Intellectual disability cited in death row inmate's appeal

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The attorney for an Arkansas death row inmate convicted for fatally shooting a police officer during a 2011 traffic stop told the state Supreme Court Thursday the inmate has an intellectual disability that makes him ineligible to be executed.

Attorneys for the state and Jerry Lard appeared before the court over Lard's appeal of his death sentence for the fatal shooting of Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt. Lard was the passenger of a car Schmidt pulled over during an April 2011 nighttime traffic stop.

An attorney for Lard cited an psychologist who found that the inmate had a “mild” intellectual disability. Lee Short, Lard's attorney, also said the lower court was wrong to accept the inmate's request to waive his post-conviction relief and accept his death sentence.

“His condition of mild intellectual disability impairs his ability to think rationally and make reasonable judgments," Short said.

The state, however, said a psychiatrist with the state hospital found Lard to be competent to waive his post-conviction relief. The psychiatrist said Lard had “borderline intellectual functioning” that didn't affect his ability understand the choice between life and death, the state said.

“Lard has consistently maintained he's not intellectually disabled," Assistant Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs told the court.

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.

During Lard's trial, his attorneys didn't deny that he killed Schmidt but 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.

The Supreme Court on Thursday did not indicate when it would rule in Lard's latest appeal.


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