Judge Wade Naramore is on trial for the negligent homicide of his son, Thomas, who was found dead after his father left him in a hot car in July 2015. Naramore is a circuit judge in Garland County, Arkansas.
At the time of his arrest, Naramore told investigators that he forgot to drop off his son at daycare and left him in the backseat for about five hours. He said that he didn’t realize his son was still in the back seat until he heard a noise in the rear of his car when he was driving to pick his son up from daycare later that day.
Following a six-month investigation by special Prosecutor Scott Ellington, Naramore was arrested and charged with negligent homicide, a Class A misdemeanor. He turned himself in and pleaded not guilty. Naramore faces up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500 if convicted. The Arkansas Supreme Court has temporarily suspended Naramore, pending the outcome of his case.
Naramore’s defense team called David Diamond, Ph.D, to testify as an expert on memory loss. Dr. Diamond is a neuroscientist and professor at the University of South Florida. He is also the Director of the USF Center for Preclinical and Clinical Research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dr. Diamond has studied the “Forgotten Baby Syndrome” and has testified in numerous cases as a scientific consultant on cases involving memory-related child death.
Dr. Diamond’s fee is $10,000 to investigate cases such as Naramore’s. Dr. Diamond says that he will only testify in cases that he determines to be accidents.
Dr. Diamond opined that there were several factors that may have affected Naramore on the day that he left Thomas in the hot car. Diamond noted that the numerous changes in Naramore’s routine, possible sleep deprivation, and stress or distractions all could have played a role in the incident.
On most mornings, Naramore ate breakfast at home, but that day he stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s. Dr. Diamond theorized that stopping for breakfast triggered a “restart” of Naramore’s habitual behavior of driving to work after stopping at daycare. His brain treated the stop at McDonald’s as if it were a stop at daycare. Naramore then stopped thinking of having a baby in the backseat, just as he would have done if he had dropped the baby at daycare.
The state attempted to undermine Dr. Diamond’s testimony by questioning the statements that Naramore made to him to help develop Diamond’s forgotten child theory.
In 2014, Dr. Diamond previously testified that 200 children have died worldwide over the past 15 years after being left in cars. A website called Kids and Cars has been created to raise awareness of this issue. According to the site, over 2,200 children are injured or killed in nontraffic events every week. Kids and Cars has also compiled data on convictions in cases of children dying from heat stroke in cars. It found that 28 percent of accidental cases result in convictions and 60 percent when someone knowingly left a child in a car.
Naramore’s family has supported him throughout the ordeal. His mother-in-law, Jan Wright, testified that she learned of Thomas’ death when she received a phone call from a distraught Naramore that consisted of him screaming and wailing and asking her to call 911. Wright testified that Naramore was inconsolable over the next few days, requiring medication to sleep. She testified that she did not place blame on Naramore, saying, “Those things can happen to anybody.”
Jury Acquits Naramore
The jury found Naramore not guilty. Expert testimony likely helped the jury understand that the tragedy of Thomas’ death could have happened to any parent. In addition, the jury may have been influenced by the emotional testimony of Naramore and his family members.
The jury deliberated for three hours. Jurors had difficulty reaching a unanimous verdict. At one point, the vote was 10-2 (presumably in favor of acquittal). The jury later told the judge that the vote was 11-1. The judge told the jury to continue its deliberations, which resulted in the unanimous verdict of not guilty.