak at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Indiana State University.

For the first time since being found not guilty of killing his family, David Camm will publicly discuss his trials, time in prison and acquittal. He will be joined by Randy Steidl, who has been to the university multiple times after a judge overturned his conviction in the stabbing death of a newlywed couple in Paris, Ill.

"The criminal justice system is not flawless," said Mark Hamm, professor of criminology at Indiana State. "Innocent men and women are now sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit. Steidl and Camm are two examples of wrongful conviction."

The session, which is open to the public and will be held in the Science Building on campus in room 012 (in the basement), is part of Hamm's graduate class "Wrongful Convictions."

"Most of our criminology students come to ISU as supporters of capital punishment," Hamm said. "The purpose of a liberal arts education is to broaden students' horizons, to think critically about the world around them. In criminology, that involves the questioning not only of state power, but also of media constructions about such fundamental issues as guilt and innocence and human rights. Rare is the opportunity that a criminologist has to inspire students with lessons of compassion. The death penalty is that rare issue."

David CammCamm, 50, a former Indiana state trooper, went through three trials for the shooting deaths of his wife, son and daughter in the garage of their Georgetown, Ind., home in 2000. In the first trial, a jury found Camm guilty of the crimes, and a judge imposed a 195-year sentence in 2002. Two years later, an Indiana appellate court overturned Camm's conviction on grounds of insufficient evidence.

In 2005, the state brought charges against Camm and a new co-conspirator, Charles Boney, who had been linked to the crime scene by DNA evidence. Boney was tried first, found guilty and sentenced to 225 years in prison. Camm's second trial started in 2006, and he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Indiana Supreme Court overturned the verdict in 2009, stating lack of evidence linking Camm and the motive.

Camm's third trial got underway in 2013, with prosecutors this time saying his motive was to cash in on life insurance policies. New DNA evidence was presented at trial, and Camm was found not guilty.

In 1987, Steidl was sentenced to death for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads, who were found dead in the bedroom of their burned home. In 1996, the Illinois Supreme Court granted Steidl a new sentencing hearing after determining his trial attorney had not provided an adequate representation, and in 1999, after serving 12 years on Illinois' death row, Steidl was resentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Five years later, U.S. District Judge Michael McCuskey determined Steidl's "acquittal was reasonably probable if the jury had heard all of the evidence" and ordered a new trial. In 2004, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan declined to appeal McCuskey's decision, and all charges against Steidl were dropped.

After nearly 20 years in prison, Steidl became the 18th person in Illinois' history freed after a wrongful conviction and was an outspoken advocate for Illinois' abolishment of capital punishment in 2011.

"(Wrongful convictions) are wrong because they undermine the legitimacy of American criminal law. If this travesty of justice could happen to Steidl and Camm, it could happen to you or me, or our loved ones," Hamm said. "When capital murder is involved, it is literally a life-and-death matter. Wrongful convictions are typically the result of a combination of junk science, confessions of jailhouse snitches, prosecutorial misconduct and horrible defense practices."

Despite their exoneration, the wrong that has been done to Camm and Steidl can never be undone, according to Hamm. "Both (men) fought their legal battles in the face of staggering public opinion against them. Both were wrongly imprisoned during the best years of their lives. Both have incurred personal losses they can never be compensated for," Hamm said. "Every criminal wears the mark of ‘ex-con,' but these two men carry an unwarranted stigma that remains below the surface, even after their exoneration."

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Photos: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-2J2cTRr/0/X3/i-2J2cTRr-X3.png - David Camm

http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-2w5t5PJ/0/X3/i-2w5t5PJ-X3.png - Randy Steidl

Contact: Mark Hamm, professor of criminology at Indiana State, 812-237-2197 or Mark.Hamm@indstate.edu

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or libby.roerig@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

For the first time since being found not guilty of killing his family, David Camm will publicly discuss his trials and acquittal. He will be joined by Randy Steidl, who has been to the university multiple times after a judge overturned his conviction.

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