The prosecution is completing its case this morning in the trial of Circuit Judge Wade Naramore of Hot Springs on a misdemeanor negligent homicide charge in the death of his 18-month-old son, Thomas, last summer. He was forgotten in his car seat in his father’s car on a hot July day and died from the heat.
Developments so far include the recounting of an interview of Naramore by Hot Springs police that revealed unhappiness by the Naramores over the slowness of the investigation and a suggestion by police that he was to blame for delays. There was also apparent unhappiness about police questions. Rumors were rampant after the death that Naramore had forgotten his son while he was somewhere questionable other than work. The police investigation didn’t bear that out. The evidence indicated Narmore took his son to day care most days, as he had intended to do this day but got mentally distracted and left him in the car outside the courthouse. Marine Glisovic of KATV gave this account on Twitter of Naramore’s account to police in an interview about what happened after his morning at work:
Naramore: not much on the docket that day, left work around noon. Wanted to buy things for his 5th wedding anniversary.
Went to a meat market, Kroger, liquor store. Had lunch at some cafe in town. Then went home. Said he put bags in passenger seat.
Went home, got a swim bag ready to take his son swimming at a pool nearby. Called mother-in-law to say I’ll pick up Thomas.
Naramore: left home, to pick up son from daycare. Then heard what he thought was a leg hitting the seat. Stopped and saw it was Thomas.
MEDIA UPDATE: It appears that Glisovic’s updates Tuesday prompted a remark to her by Drew Petrimoulx of our news partner KARK and words ensued. The judge has said no use of cellphones is allowed in courtroom. Things have been resolved, according to this Democrat-Gazette account.
The defense argued against introduction of further photographs. At least one juror declined to look at a photo of the dead child yesterday. Judge John Langston also denied a defense motion to gag prosecutor Tom Young because he’d explained to a reporter yesterday that using the photo of the child made the case “real.” The defense sees use of photos as a play on emotion.
The defense case should begin today. No word yet if Naramore will testify. Pre-trial filings indicated an expert in hot car deaths will testify.
I’m glad I’m not a juror in this case. Negligence, as defined by law, seems to have occurred. But prosecutors have discretion. Some similar cases are not prosecuted. Jurors in these cases sometimes conclude that sufficient punishment has occurred in culpability for the loss of a beloved child. But we heard from the jury pool and comments over the months a belief on the part of some that Naramore is getting special treatment because he’s a judge.
The prosecution certainly hasn’t treated Naramore with kid gloves. From my vantage point, I’d say they’ve perhaps been TOO accusatory. It is always easy (and perilous) to sideline quarterback based on press accounts, but it seems from here that a prosecutor in such a case would want to demonstrate sympathy for a family’s loss while gently but firmly calling for following the law, particularly with a judge as defendant. Such a prosecutorial approach might include a concluding call for conviction, but no additional punishment, for example. Just a thought.
Meanwhile, I’m still awaiting answers to questions I put to Scott Ellington, the Jonesboro prosecuting attorney who was appointed special prosecutor in this case when the local prosecutor recused because Naramore was a local judge. Deputies of Ellington, Gina Knight from Blytheville and Young from his Jonesboro office, have been prosecuting the case, not Ellington. He’d also said his deputy Charles Finkenbinder would be joining Young in prosecuting the case with him. Knight apparently replace Finkenbinder. I was curious about that, too.
UPDATE: From Ellington:
I have six counties and have a deputy that is away on assignment of the National Guard. I am covering that docket.
Finkenbinder was on the case. However, we had another deputy leave from the Jonesboro office to get married and move to LR. He somewhat overwhelmed as he absorbed that extra workload.