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Attorneys in death penalty case say Renfro suffers ‘neuro deficit’ that played part in killing Coeur d’Alene police officer

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 23, 2017, 10:53 p.m.

Jonathan D. Renfro, 29, looks toward the gallery in the courtroom at the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. Now that the jury convicted him of murdering Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, the sentencing phase has begun. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Jonathan D. Renfro, 29, looks toward the gallery in the courtroom at the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. Now that the jury convicted him of murdering Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, the sentencing phase has begun. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Pictures show Jonathan D. Renfro as a happy toddler at a family birthday. He rode a tricycle.

Now defense attorneys are calling on experts to convince a jury that the man convicted of killing a Coeur d’Alene police officer should be spared the death penalty.

The jury already has convicted Renfro, 29, of murdering Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore on May 5, 2015, and it also found three aggravating factors that indicate Renfro has a propensity to commit another murder.

Now the jury must decide only whether Renfro spends the rest of his life in prison or is put to death by lethal injection.

“We do have several expert witnesses, who have specialized knowledge, who can help paint a more accurate picture of who (Renfro) is and why he pulled the trigger and tragically took the life of Sgt. Greg Moore,” defense attorney Keith Roark said. “We are not saying he’s insane. But he does have what is referred to as a neuro deficit. It doesn’t function the same way as mine does or yours does.”

Roark thanked the jury for all the time it’s put into the case.

“Nothing we say is intended to impune your good verdict,” Roark continued. “We are not trying to tell you that JD didn’t have a choice. He chose to pull that trigger. But you need to know what his brain was like when he pulled that trigger. He does not need to die.”

After defense attorneys present their witnesses, the state can then call witnesses to counter them. First District Judge Lansing Haynes told the jury to expect about two weeks of testimony.

After Roark spoke, Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor David Robins called the defense’s paid experts “spell-binding pseudoscience” and said Renfro should face the ultimate penalty for murdering Moore.

“The evidence in this phase of the trial will show that justice for the ultimate crime of killing an officer in cold blood in the line of duty requires the ultimate punishment: Death,” Robins said. “Death is just because of the severity of the crime, the immeasurable damage caused to the family of Greg Moore and because a good man lost his life because this man didn’t want to go back to prison.”

Roark first called Renfro’s mother, Carol Renfro, who narrated a series of family photos showing Jonathan Renfro as a toddler and student. He was the youngest of three children and has an older brother and sister.

Renfro grew up in a middle-class home, played youth football and enjoyed a normal childhood, she said.

However, Jonathan Renfro fell behind in school even though later psychological testing showed he has an IQ of 110, which is higher than 75 percent of the population.

Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor Jed Whitaker asked Carol Renfro about a letter she sent her son describing an empty chair at Moore’s house and pointing out how she will continue to have a relationship with her son even in prison.

“There’s a table at both houses that have been destroyed because of that split second,” Carol Renfro responded. “Don’t try to make it something it’s not.”

Roark, the defense attorney, described how Jonathan Renfro turned first to drinking, then dropped out of school and then turned to crime as his adult life began spinning out of control. He suggested that a concussion he received when he fell out of a pickup when he was 16 and earlier playing football may have contributed to his mental problems.

Defense attorney Jay Logsdon called Craig Beaver, a licensed psychologist, who testified that Renfro suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and has trouble in certain cognitive functions despite his higher-than average IQ score.

“The bottom line is JD wasn’t dealt the same set of cards as his siblings,” said Beaver, who has billed the state about $40,000 for his review. Renfro “does have problems with how his brain operates. It doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be held responsible for his actions … but it helps explain how he ended up in a different place.”


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