Renfro case goes to jury after five weeks of trial
It’s now up to a jury to decide what role Bradley Renfro played in the beating and killing of David Grunwald.
Renfro is one of four people charged with murdering the Palmer 16-year-old on Nov. 13, 2016. Erick Almandinger and Dominic Johnson have already been convicted in the killing. Austin Barrett is scheduled to go to trial next year.
Defense Attorney Chris Provost made his closing argument to the jury Friday morning during the fifth week of trial. He refreshed jurors on each witness the state called and the limited evidence that linked Renfro to Grunwald.
Unlike the past defendants, Renfro chose to testify in his own defense. He spent six days under direct and cross examination, telling his story of what happened to Grunwald.
“He is here to save his own life and to tell his story over days of testimony. More than any other witness. With his own lawyer meticulously pointing out the lies and omissions,” Provost told jurors.
Renfro admitted to being present when Grunwald was pistol-whipped and executed, Grunwald's Ford Bronco was burned and evidence was destroyed from a camper. He denies being a willing participant in the events.
Renfro testified he was afraid of Barrett and that’s why he lied about what happened. Provost said his client was forced to be involved against his will.
That’s why the defense has added the element of duress in five of the charges: kidnapping, arson, vehicle theft, tampering with evidence and felony murder.
Duress means the defendant was forced or coerced to participate. If the jury finds Renfro is guilty of those crimes, but also decides he was under duress, Renfro can be found not guilty.
The state is trying the case on accomplice liability. Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak can’t prove who pulled the trigger, so he’s trying to show evidence the suspects acted as a group and all were involved in the murder.
Provost argued Renfro’s role was minor and did not contribute to Grunwald’s death.
“Except for looking at two acts: helping David get out to the Bronco and then suggesting where they should go. Convicted him of murder one beyond a reasonable doubt for that?! That’s what you’re being asked to do. That’s what it boils down to,” Provost said.
Kalytiak had a chance to provide a rebuttal. He told jurors Renfro is a proven liar, shown in his interview history with investigators.
“You have to determine that he is credible to buy this defense story that he was scared, even though he partied with his friends right after the murder. Even though he’s still flashing the ‘C’ sign on Nov. 18. They’re asking you to swallow his whole story in this trial hook, line and sinker,” Kalytiak said.
Both attorneys agreed, regardless of the verdict, there will be no true relief for Grunwald’s family.
But Provost said the jury could absolve Renfro.
“There is another young man now today, at the time another child, as David was also referred to, who is hoping that you will provide justice for him,” Provost said.
“There are certain things no amount of prosecution is going to restore in this particular case. David Grunwald is gone forever,” Kalytiak said. “In terms of justice, you will have the final say. Specifically, you’re going to have to find the determination of what is the reflection of truth.”
Jurors chose not to begin deliberations on Friday afternoon. They’ll begin deliberating on Monday.
In the trials for Almandinger and Johnson, jurors returned guilty verdicts after less than a day of deliberation.
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