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Prosecutors seek death in Trumann officer trial

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man they say killed a police officer during a traffic stop in northeast Arkansas, court documents filed Wednesday show.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man they say killed a police officer during a traffic stop in northeast Arkansas, court documents filed Wednesday show.

A deputy prosecutor for attorney Scott Ellington wrote that the state wants Jerry Lard to be sentenced to death and said he "committed capital murder in an especially cruel or depraved manner."

Lard is accused of fatally shooting Trumann Police Officer Jonathan Schmidt during a traffic stop in April. He has pleaded not guilty to capital murder, attempted capital murder and possession of methamphetamine, along with a firearms charge.

Ellington declined to comment beyond his court filing after a judge issued a gag order Wednesday at the request of defense attorney Teri Chambers. Chambers also declined to comment.

In granting the gag order, Judge Brent Davis temporarily barred prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement agencies from talking publicly about the case, at least until the next scheduled hearing on Sept. 16. Davis wrote that he'll consider whether the gag order should remain in effect beyond that date.

In Ellington's filing in Poinsett County Circuit Court, his office listed the aggravating circumstances that they say make Lard's case eligible for the death penalty.

Prosecutors wrote that Lard committed capital murder to avoid arrest on an outstanding warrant for felony rape and put another person at risk when he gunned down Schmidt. Authorities said Lard also shot at another officer, Sgt. Corey Overstreet, but did not injure him.

Investigators said the April 12 shooting started after Schmidt pulled over a car in which Lard was a passenger. Schmidt had run a license plate check that showed the vehicle might not have insurance. Overstreet showed up a few minutes later.

Schmidt learned of an outstanding warrant out for Lard's arrest, so he approached the rear passenger door near where Lard was sitting, authorities said.

Lard got out of the car and shot Schmidt in the head before turning his attention to Overstreet. The driver, Keith Elumbaugh, and another witness in the car told The Associated Press that while wounded, Schmidt managed to shove Overstreet to safety.

Lard is being held in a nearby county jail without bond. His trial is slated to start in February.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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