COEUR d’ALENE — After deliberating for four hours Thursday, jurors in the Jonathan D. Renfro murder trial took a break and retired to their hotel rooms to start the process again at 9 a.m. this morning.
The sequestered jury will remain isolated from the public and media until it reaches a verdict, which could come today, in the guilt phase of the murder trial.
Jurors must first decide if the defendant is guilty of killing Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Gregory K. Moore, and whether circumstances surrounding the killing warrant a first, or second-degree murder conviction. Jurors must also decide if Renfro is guilty of additional felonies including robbery, hiding evidence and stealing a firearm from a police officer.
To convict the defendant on a first-degree murder charge jurors must determine if Renfro had “malice of forethought,” or if he intentionally planned to kill Moore.
Renfro is accused in the May 5, 2015 murder of Moore who was shot in the head with a 9mm handgun in a Coeur d’Alene residential district and died choking on his own blood, prosecutors said.
Kootenai County prosecutors in yesterday’s closing arguments meticulously laid out the case for convicting the 29-year-old Rathdrum man who they say was dressed in black clothing, high on meth and cruising neighborhoods, on foot, after midnight with a pistol and a fistful of hollow point bullets in his pocket in case he encountered resistance, when he was stopped by Moore.
“This was a felon, dressed in black out on parole looking to do harm,” deputy prosecutor David Robins said.
Moore was on a routine patrol “on the front lines of the community,” when he stopped Renfro, collected Renfro’s information including his driver’s license, turned his back on the defendant and was ambushed.
“He didn’t see it coming,” Robins said. “He murdered Sgt. Moore without provocation, without justification, without warning and without excuse.”
Why? Robins asked.
“Fear,” he said, standing tall in front of the jury, hair coiffed, wearing a blue suit, silver tie and a white kerchief in his breast pocket.
The parolee was out after curfew and afraid the officer would find the illegal firearm in his pocket.
“The defendant shot Moore to avoid going back to prison,” he said.
In a 45-minute diatribe Robins played footage from Moore’s body camera for jurors, pointed out the brevity from the time Moore was alive, and moments later when he was shot in the head and lying on his back, his body camera pointed at a dark sky.
Robins’ voice boomed and fluctuated, as he discredited arguments from the defense, and pointed out Renfro’s deceptive answers to police questions during taped interviews.
“He was hoping he could talk his way out of it and when he couldn’t, he killed him,” Robins said. “He stood over him like a game hunter over prey. He stripped him of his gun, magazines, stole his cop car and fled.”
The way he killed Moore was especially egregious, Robins reiterated.
“He attacked him without warning with stealth from the side,” Robins said. “He wanted him dead, and ambushed him with a shot from the pocket.”
Defense attorney Linda Payne, Robins’ antithesis, middle height, faintly disheveled, wearing a sweater and with a voice like a concerned relative, told the jury of her client’s — “J.D.s’” — remorse. He was horrified at what had happened and panicked.
That is why he stole the police car after the incident and hid miles away in Post Falls.
Throughout the trial Payne did not refute her client’s killing of Moore. Renfro however had not intended to kill the officer, she said. Instead, when Renfro was stopped, he became edgy realizing Moore would find the gun in his pocket.
When over the police radio attached through an earpiece, Moore learned of Renfro’s status as a parolee, he put his hand on his sidearm. That’s when Renfro, high on meth, acted first, Payne said.
“It’s equally plausible that Sgt. Moore moved his hand and rested it on his weapon,” Payne told the jury. “I’m going to suggest to you that Sgt. Moore’s body moved to the side, and J.D.’s body moved to the side and he could see the empty holster (on Renfro’s belt) and his hand went on his sidearm.”
What happened next depends on perspective.
“So when Sgt. Moore put his hand on his weapon, J.D. reacted to shoot,” Payne explained to jurors. “He had enough foresight to shoot him in the plates (body armor).”
That is what a series of images, each shot at a 3oth of a second, depict. The images — played over and over for the jury earlier in the week were the topic of examination by expert witnesses. They show, according to the defense, Sgt. Moore’s left hand deflecting Renfro’s right hand hidden in his jacket pocket, fingers on the trigger of the 9mm Glock.
According to prosecutors the images show Renfro closing the gap to assassinate Moore with one shot to the head, and Moore, caught off guard, using his left an arm in defense.
“I’m not telling you Sgt. Moore caused this,” Payne said. “This is going toward intent. Did (Renfro) have malice of forethought?”
Prosecutors, Payne explained to jurors, had not proved their case.
“The state has not proven that J. D. intended to kill anybody,” Payne said. “They have not.”