COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Lincoln Rutledge will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing Columbus Police Officer Steven Smith.
A Franklin County jury chose that sentence instead of recommending a death sentence, because the 12-person jury could not come to a unanimous agreement whether Rutledge should be put to death for crimes he was convicted of last week.
A juror told NBC4 it was like a Greek tragedy, with both sides losing. He said eight jurors voted for a life sentence, four of them for a death sentence. He said Rutledge’s mental illness defense swayed jurors.
Although Rutledge did not react to the verdict of life behind bars, a Columbus SWAT officer who was with Officer Smith in the armored car that fateful day did.
“Rutledge made his decisions that day, I believe they were purposeful and deliberate as the jury found, so Steve Smith and his family are the true victims here, obviously it is a tragedy for all involved there,” said Officer Holloway.
Holloway said he spoke by phone with Smith’s family after the verdict was read.
“They are accepting of the verdict,” he said.
“I want people to remember this is about Officer Smith and his family, along with the loss for the City of Columbus of a police officer that day, he is what the main focus of this trial and verdict need to be about. As a personal friend of him I miss him every day,” Holloway said.
Rutledge’s sister said we all are victims and said they know the Smith family is in pain too.
“The fact that they lost a loved one – I pray for them every day, that they will find some peace and I hope my brother gets well too,” said Molly Martin.
Lincoln father talked about begging the jury to have mercy on his son.
“That was next to impossible, it is the hardest thing I have done in my life, but it is your son but you do what you do for love,” said Keith Rutledge.
The jury split 8-4 for life in prison. As a juror told Rick Reitzel, they felt Rutledge was mentally ill–needing help, not death.
Franklin County Judge Mark Serrott will have the final say, sentencing Rutledge on July 18th.