COEUR d’ALENE — Prosecutors in the murder trial of Jonathan D. Renfro accused defense attorneys Monday of sidestepping discovery rules by attempting to submit evidence at the 11th hour.
Deputy prosecutor David Robins likened the tactics to a bushwhack.
“This has now turned into trial by ambush,” Robins said.
Since the beginning of court proceedings Sept. 25 in the trial of Renfro, who was found guilty earlier in the proceedings of murdering Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, both sides have charged discovery violations.
Prosecutors have been most vociferous in their claims, stepping up their protestations in the trial’s final phase in which jurors are given evidence to decide if the death penalty for Renfro is justified.
In the last two weeks as the defense team called its experts, prosecutors have doubled down on claims that Renfro’s attorneys are submitting evidence or testimony the state wasn’t apprised of in a timely manner.
Robins said his office received an email file Sunday afternoon containing a 60-plus page PowerPoint of largely statistical data the defense planned to show the jury the next day.
“This goes well, well beyond the rules of disclosure,” Robins said. “... To turn in a PowerPoint of such complexity at the last minute.”
Because of its belatedness, his team was unable to digest the data and prepare a rebuttal.
Presiding Judge Lansing Haynes, however, stood by the defense, which paid $90,000 to have expert witness Thomas Reedy, a California forensic psychologist, testify that convicted murderers are not more likely to be violent than other inmates in prison, according to his findings.
The defense used Reedy’s testimony to show the jury that if Renfro was not sentenced to death, he was just as likely as any other inmate to be a model prisoner.
Haynes said that although the evidence was late in getting to prosecutors, it was relevant, probative and, as all other evidence, subject to scrutiny at cross examination.
“It’s proper mitigating evidence about a position the state takes,” Haynes said. “It’s subject to cross examination and rebuttal evidence.”
Reedy took the stand for almost four hours Monday, explaining a series of studies that show how the crimes committed by inmates outside prison do not determine how inmates act inside. He told jurors, who will decide if Renfro is too dangerous to be allowed to spend the rest of his life behind bars, that based on his crimes, the defendant is not a serious threat to other inmates or prison staff.
Robins laid out his own case during cross examination, highlighting one at a time the many misdeeds for which Renfro has been charged or was disciplined as an inmate during earlier stays in prison or in county jails. According to Robins:
• While in prison, Renfro put an inmate in a triangle, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu hold, and choked him until he was unconscious.
• While in prison, Renfro cheeked his medication, spitting it out later so he could sell it.
• He was at least twice kicked out of prison rehabilitation programs for threatening staff or inmates.
• He threatened to kill a jailer and an inmate in the Kootenai County Jail.
• He made a shiv out of a plastic spoon to either jimmy locks or to use as a weapon.
• He often kept contraband.
• He hid a rope allegedly to use as a garrote.
• He beat a prison inmate bloody, breaking his nose.
• He threw rocks at other inmates in the prison yard.
• He hatched an escape plan that included taking a jailer hostage.
• He told jailers he had little to live for, and therefore was not going to follow jail rules.
• On several occasions he had to be restrained and pepper sprayed for acting out.
His attitude is that because he faces life in prison or death, he will no longer comply.
“I’m done,” Renfro allegedly told a jailer. “I’m going to do my time my way. You have no stick to punish me with.”
After reading each accusation, Robins asked Reedy if he had taken the incidents into account when he drew his conclusions that Renfro isn’t likely to be a problem in prison.