Renfro experts’ bill tallies more than $579K

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COEUR d’ALENE — More than a half million dollars was spent by prosecutors and public defenders to pay for expert witnesses in Jonathan D. Renfro’s murder trial.

Aside from the $578,907 already billed, additional invoices have not been tallied, according to Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon’s office.

Court records show that public defenders spent $310,907 to pay seven experts to research the case and to testify at the two-month trial, while prosecutors paid $268,000 for three experts.

The county pays for prosecution expert witnesses. The county also pays for defense expert witnesses, but in this case will be reimbursed by the Capital Crimes Defense Fund, a self-insured fund that reimburses member counties in cases where the death penalty is being sought.

Some of the invoices were paid through late September, while others were paid through Nov. 4, near the end of the trial.

Renfro was convicted this month and sentenced to death for killing Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore two years ago by shooting him in the face during a routine patrol in a residential neighborhood.

The first part of the trial to determine if Renfro was guilty of murdering Moore didn’t require expert testimony.

Defense attorneys, however, called upon a variety of experts in the final phases of the trial in an effort to show their client’s violence was due in part because he suffered from brain abnormalities that have since been treated with medications.

Prosecutors countered with experts of their own to debunk what they called dubious scientific claims.

Top defense dollars were spent on Dr. Thomas J. Reidy, a forensic psychologist who studies the behavior of inmates. He was paid $94,494 by public defenders, testifying that Renfro was unlikely to harm others while incarcerated for life.

Prosecutors paid $210,000 to Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist, who spent more than a day on the witness stand invalidating testimony that Renfro suffered brain trauma, which affected his behavior.

During his testimony, Welner said he had billed for 350 hours at $600 per hour, and that he had spent additional time on the case for which he had not sent the county an invoice.

“Note there are charges still pending as of this writing,” said an email from the county to The Press.

At least one expert for the prosecution had not yet sent an invoice.

Dr. Ian McKeague, a professor of biostatistics at Columbia University who was hired to analyze the conclusions of a defense expert, said he expected to bill the county around $10,000. Also, a defense expert, Dr. Robert Thatcher, was paid around $1,000 to prepare four brain scan reports, he said.

Renfro, 29, was appointed a state public defender who will attempt to chip away at his sentence through an appeal process that could continue for several years. Motions including one to limit Welner’s testimony, and a motion to strike a notice to seek the death penalty, were recently denied in First District Court.

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