Court jockeying begins
Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom Glaze apparently has decided to retire at the end of 2010. That creates a seat on the court and lawyers have received letters recently that Circuit Judge John Fogleman will be a candidate for the seat. Fogleman, a former prosecutor, lives in Marion and sits on cases in Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Greene, Mississippi and Poinsett counties.
Judge Fogleman has a bit of history connected with one of Arkansas's most famous criminal cases.
Fogleman assisted Prosecutor Brent Davis in the prosecution of the West Memphis Three, the then-youths convicted of slaying three West Memphis boys. An appeal of Damien Echols' conviction and death sentence is still active.
Mara Leveritt, who wrote a book on the case that spawned a widely watched HBO special, thinks prosecutors in that case still should be called to account for a number of decisions. One was the use of a co-defendant's statement that prosecutors knew was factually inaccurate. Another was Fogleman's last minute decision to search the lake for weapons, a search that turned up a knife that Fogleman tried to link to the deaths. The supposedly secret lake search just happened to produce a page one photograph for the local newspaper of a diver triumphantly holding a knife aloft. She also is highly critical of the prosecutors' decision to use a dubious expert witness to inject devil worship in the trial to shore up a lack of solid evidence. Fogleman underscored this in closing arguments by emphasizing such points as Echol's habit of wearing black clothing. On such evidence, Fogleman told jurors, “You see inside that person. And you look inside and there's not a soul there.”
Leverett says Fogleman quickly made use of his “tough decisions in tough cases” in campaigning for a circuit judgeship shortly after a second trial of the WM3. She writes, “In the long run, I believe, many of Fogelman's ‘tough decisions' will be regarded as ethically crass, politically opportunistic, and legally underhanded.”
Magic Springs, the amusement park in Hot Springs, has had some problems keeping all its roller coasters running this summer. The Gauntlet and X-Coaster, two of the park's most thrilling rides if the website descriptions are any indication, were shut down last week as Magic Springs awaited the shipment of needed replacement parts. The Gauntlet is expected to be open as of press time, though X-Factor will not run until the weekend. A representative for the park said there was no emergency, but that a maintenance check found a need for work. The European-made coasters require parts that have to be shipped overseas, hence the delay. Magic Springs has distributed complimentary passes that are good through the season to people who visited during the shutdown and will continue to do so until X-Coaster is back online.
The secret public school
You might notice this week's paper does not include a story about the e-STEM charter school, which opens Monday in downtown Little Rock. Reporters and photographers were allowed to tour the building earlier this week, but apparently our invitation got lost in the mail. An oversight, according to Joe Mittiga, the school's chief operations officer. Right. We've requested more than once in the past to be added to eSTEM's media notification list; perhaps the third time will be the charm.
The lack of a welcome mat may have something to do with the fact that the Times hasn't been unblinkingly fulsome in its coverage of the school, as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has been. Of course its publisher is leasing the old Gazette building to the school.
The “public” school's administrators are still hiding behind a dubious technicality to duck our FOI requests for their financial records and other documents that would tell the full story of who's paying for the school and the salaries of top administrators. It's operating under the authority of a charter granted by the state Board of Education, but because of delays in obtaining non-profit status from the IRS, the school has not yet received any funding from the state. Private donations — apparently from D-G publisher Walter Hussman and the Walton family, according to D-G accounts — have paid for extensive building renovations and salaries so far. And because of that, school officials are claiming they're not yet subject to state FOI laws. State Department of Education spokeswoman Julie Johnson Thompson said the first installment of state funding should arrive this week. We'll be checking.