This is the first in a series of blogs regarding different aspects of Heath’s case, which will be dissected. Assumptions, lies, hearsay, and fact will be debated in hopes of better understanding the murder of the Stocks family on January 17, 1997, as well as subsequent actions of many following that night.
What led to the murders and what followed this tragedy?
Where exactly this story begins is arbitrary. It would be neat and tidy if we had a start and a finish, a beginning or an end, but we are not forwarded that luxury. Imagine, instead, a sturdy tree and the incredible root system that supports it. The Stocks’ family murder is but one extension on one root of one sturdy tree. Above ground it sways in the breeze and, at times, bears fruit, but below ground is a tangled system of roots, the tree’s lifeline, always expanding, seeking the nutrients necessary to thrive and survive.
A court-certified copy of the case-file styled State of Arkansas v. Heath Stocks, Lonoke County Case No. CR97-0 was recently requested. Knowing the questionable history of this file, the request was merely to confirm speculation that it is indeed deficient.
The lifeline to judicial process and procedure, of any matter, is the case-file. All proceedings are docketed; all pleadings that go before the court are docketed and are made part of an official case-file. There is a reason why you hear the phrase “off the record” when watching tv crime/court shows. To speak “off the record” is to designate a discussion/conversation to be said in confidence, not to be quoted, not to be published. If not clearly stated otherwise, all aspects of a matter before the court are on the record. Basically, the record is the gospel; without it you cannot hold church.
Of exception to the record, in the legal arena, is the privilege of confidence between attorney and his/her client. This is a topic for another blog because privilege of confidence, in and of itself, is debatable. Let’s stick with the record for now.
Court records for most matters are publicly accessible. An exception, of course, are matters dealing with minors. In today’s world many dockets are accessible online, making it easier than ever before to follow a case and stay informed of its standing and/or progress. In digital format, there is only a small possibility of a case-file being misplaced, lost, damaged, or manipulated. Sure the file can be deleted from its digital storage, but it is not one stack of papers within a physical file drawer subject to the elements, theft, etc. A digital file is easily backed up and, if need be, duplicated.
Should a matter/decision be challenged or appealed, the case file becomes the foundation upon which all else rests upon and is relied upon. Even if a particular matter/case is never challenged or appealed, the judgment or decision of a matter sets a precedent, again, upon which all future related questions of law or procedure can refer.
On May 15, 1999 Cheryl Maples filed, on Heath’s behalf, an application for executive clemency, which was accepted by the Prison and Parole Board. Almost a year later, on May 3, 2000, Heath’s original public defender, Mac Carder, takes over the clemency process and writes a letter to the Post Prison Transfer Board Members (Carder ltr to PPTB) requesting additional time to prepare for Heath’s clemency hearing.
In the time between Maple’s filing and Carder’s take-over of the matter, it is known that Maples essentially fell ill and abandoned the process and, specifically, Heath. Carder attempted to acquire Heath’s file from Maples but was informed that she was “unable to locate the file.” In addition, Carder attempted to reconstruct the now-missing file by contacting the Lonoke County Circuit Clerk’s office who, at that time, was in the process of “reconstructing the file from the prosecutor’s file” and requested Carder also provide his file on the matter from 1997, which he refused.
Upon receipt of Heath’s case-file from the Lonoke County Circuit Clerk’s office this week and inspecting its contents, the following was enclosed: 52 total pages; 3 pgs were the docket (Lonoke County Docket), and 2 pgs were of a letter from an entertainment company, like myself, requesting a copy of the case-file. The remaining pages were pleadings. Not all items on the docket were enclosed and some pleadings were enclosed that were not on the docket. As a reminder, this is a criminal docket regarding three charges of capital murder, resulting in three life sentences, entailing 52 pages. Capital Murder – 52 Pages!
This is not the only instance of items misplaced, missing, or lost in Lonoke County and this certainly won’t be the last blog reporting on such. Stay tuned . . .
To read more about Heath Stocks’ story, visit his website.