ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Prosecutor's Literary Contract Creates Conflict of Interest

IN Ct of AppealsDavid R. Camm has been twice tried and convicted for the murder of his wife, his son, and his daughter in September 2000.  Twice those convictions have been overturned. During the second trial in 2006, Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, who had served as prosecutor at the second trial, sought a literary agent for a book he planned to write about the case.  He found an agent and negotiated an agreement between the end of the trial and sentencing.  Three years later, Henderson entered into a contract with Penguin to publish the book "Sacred Trust: Deadly Betrayal" (shouldn't that be a semi-colon?).

When Camm's conviction was reversed for the second time, Henderson wrote to his literary agent.  Henderson emphasized his commitment to writing the book but insisted that it could not come out prior to the completion of a third trial.  Eventually, the parties agreed to cancel the contract, and Henderson returned his advance.  Camm, having learned of the book deal, petitioned for the appointment of a special prosecutor.  Henderson issued a press release in which he noted that the publishing contract had been canceled but stressing his desire that "the unedited version of events needs to be told.”

At a hearing on the petition, Dean Emeritus Norman Lefstein of the Indiana University School of Law testified that Henderson's conduct created a conflict of interest under Indiana's Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7 and 1.8(d).  The trial court rejected that argument, finding that there was no "clear and convincing evidence" of a conflict.  

Camm filed an interlocutory appeal.  The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Henderson, in signing a contract to write a book about Camm "permanently compromised his ability to advocate on behalf of the people of the State of Indiana" in Camm's third trial.  The full opinion can be found here: Camm v. State.


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