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News >  Idaho

Defense says death penalty sought for financial reasons

Associated Press

COEUR D’ALENE – A North Idaho public defender says prosecutors are seeking only the death penalty against a man accused of killing a police officer because of financial reasons.

Kootenai County Chief Public Defender John Adams is set to argue in court next week that the prosecutor’s office is seeking the death penalty against 28-year-old Jonathan Renfro because the state has a fund set up to reduce capital trial costs, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.

Renfro is charged with first-degree murder, grand theft, removing a law-enforcement officer’s firearm, concealing evidence, robbery and eluding police in connection to the 2015 shooting death of Coeur d’Alene police Sgt. Greg Moore.

Idaho’s Capital Crimes Defense Fund, established in 1998, allows counties to take from a statewide fund to recoup some of the costs associated with death penalty trials.

“The existence of the CCDF permits this court to find that there is a clear financial benefit to the county when it pursues the death penalty,” Adams wrote in a brief filed Aug. 5.

Adams said the fund violates Renfro’s Eighth Amendment right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment because it allows prosecutors to consider other factors when pursuing a sentence. “The prosecutor’s quandary is not his fault but that of the state Legislature in creating a moral hazard by financially incentivizing death,” Adams wrote.

The Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office denies these claims and has filed multiple briefs in opposition to the argument. In a brief published on July 27, Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor David Robins wrote there is no evidence to prove Adams’ assertions.

“From the defendant’s slanted argument, he would have this honorable court believe he is a victim of some unfeeling financial calculus, meting out life and death based on financial considerations alone,” Robins wrote. “He is no such victim.”

Kootenai County District Judge Lansing Haynes will hear both arguments on Aug. 31 and decide if prosecutors will be allowed to pursue the death penalty.

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