COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Jury deliberations are underway in the Franklin County trial of Lincoln Rutledge.
Rutledge, 45, is accused of killing Columbus police SWAT officer Steve Smith during a standoff last April.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Jeff Liston said it would be appropriate to find his client guilty of murder but not the more serious charge of aggravated murder.
Liston said Rutledge was reacting to police tactics used during the standoff including a pole that raked glass from a bedroom window.
“The pole comes in and Mr. Rutledge reacts and shoots at the pole,” Liston said.” No one could have known where Officer Smith was. Not from that vantage point, with the bedroom lit up like that, with the blinds in the way and the tear gas.”
“It was not a scheme, not a plan, not a method,” Liston said. “It’s not a purposeful killing. Officer Smith was not the target. The pole was the target – the object that was intruding into his bedroom.”
Officers went to Rutledge’s apartment in Clintonville with an arrest warrant for arson. But Rutledge refused to surrender and told officers he was “invoking the Castle doctrine” which allows a homeowner to use deadly force when their life is threatened by someone on their property illegally. Officers had a signed warrant for his arrest.
Officer Smith was standing up inside an armored vehicle outside the apartment. A fellow officer testified that Smith was leaning to the left side of the vehicle turret when he was struck by a bullet just above his left eye.
Assistant Prosecutor Warren Edwards told jurors there is ample evidence of purpose and intent in the actions taken by Rutledge. They say he taunted officers to “come in a get me” and fired numerous rounds from a handgun. “He reloaded that gun,” Edwards told the jury. “That’s purpose, that’s prior calculation and design and that’s why we are asking you to return guilty verdicts on all counts.”