Jerry Lard murder trial begins in Paragould
The capital murder trial of Jerry D. Lard got underway at the Greene County Courthouse in Paragould Friday after a four and a half day long process to seat a jury.
Lard, 37, is accused of the April 12, 2011, shooting death of Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt. Lard is also charged with attempted capital murder in the wounding of Sgt. Corey Overstreet and with possession of methamphetamines.
After a request for change of venue, the case was moved from Poinsett County to Greene County Circuit Court, seeking a panel of jurors that would be less familiar with the details of the case.
Jurors viewed videos from the police car dash cams of Officers Schmidt and Overstreet on Friday afternoon as the trial got underway. The videos showed Schmidt pulling over a silver Hundai Sonata car during a routine traffic stop about 11:20 p.m. on Pine Street in Trumann. Overstreet was called to the scene for backup.
The videos showed Schmidt being shot in the face by Lard with a .25 caliber handgun, as the officer opened the back passenger door where Lard was seated. Lard then exited the vehicle and shot three times at Overstreet, who was standing at the back of the vehicle where the other occupants were being questioned. Lard had his handgun in one hand and a Sonic cup in the other as he continued in a rage to pursue the officers and yell obscenities as they took shelter behind their police cars.
When Schmidt had been initially shot he dropped his .40-caliber service weapon. Lard picked up Schmidt's revolver and finally overtook the officer due to his great blood loss and weakened condition. Schmidt could be heard on video pleading for his life as Lard fired the final shot, using the officer's own gun.
Schmidt's wife Andrea Schmidt, his father Donald Schmidt, and several family members openly wept as they watched the videos for the first time in the courtroom on Friday. Donald Schmidt was visibly shaken after hearing paramedic Kara White give her testimony of the final minutes of his son's life in transit to NEA Baptist Hospital in Jonesboro, where he was later pronounced dead.
Defense attorneys contend Lard was not guilty because he suffered from mental disease and defect and was unable to premeditate his actions. They also cited an abusive childhood and drug dependence.
Presiding Circuit Judge Brent Davis estimated the case would last two weeks, with the possibility of calling the jury back in on Saturday if necessary.
Attorneys for the trial are District Prosecutor Scott Ellington, Greene County Deputy Prosecutors Kimberly Dale and Andy Fulkerson, Poinsett County Deputy Prosecutors Jimmy Gazaway and David Boling. Court appointed defense attorneys include Teri Chambers, Katherine Streett, and Jaqueline Wright, all of Little Rock.
The trial resumed at 9 a.m. Monday.
Greene County Sheriff Dan Langston escorts defendant Jerry Lard from the courtroom in Paragould, for transport back to the Craighead County jail where he is being held. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)