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Arkansas Judge on Trial for Hot Car Death Calls Forgotten Baby Expert Witness

An Arkansas judge accused of negligent homicide for the hot car death of his infant son has called a neuroscience expert witness to testify about “forgotten baby syndrome.” The expert witness accompanied emotional testimony from several of the judge’s family members in an effort to convince jurors that he was not negligent of his child, but instead suffered from a momentary loss of memory explained by a neurological syndrome.

Arkansas Judge Charged with Negligent Homicide

Judge Wade Naramore of Garland County, Arkansas is on trial for negligent homicide for the death of his 18-month-old son, Thomas, who died after being left in a hot car in July 2015. Naramore left Thomas in the car for several hours after failing to take him to day care, and the infant died with an internal body temperature of 107 degrees. After investigating the incident, prosecutors arrested Naramore and charged him with negligent homicide, arguing that the defendant “should have been aware” of the risk of leaving his son in the car, and his failure to recognize that risk was a criminal deviation from the care that a reasonable person would have taken.

Defense attorneys for Naramore have focused their argument on an additional element of negligence that prosecutors have not included: blameworthiness. According to Naramore’s defense team, negligence is more than just a failure to perceive a risk, but also requires evidence that the defendant was at fault for consciously creating the risk. The defense has argued that prosecutors must prove a deliberate act or conduct contributed to Thomas’s death, and have focused their case on showing jurors that Judge Naramore suffered from a neurological memory lapse which made him unaware that his infant son was left in the hot car.

Calling the incident a “tragic accident” which does not meet the threshold of criminal negligence, Naramore’s attorneys called a nationally renowned neuroscientist to explain the concept of “forgotten baby syndrome” to jurors.

Expert Witness Explains Forgotten Baby Syndrome

Attorneys for Wade Naramore called David Diamond, Ph.D to take the stand and explain a theory he uses to explain the loss of awareness of children in cars. Dr. Diamond, a neuroscience expert at the University of South Florida, calls his theory Forgotten Baby Syndrome, and argues there are several factors which cause an otherwise normal and loving parent to temporarily forget that they have a child in the car with them. Dr. Diamond’s expert testimony distinguishes Forgotten Baby Syndrome from standard child abuse or negligence by categorizing it as a neurological condition creating holes in human memory – which can be faulty and frail.

According to Dr. Diamond, when parents depart from their standard routine, and suffer from sleep deprivation and high stress situations. During his testimony, Dr. Diamond told jurors that Naramore’s case was consistent with the causes of Forgotten Baby Syndrome. On the day of Thomas’s death, the defendant dressed and readied the baby — usually something his wife did — and had an unusual breakfast at McDonald’s instead of his regular banana. Additionally, Naramore was having trouble sleeping at the time, going so far as to take pills to help the process. Dr. Diamond’s day-long testimony explained that the defendant may not have been negligent, but was instead suffering from the temporary neurological condition which caused him to forget about his infant son.

Forgotten Baby Syndrome in Hot Car Trials

This is not the first time that Dr. Diamond has testified about Forgotten Baby Syndrome during a negligent homicide trial of a parent who forgot a baby inside of a hot car. Last year, Diamond testified in the trial of El Paso teacher Wakesha Ives, whose daughter died after being left in a hot car during the school day. Although Ives was found guilty in that trial, she received a suspended prison sentence and probation.

Forgotten Baby Syndrome, like many syndromes, may be met with skepticism by jurors who are unable to believe that any parent could simply, and without control, forget a child inside of a car. With the occurrence of the condition uncommon, defense attorneys who call Dr. Diamond as a forgotten baby expert witness likely have an uphill battle to climb regardless of the empirical soundness of the expert’s research and theoretical conclusions. Wade Naramore’s trial will likely conclude next week with a verdict expected shortly.