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Attorneys rest cases in guilt phase of murder trial against accused cop killer Jonathan Renfro

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 11, 2017, 10:23 p.m.

LOREN BENOIT/Press



Jonathan Renfro, center, enters the courtroom, at the Kootenai County Courthouse on Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore on May 5, 2015. (LOREN BENOIT/Press / Loren Benoit)
LOREN BENOIT/Press Jonathan Renfro, center, enters the courtroom, at the Kootenai County Courthouse on Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore on May 5, 2015. (LOREN BENOIT/Press / Loren Benoit)

The last piece of evidence the jury viewed Wednesday was a frame-by-frame slide presentation showing the last things Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore saw before a bullet struck him in his mouth during his encounter with suspected shooter Jonathan D. Renfro.

After three rebuttal witnesses, both the prosecution and defense rested their cases in the potential death-penalty trial against Renfro. Attorneys will give closing statements Thursday morning before the jury begins to decide whether Renfro is innocent or guilty of first-degree murder in connection to the May 5, 2015, shooting.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Linda Payne brought expert witnesses who suggested that Moore reached out and grabbed Renfro’s arm and potentially altered his aim just before the fatal shot. The defense included no testimony to explain why Renfro, 29, was later caught near the gun that was taken from Moore as he struggled to breathe on a residential street.

On Wednesday, Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor David Robins brought back a previous witness, to explain to the jury that someone could accurately shoot a gun from a pocket at close range.

Idaho State Police Detective Gary Tolleson said he also trains officers to perform what’s known as “point shoot” in a defensive situation if the subject is 7 yards (21 feet) or less from them.

“It’s action versus reaction,” Tolleson said.

Robins asked Tolleson if a novice would be capable of hitting nearby targets by point shooting without any prior training. Tolleson agreed.

However, First District Judge Lansing Haynes barred Robins from asking Tolleson whether Renfro would have had a tactical advantage by hiding a gun in his pocket. Previous testimony concluded that Renfro fired from his jacket pocket anywhere from 12 inches to 2 feet from Moore.

“That is something a lay jury appropriately understands and doesn’t have to be explained by an expert,” Haynes said.

The 14 remaining jurors will appear at 9 a.m. Thursday for closing statements from the attorneys. They then will be asked to render a verdict, which would end the first phase of the three-part trial.

If jurors find Renfro guilty, the state will then present evidence to determine whether they can show one or more aggravating factors proving that Renfro has a propensity or proclivity to commit murder.

Haynes ruled on Wednesday that the prosecution will be allowed to present evidence from an incident in April 2015 where Renfro is alleged to have threatened to kill a fellow inmate.

He will also allow prosecutors to present evidence to the jury about an incident in July 2015 where Renfro and a fellow inmate are believed to have formed a plan to escape the Kootenai County Jail. Their plan would have involved hurting or taking a correction deputy hostage, Haynes said.

The judge will also allow testimony from September 2016 in which Renfro is alleged to have said he intended to kill a particular deputy, Haynes said.

But Haynes said he won’t allow prosecutors to talk about instances from Renfro’s time in prison, in which he fought with other inmates and joined a group of offenders who were considered a security threat.

Prosecutors also cannot bring up the times Renfro has been caught with contraband inside the jail or the time he had to be physically restrained, including being sprayed with pepper spray.

“The court is not allowing evidence of attempts to escape or preparation to get out of a cell or discussion of escape unless it is included with a direct threat to the safety of a correctional officer,” Haynes said. “The fact that any inmate may want to get out of jail does not constitute relevant evidence to the propensity to commit murder.”

If the jury finds one or more aggravating factors exist, prosecutors would then move to the third, or penalty, phase of the trial. At that point, the jury must decide only whether Renfro will receive life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.