PARAGOULD, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas man charged with capital murder knew what he was doing when he shot a police officer who begged him not to, prosecutors said Friday, countering defense claims that Jerry Lard suffers from mental illness.
No one disputes that Lard, 38, shot Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt during a traffic stop in April 2011. But Lard’s lawyers argue that he suffers from a mental disease or defect that affects his judgment.
“This is not a case of whodunit,” defense attorney Jacqueline Wright said in opening statements in a courtroom in Paragould, about 35 miles north of Trumann. The trial was moved to Greene County from Poinsett County at the defense’s request.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Lard, who is charged with capital murder for killing Schmidt and attempted capital murder for shooting at Schmidt’s partner, Sgt. Corey Overstreet. He was also charged with possessing methamphetamine.
Overstreet testified in court Friday that he showed up as backup after Schmidt pulled over a car in which Lard was a passenger. At one point, Schmidt asked Lard his name and birthday, and radioed the information back. Schmidt walked to Lard’s side of the car.
“When he opened the door, a hand reached out and started shooting Jonathan,” Overstreet said Friday.
Overstreet went to reach for his gun, but he said Lard pointed his weapon at him, so he scrambled between the vehicles. He heard gunshots.
Prosecutor Scott Ellington said Schmidt could be heard saying, “Please, don’t shoot me,” and, “Please, don’t shoot me again,” in audio recorded that night.
Ellington said Schmidt was shot four times: twice in the face, once in the wrist and once in the chest. Ellington said Schmidt was wearing a bulletproof vest.
“The fourth and final shot was in his face by his nose,” Ellington said.
Overstreet then shot Lard as he walked away. Lard fell to the ground and Overstreet said he checked to make sure he couldn’t do any more harm. Then, he rushed over to Schmidt, who was breathing heavily. Blood seemed to gush out of the wound by his nose every time his heart beat, he said.
“I said, I got him, bud,” Overstreet said in court.
“How did he respond to you?” prosecutor Jimmy Gazaway asked.
“He didn’t,” Overstreet said.
Lard occasionally looked up toward the front of the courtroom as Overstreet spoke. With his shortly buzzed hair and glasses, Lard looked different than the long-haired man in his mug shot last year.
Jurors will likely hear from mental health experts as the trial, which is expected to last another week, continues.
Follow Jeannie Nuss at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss
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