They were firefighters, stay-at-home moms and young adults trying to start a career. All of them were among one of the biggest pools of jurors to be summoned in Kootenai County history for the first-degree murder trial of Jonathan Renfro.
Renfro, 29, could face the death penalty if convicted of shooting Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore in the face on May 5, 2015. Moore died hours after the early morning encounter in an area of Coeur d’Alene that had a recent spate of crime.
First District Court Judge Lansing Haynes held a roll call for the first two groups of jurors, who must come in waves because they won’t all fit in one courtroom. With 1,000 Kootenai County residents summoned, it exceeded the 800 potential jurors who were summoned in October 2006 for the triple-murder trial of Joseph Duncan.
Duncan, now 54, pleaded guilty just prior to his 2006 trial to slaying a family with a claw hammer. Duncan remains on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana, after he was later convicted in 2008 in federal court for kidnapping Dylan and Shasta Groene and sexually abusing Dylan before killing him in 2005.
The deputy prosecutor who handled the Duncan case: Lansing Haynes. Now a judge, Haynes began the initial questions of the jury selection, which is expected to extend into next week.
Among the jurors called for Renfro on Monday was a man wearing a flannel shirt who told the judge that he could not set aside his already-formed opinion that Renfro was guilty.
Asked if he was indicating that he could not set aside his views and objectively listen to the evidence, the man replied: “That’s right.”
Haynes excused him.
Renfro stands accused of shooting Moore in the early morning hours of May 5, 2015. Moore had driven to the residential neighborhood in northwest Coeur d’Alene when he encountered the Rathdrum man.
When Moore stopped to question him, Renfro later admitted that he pulled his own gun and shot Moore, who died hours later., according to court documents. At the time, Renfro was a convicted felon who was carrying a gun in violation of his felony parole.
“I was feeling scared, trapped and concerned,” and as soon as he saw Moore place a hand on his gun, “I didn’t think,” and just reacted, according to a transcript read in a court hearing in 2015.
Renfro pleaded guilty last week to grand theft and attempting to elude a police officer. In addition to the murder charge, Renfro also faces the charges of removing a firearm from a law enforcement officer, concealment of evidence and robbery in connection to the shooting.
Renfro is believed to have taken Moore’s gun and car after the shooting. Renfro eventually was arrested hiding near the Walmart in Post Falls.
The case will be prosecuted by Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh and deputy prosecutors David Robins and Jed Whitaker. The defense includes Twin Falls attorney Keith Roark, who was appointed to represent Renfro along with Deputy Kootenai County Public Defenders Jay Logsdon and Linda Payne.
On Monday, Renfro arrived in court with a close-cropped haircut, black-rimmed glasses, a white dress shirt and a dark-blue tie. He didn’t speak, but he followed the questions and answers as Haynes personally spoke with each juror who raised their hands with potential problems.
Many faced hardships of missing work, finding child care or finding friends or family willing or able to help them during the trial, which is expected to last five to six weeks. One man said he graduated high school with McHugh and knows him personally.
“I want to remind you that jury service is your civic duty,” Haynes told the crowd.
One woman told Haynes that she had a medical problem that would make it difficult to sit on the jury. Haynes inquired as to the medical problem.
“I was diagnosed three weeks ago. I’m finding out soon about treatment,” she said. “I have cancer. I don’t know how it’s going to go. I can bring in a doctor’s note.”
“Your saying it is sufficient for this court,” Haynes replied. He excused the woman and said, “Good luck to you with your treatments.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter