HARRISBURG, Ark. (AP) - A judge granted permission to attorneys for a man charged with murdering a Trumann police officer last year to interview their client's teenage children, despite the objections of prosecutors and a court-appointed special advocate, who said the children get upset at the mere mention of their father.
Circuit Court Judge Brent Davis said in his Friday ruling that denying the request by defendant Jerry Lard's attorneys might provide grounds for a possible appeal if Lard is convicted of capital murder in the killing of officer Jonathan Schmidt during an April 2011 traffic stop, the Jonesboro Sun reported
Lard was a passenger in a car that Schmidt stopped for a traffic violation in Trumann. The driver was arrested on misdemeanor warrants, but when Schmidt tried to arrest Lard after learning he had an outstanding rape warrant, Lard got out of the vehicle and shot Schmidt in the face, authorities allege.
Lard also is accused of firing several shots at another officer, who wasn't hit.
During Friday's hearing, Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer Joannie McNabb said just mentioning Lard's name causes his children, ages 14, 16 and 17, to become extremely upset.
She recalled one juvenile court hearing in which the oldest daughter became so upset that it took a considerable amount of time to calm her down. Lard wasn't present.
As for Lard's son, "he tends to get more angry and upset" when Lard is mentioned, she said.
Teri Chambers, one of Lard's public defenders, argued it was important to speak to the children because the defense team is required to provide the most vigorous defense possible.
"We need to find out about Jerry Lard's entire life," Chambers said.
Davis said he understood how the children could be affected, but he noted a Supreme Court ruling in which a murder conviction had been overturned because defense attorneys didn't bother to talk to a defendant's children.
Even so, Davis placed restrictions on the interviews.
Only one member of the defense team can conduct the discussions. Only one child can be interviewed at a time, and the interview can only last an hour.
Davis also ordered that if a child becomes upset during the interview, the questioning must stop.
Lard is scheduled to go on trial July 16 in Greene County. The proceeding was moved from Poinsett County because of publicity in the case.
A gag order that bars attorneys, law enforcement officers and others directly involved in the case from talking with the news media remains in effect. Schmidt's family has also declined to comment.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)