Jury: Officer’s killer should die

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(KATHY PLONKA/Spokesman-Review)) Jonathan Renfro is escorted through the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017 after a jury recommended he receive the death penalty for murdering Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore.

COEUR d’ALENE — A Coeur d’Alene jury on Saturday decided Jonathan D. Renfro deserves the death penalty for killing Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore.

After deliberating four hours Friday, and briefly again on Saturday, jurors agreed that the aggravating factors surrounding Moore’s death warranted the death penalty.

The jury’s verdict, delivered around 10 a.m. in Coeur d’Alene’s First District Court, means jurors agreed mitigating factors surrounding the case were not enough to overshadow aggravating factors, including the deliberation Renfro showed in killing Moore by shooting him in the face with a concealed 9mm handgun, or what jurors believed was Renfro’s predisposition to kill again.

The verdict was delivered to a silent gallery whose members had been instructed earlier by District Judge Lansing Haynes to not respond emotionally to the verdict.

Seated among friends and family and behind the row of prosecutors, Moore’s wife, Lindy, held her hand over her mouth after hearing the decision and began to cry.

More than a half dozen Coeur d’Alene police officers shook hands in relief as Renfro’s family showed little response and quietly left the courtroom after the brief proceeding that lasted fewer than 5 minutes in the old Kootenai County Courthouse.

Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said the outcome was expected, and brought to an end years of waiting since Moore’s death in 2015, and Renfro’s arrest.

“It’s a verdict we expected,” he said. “It brings to a close this chapter and now, at least for our agency, the healing can begin.”

The decision comes after eight weeks of proceedings, including six weeks of testimony. Jurors more than two weeks ago found Renfro guilty of murder in Moore’s death, but another phase of the trial required they hear evidence to decide if the death penalty was warranted. During those proceedings, prosecutors offered evidence attempting to prove aggravating circumstances, followed by testimony put on by Renfro’s defense team who tried tipping the scales to show mitigating circumstances — including Renfro’s poor upbringing, head trauma, years of incarceration, and drug use — explained his behavior May 5, 2015, when he shot Moore as the officer patrolled a residential neighborhood.

Before jurors delivered their final verdict, District Judge Lansing Haynes asked onlookers to not show signs of emotion as a courtesy to the jury.

“I believe they should be able to render those decisions without being burdened by emotional reaction,” Haynes said.

Sentencing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Courtroom 12, at the Kootenai County jail.

A day before the verdict prosecutors outlined a half-dozen key points they said fulfilled the requirements for a death sentence, and which overshadowed any evidence of mitigation put on by the defense.

It was proven, prosecutors said, that Renfro came from a supportive family, that he showed no signs of traumatic brain injury that may have caused mental instability, as defense attorneys alleged, and that his methamphetamine use did not impair him to a degree that he didn’t know what he was doing when he fired the round that killed Moore.

Deputy Prosecutor David Robins said Renfro was a dangerous inmate who had lashed out several times at jailers and other inmates, and that no prescription drug therapy could change his antisocial behavioral disorder.

An expert witness, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who was paid $200,000 to testify on the state’s behalf, said Renfro’s decisions were his own.

“I don’t think he was born with this,” Welner said. “At some point he began to identify with a strongly divergent criminal element ... he became overly invested in it ... he became part of a criminally deviant subculture.”

Defense attorneys stuck to their theory that their client’s background and the head injuries he suffered were a pre-eminent factor in the shooting.

If Haynes on Monday sentences Renfro to death, Renfro will eventually be incarcerated at the Idaho maximum security institution south of Boise where he will join the seven men there who are on death row. One other death row inmate, a woman, is incarcerated at Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center.

Since Idaho adopted the death penalty in 1977, three inmates have been executed. Lethal injection is the method of execution. Offenders under the sentence of death are kept in their cells 23 hours a day.

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