UPDATE: Special prosecutor to handle Hot Springs child's death | Arkansas Blog

Monday, July 27, 2015

UPDATE: Special prosecutor to handle Hot Springs child's death

Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 1:48 PM

click to enlarge THOMAS NARAMORE
click to enlarge JUDGE WADE NARAMORE
Garland County Prosecuting Terri Harris tells me she's completing paperwork asking for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate  the death last week of the child of Circuit Judge Wade Naramore, who handles juvenile cases in Garland County.

Naramore had been a deputy prosecutor in Garland County as well as in private practice in Hot Springs before being elected last year to succeed a retiring judge. Harris, who's completing the term of a retired prosecutor by appointment, said she hired Naramore as a deputy prosecutor when she was the chief deputy. She said he was a friend of hers and many in the office.

An appointment is expected to be announced before the day is over.

UPDATE: The Hot Springs police continue to refuse to provide a copy of the incident report on the call. They did release a prepared statement. It says the State Crime Lab says the unofficial cause of death was "excessive heat," but said an official ruling would be delayed until completion of toxicology tests, a process that could take weeks. The police said they questioned Judge Naramore and others, including his wife, but that they would continue to withhold most details until a consultation with the special prosecutor.  The Naramores voluntarily went to police headquarters for questioning, police said. The statement said Judge Naramore made the initial call to 911. The report said the child was in the car an "undetermined" amount of time.

UPDATE II: Scott Ellington of Jonesboro, the prosecuting attorney for the 2nd Judicial District, has been named to investigate the case.

Naramore's son Thomas was found dead Friday afternoon after being left in a car on a day when the temperature neared 100. Hot Springs police still haven't released an incident report, but officers on the scene Friday said the possibility of a heat-related death was being investigated. An autopsy was completed today, Harris said, and the body released for funeral arrangements. She said she did not know the results of that autopsy and was generally attempting to distance herself from the case. She did say she expected the local police to confer with the special prosecutor before announcing a decision on charges. Police sometimes file charges on a preliminary basis before turning an investigative file over to a prosecutor..

Reports have said the child may have been in the car unattended for as long as four hours. Several 911 calls were made after the child was found. The car was driven to a neighbor's home, where one of the 911 calls was made as an attempt was made to revive the child. Reports have indicated the child was with his father, but absent a police report, that has not been confirmed.

Circuit judges in the county have  recused from hearing any motions related to the case. Circuit Judge Lynn Williams is substituting for Naramore in juvenile court this week, he said. He normally handles civil and domestic cases, but had experience in juvenile cases in private practice.

Though official confirmation had not been forthcoming, family and friends confirmed the identity of the child  on Saturday. He was about 18 months old, I've confirmed with family. He'd originally been said to be 2, but the Hot Springs Sentinel Record today said he was 18 months old in an article in which a statement was given on behalf of the family thanking the community for their prayers in the tragedy. Wade Naramore's wife, Ashley, is also a local attorney.

Some comments on social media and websites have criticized lack of speedy action in the case, some in vitriolic terms.  Judge Naramore gets attention, too, because he was  the presiding judge in a child endangerment case. This was the case in which seven children were removed from the home of Hal Stanley because of allegations of abuse. Several children were eventually returned to the family.

Harris said there'd been a lot of misinformation about the investigation. She said the office had always moved carefully on child endangerment investigations and had not immediately filed charges, for example, in a recent case of an abandoned infant. "People should not rush to judgment," she said. "He has not been given any special consideration." She noted the need, particularly, for an autopsy before making a definitive judgment on such a case.

Complaints have also been made to the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. That agency acknowledged it had received complaints but said it would await outcome of the criminal investigation before proceeding on its probe.

UPDATE: Belatedly, police provided a copy of the incident report. It reveals little except the time of the call to a possible deceased person report.

A cursory Google search shows a wide variation in how car death cases are handled around the country — from no charges to murder charges.  Last week in Orlando, a prosecutor chose not to charge a teacher who'd left her two-year-old in a car all day.

State Attorney Glenn Hess wrote that sometimes bad things happen to good people who are doing good things.

A defense lawyer sent me a quick note with the statutes that could be applicable. He notes that there's a great deal of prosecutorial discretion involved, such as in what constitutes "reckless" behavior. Some extracts from the statutes:

Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-202. Culpable mental states — Definitions.

As used in the Arkansas Criminal Code, there are four (4) kinds of culpable mental states that are defined as follows:
(1) "Purposely." …
(2) "Knowingly." …
(3) "Recklessly." (A) A person acts recklessly with respect to attendant circumstances or a result of his or her conduct when the person consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the attendant circumstances exist or the result will occur.
(B) The risk must be of a nature and degree that disregard of the risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor's situation; and
(4) "Negligently." (A) A person acts negligently with respect to attendant circumstances or a result of his or her conduct when the person should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the attendant circumstances exist or the result will occur.
(B) The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the actor's failure to perceive the risk involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor's situation considering the nature and purpose of the actor's conduct and the circumstances known to the actor.

§ 5-10-104. Manslaughter.
(a) A person commits manslaughter if:

(3) The person recklessly causes the death of another person; or

(c) Manslaughter is a Class C felony.

§ 5-10-105. Negligent homicide.
(a) (1) A person commits negligent homicide if he or she negligently causes the death of another person, not constituting murder or manslaughter, as a result of operating a vehicle, an aircraft, or a watercraft:
(A) While intoxicated;
(B) (i) If at that time there is an alcohol concentration of eight hundredths (0.08) or more in the person's breath or blood based upon the definition of alcohol concentration in § 5-65-204, as determined by a chemical test of the person's blood, urine, breath, saliva, or other bodily substance.
(ii) The method of the chemical test of the person's blood, urine, saliva, breath, or other bodily substance shall be made in accordance with §§ 5-65-204 and 5-65-206;

(2) A person who violates subdivision (a)(1) of this section upon conviction is guilty of a Class B felony.
(b) (1) A person commits negligent homicide if he or she negligently causes the death of another person.
(2) A person who violates subdivision (b)(1) of this section upon conviction is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

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