PARAGOULD, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas man was convicted of capital murder Thursday for killing a police officer who begged him not to shoot.
After deliberating for less than an hour, a jury found Jerry Lard, 38, guilty of killing Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt during a traffic stop in April 2011.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Lard. The sentencing phase is scheduled to begin Friday morning in Paragould, about 35 miles north of Trumann. The trial was moved at the request of Lard's defense attorneys.
Members of Schmidt's family, including his widow Andrea and his parents, embraced in the courtroom.
Donald Schmidt Sr., the slain officer's father, told reporters afterward he realizes the case is not over and declined to comment on the verdict.
"I don't want to say anything that could hurt the case," he said.
During the sentencing phase, the jury will hear from Officer Schmidt's family about how his death has affected their lives. Jurors also will hear from Lard's family as the defense tries to persuade the panel to spare his life.
Lard's lawyers didn't dispute that he shot Schmidt, but they argued their client suffers from a mental disease or defect.
"This is not a case of whodunit," defense attorney Jacqueline Wright said in opening statements.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said Lard knew what he was doing when he shot Schmidt.
The jury also found Lard guilty of attempted capital murder for shooting at Schmidt's partner, Sgt. Corey Overstreet.
Overstreet testified 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.
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.
Video taken the night of the shooting from dashboard cameras in the police cars showed Schmidt helping Overstreet back onto his feet after he fell, The Jonesboro Sun reported.
Lard swore and shot at Schmidt, who said, "Please, don't shoot me again."
A medical examiner told the jury Schmidt was shot four times — once each in the chin, neck, right wrist and chest. A protective vest blocked the chest shot.
Prosecutor Scott Ellington and defense attorney Katherine Streett declined to comment to The Associated Press after the jury reached its verdict because the judge issued a gag order in the case.
Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com