Number of Non-Local Lawyers Assigned to State Cases on the Rise

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The state's prosecutor coordinator says appointments of special prosecutors have picked up in recent years, largely because two lawyers with experience as prosecutors have made themselves available elsewhere through the state agency's staff.

Records in the Office of Prosecutor Coordinator show that at least 112 special prosecutors were assigned in the state over the past ten years.  The annual number has risen from one in 1997 and none in 1998 to 15 in 2003, 11 in 2005 and 2006, and 39 this year.

The numbers could be higher, according to Bob McMahan, director of the agency.  He said some may have been appointed by judges without input from his office, and others may have been appointed after phone conversations, with no records available at a central site.

McMahan said he thinks the number has risen over the past decade because prosecutors around the state know he has Faulkner County Prosecutor H.G. "Pat" Foster on retainer and Jack McQuary of Benton, a former deputy prosecutor in Saline County, on the agency's staff.  McMahan said that means prosecutors elsewhere are more likely to ask for a special prosecutor in a conflict situation.

In a high-profile case this year, Foster and McQuary were appointed to handle an investigation that concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing by a West Memphis police officer who shot a 12-year-old boy.  The officer said he thought the boy was carrying a gun.  Crittenden County Prosecutor Brent Davis stepped aside from the case because he routinely handles criminal cases originating with the West Memphis Police Department.

McQuary has been appointed to oversee 12 cases in the past two years, while Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley has been named to handle seven other cases.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)