Jurors sentenced Jerry Lard to death Saturday morning, July 28, in the April 2011 shooting death of Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt.
Circuit Judge Brent Davis set Lard's execution to be on April 12, 2013 -- exactly two years to the day after he killed officer Schmidt.
The final verdict came 11 days after the jurors had first been summoned to the Greene County courtroom. Jury selection for the capital murder trial began Monday, July 16, and 4 ½ days later, on the following Friday, testimony began.
The guilt or innocence trial phase took another 4 ½ days and sentencing another two days. The 12 jurors voted unanimously for a guilty verdict on all three charges against Lard, including capital murder in the death of Schmidt, attempted capital murder for shooting at Trumann officer Sgt. Corey Overstreet, who was not injured, and with possession of methamphetamines.
Prosecutors Scott Ellington, Kimberly Dale, Andy Fulkerson, Jimmy Gazaway and David Boling said Lard made a conscious choice to shoot officer Schmidt with intent to kill. They presented a body of evidence during the trial consisting of police vehicle dash camera videos, personal body microphone recordings, crime scene photographs and testimonies of physical and mental health professionals to prove that Lard did not have a mental defect or impairment and acted with malice and forethought.
Defense attorneys Teri Chambers, Katherine Streett and Jacqueline Wright contended Lard had suffered brain damage and was mentally ill at the time of the shooting. They introduced witnesses Wednesday, July 25, who testified of Lard's abusive childhood, use of methamphetamines at a young age and the effects of drug use on the brain. The defense contended elevated amounts of dopamine can possibly impair impulse control and cause paranoia, hallucinations, rages, anxiety and insomnia.
Schmidt's family and friends wept openly throughout the trial as many of them viewed actual crime scene footage for the first time and heard final conversations between Schmidt and Lard.
The slayed officer's father, Donald Schmidt Sr., his widow, Andrea Schmidt, and his brother, Donald Schmidt Jr., gave victim impact statements.
Donald Schmidt Sr. read heart-wrenching notations from a journal he kept after the night of his son's death.
"When you lose a child, you lose a piece of yourself," he said. "We were all emotionally destroyed. My wife (Kathy) had to go to the hospital. Jonathan's children Chase, Haley and baby Keaton can't understand what happened, and it was hard if not impossible to explain it to them."
"Death has a sting," said Don Schmidt Jr. "My family has felt it. We are still hurting. This has been the greatest hurt ever."
"My son (Keaton) is 18 months old and he will never know his father," Andrea Schmidt said. "Chase (13) and Haley (11) had to go back to live with their biological mother after living with us for 10 years. Their lives have been turned upside down. Keaton looks everywhere for his father to come home and longs to play with his brother and sister. I am their mother and I can't protect them from the pain. I can't even remember eight months of my life. I wasn't able to go back to work for four months, and we lost our insurance. I can't sleep at night. I seek peace and understanding of all this. My life is darker without his light in it."
Andrea Schmidt showed family photos to the jury as she tearfully relived the happy time they all spent together.
During closing statements, defense attorney Streett told the jury, "No one deserves to die like officer Schmidt died. The Schmidt family is suffering indescribable pain and their lives will never be the same. We can't bring him back. Your job is to punish Lard. If you can do so without adding another killing, then that is what you should do. Surely you are better than the man you saw on that video and show mercy. Jerry was born with such promise, but he was terrorized as a child and became a product of his life experiences. Some people can overcome and some can't. Jerry's family is no more guilty than Schmidt's family. Jerry is not going anywhere. There is no parole for him. If you have any compassion for his family, I ask you to vote for life in prison for Jerry."
"We are not putting a six-year-old child to death. Jerry Lard is a grown man who knew what he was doing," Dale said. "The only regret that Jerry has expressed was that he didn't kill the other officer (Overstreet). The seed of hatred has been planted in him. I have dealt with it during this trial, and you have dealt with it. Now it is time to see that justice is done."
"Don't let someone transfer the guilt onto you," Ellington added in speaking to the jurors. "Lard brought this onto himself. He had other choices he could have made. It is all about him. This is all his doing."
Fulkerson also addressed the jury, saying, "Lard's final words to Schmidt before he fired that final shot were 'Show me what the f*** you got now b****. Now it is your time to show Jerry Lard what you got."