As Kootenai County begins its first possible death penalty case in more than a decade, a look at Idaho’s death row shows few offenders in the Gem State ever face capital punishment.
Jury selection began Monday in the trial of Michael Renfro, who could face the death penalty for allegedly gunning down a Coeur d’Alene police officer two years ago.
Right now, seven men and one woman await the death penalty in Idaho, with one of the men on Death Row since 1983. The state’s counties cite rising costs and lengthy appeals as reasons for not seeking the death penalty more often. Idaho has executed only three people since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-1970s.
A legislative study done in 2014 found that of the 215 people charged with first degree murder over a 16-year period, the death penalty was sought in about one-fourth of them, and of those, only seven were sentenced to die. More than half of the people sentenced to death since 1977 have had their death sentenced overturned and were given lesser sentences.
The last time the death penalty was on the table in Kootenai County was for Joseph Duncan, who faced murder and kidnapping charges for killing a family in 2005 and abducting their two youngest children. Duncan took a plea deal in Kootenai County and was sentenced to death in federal court instead. He remains on death row with no execution date set.
Of note, the deputy prosecutor who handled the Duncan case was Lansing Haynes, who is now the judge presiding over the Renfro trial. (KXLY, Spokesman-Review)