Witness: Renfro has behavioral disorder

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COEUR d’ALENE — Jonathan D. Renfro suffers from a behavioral disorder that makes him aggressive, reckless and unconcerned for the safety of others, and which is unrelated to previous head trauma, upbringing or substance abuse, a psychiatrist told jurors Thursday in First District Court.

Scott Bender, a clinical psychiatrist and lecturer at the University of Virginia, who conducted a battery of tests on Renfro at the request of prosecutors, told jurors Thursday the defendant showed no sign of having a traumatic brain injury, as defense witnesses had indicated in earlier testimony.

Instead, Bender said, Renfro scored well on a series of tests meant to pinpoint abnormalities.

The assessments showed Renfro was cognitively sound.

When asked to diagnose the defendant’s condition, Bender said Renfro suffered from antisocial personality disorder, which manifests itself in reckless behavior, impulsivity, aggression and deception, characteristics prosecutors have hammered on throughout the six-week trial.

The jury already found Renfro guilty of killing Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, but based on evidence that was offered in the trial’s final phase, which concludes this week, jurors must determine if the defendant should be sentenced to death.

In testimony Thursday morning, deputy prosecutor David Robins named one by one the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder as Bender applied them to the defendant.

To describe Renfro’s aggression, Bender recounted the defendant’s history of fighting, and a conversation he had with Renfro.

“He described it as important to confront bullies, and beat up bullies … being a bully to bullies,” Bender said.

Bender ticked through Renfro’s criminal history of car thefts and burglaries to connect impulsivity, recklessness, both traits of antisocial personality disorder, to the defendant’s behavior patterns.

“Not appreciative of one’s own safety, or the safety of others,” Bender said. “Do things without thinking them through or considering the consequences.”

Bender, who is being paid around $40,000 by the county for his investigation of the case and to testify to his findings, said Renfro doesn’t have PTSD, as earlier testimony intimated, and that ADHD, which the defendant may have suffered as a child, is no longer present.

“I believe there is evidence he had ADHD as a child, but he no longer has it,” Bender said.

A large percentage of people with early onset of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outgrow it, he said.

Instead, Bender said, all indications show the defendant has antisocial personality disorder, which overlaps with conduct disorder and usually begins to manifest itself in adolescence.

Antisocial personality disorder is harder to outgrow in part because people don’t accept having it, refuse to recognize it and are resistant to changing their behaviors.

“It’s a rather fixed trait that can’t be explained by culture or societal norms,” he said. “It’s a pervasive pattern of behavior involving the disregard of the rights of others.”

Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner supported Bender’s diagnosis and discredited earlier testimony by defense witnesses who attributed Renfro’s killing of Sgt. Moore as an isolated drug-induced event agitated by lack of sleep and the inability to think clearly.

Welner concluded the assessment was false, based on his interviews with the defendant and studying the record.

Renfro first used methamphetamine in prison to stay awake while keeping a lookout for other inmates who were giving each other tattoos against prison rules, the defendant told Welner.

“It gave him the ability to do stuff and stay focused,” Welner said.

He wasn’t looking for a high, just focus.

“He would have initiative and energy,” Welner said. “His usage was more utilitarian.”

In footage of Moore’s encounter with Renfro leading up to the killing, Renfro is polite, engaged and without the symptoms associated with fatigue brought on by lack of sleep.

“He knew he was going to shoot Sgt. Moore,” and displayed discipline as he waited for the opportune moment. He was vigilant and obviously moved very quickly,” Welner said. “Quickly enough that Sgt. Moore wasn’t able to intervene.”

By Welner’s accounting, Renfro’s actions weren’t brought on by anything but his own fear of being arrested and sent to prison.

“He maintained his composure. He maintained his impulse,” Welner said. “He was unimpaired.”

The trial resumes today at 9 a.m. in Coeur d’Alene’s First District Court.

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