PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – A Greene County jury sentenced a Trumann man, convicted of capital murder and attempted capital murder, to death for the murder of a police officer.
Jerry Lard, 38, was sentenced as his family and the family of Officer Jonathan Schmidt looked on Saturday morning. Lard was sentenced to death by lethal injection by the jury, which deliberated for more than an hour.
Lard was convicted Thursday for the murder of Schmidt on April 12, 2011. Schmidt pulled over a vehicle with four occupants at the Cottonwood Manor Apartments. Jerry Lard jumped out of the car firing a .25 caliber handgun at Schmidt and Sgt. Corey Overstreet. The first shot hit Schmidt in the face. Lard was injured after Overstreet returned fire. Prosecutors testified in court the fourth, fatal gunshot wound to Schmidt was from a .40 caliber handgun. Schmidt carried a .40 caliber while on police duty.
"When an officer is killed in the line of duty, there's nothing more serious than to prosecute those who do those offenses," said Prosecutor Scott Ellington.
Ellington said he will pursue the death penalty anytime a person kills a police officer acting in the line of duty.
"We had to ask the jury to do something that was the most grave verdict that they could hand down. It wasn't something that we relished or was excited about. It was something we had to do to protect the law enforcement in our community," said Ellington.
As Circuit Judge Brent Davis read the sentence, several jurors were in tears. Lard, looking at the jury, dropped his head after Davis read his fate.
The jury concluded the prosecution proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, four aggravating factors outweighed mitigating factors. The primary aggravating factor was that Lard killed a police officer and that killing justified the death penalty. The primary mitigating factors were claims of mental health issues and childhood abuse.
"With my team, especially with Kimberly Dale and Doctor Andrew Fulkerson, cross examining their mental health experts and bringing in our mental health experts, because they used the defense of mental disease and defect, and when Dr. Fulkerson cross examined their experts and showed in fact, that was not the case. I think that was most effective," said Ellington.
Jimmy Gazaway and David Boling were also involved in prosecuting the case.
Lard was taken away immediately after the sentence was handed down. He was taken to the Craighead County Detention Center where he was immediately transported to the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Lard will be given instructions for a right to appeal his sentence.
"The great people of this county stood up for an officer and it is so incredible that they could take this kind of statements from everyone and have to actually put someone on death row," said Donald Schmidt, Sr. "One of the best things about it is that if anybody out there ever wants to assassinate or murder an innocent officer, the great people of this state will stand up to them."
Donald Schmidt Sr. is Jonathan's father. He gave an emotional victim impact statement to the jury on the last day of proceedings before the jury got the case. During his testimony, a majority of the jurors were in tears.
"I'm glad it's over. I still miss Jonathan every day. He's never going to come back," said Andrea Schmidt, who was married to Jonathan at the time of the shooting. "We've all lost in this situation. There's not a winner. We've all lost. Our family, their family. It's not ever going to change the situation."
Jonathan's brother also gave a witness impact statement. He said it was difficult for him to focus on his seminary studies while coping with his loss.
"My brother paid the ultimate price for doing good, and now Jerry Lard has to pay the ultimate price for doing evil," said Donald Schmidt, Jr.