LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a death row inmate convicted of killing a police officer during a traffic stop is mentally competent to drop his appeal.
Justices in a 6-1 ruling rejected the appeal of Jerry Lard, who was convicted in the fatal shooting of Trumann police Officer Jonathan Schmidt. Lard was a passenger in a car Schmidt pulled over during an April 2011 nighttime traffic stop.
Arkansas doesn’t have any executions scheduled. The last of the state’s lethal injection drugs expired last year and the state has not replaced them.
“Today’s Arkansas Supreme Court decision is another step towards justice for Officer Jonathan Schmidt, his family and the entire Trumann Police Department,” Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement. “As we are well aware in Arkansas, we must protect our men and women in blue who selflessly hold the line every day for Arkansans.”
An attorney for Lard cited a psychologist who found that the inmate had a “mild” intellectual disability and was ineligible to be put to death. The attorney also said the lower court was wrong to accept Lard’s request to waive his post-conviction relief and accept his death sentence.
The state Supreme Court justices upheld the lower court’s ruling that Lard could waive his relief. But they said it was too early to take up claims that the inmate was ineligible to be put to death because an execution date has not been set.
During Lard’s trial, his attorneys didn’t deny that he killed Schmidt. But they said Lard was mentally ill or deficient and should be spared execution. In a dashboard video released after Lard’s 2012 trial, Lard is shown firing at Schmidt’s face, and the officer can later be heard off-camera pleading for his life.
The court in 2014 upheld Lard’s conviction, rejecting arguments that a judge shouldn’t have allowed testimony about comments Lard made in jail and photos of a tattoo on his back.
By ANDREW DeMILLO
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