The man who shot 19-year-old Renisha McBride after she knocked on his door for help was found guilty of murder Thursday afternoon. The jury found him guilty of all three charges — second degree murder, manslaughter, and felony firearm on its second day of deliberation.
McBride, an African-American woman, was shot and killed in the early hours of November 2 outside of 54-year-old Theodore Wafer’s Dearborn Heights home. It’s believed that McBride was in a car accident, and knocked on Wafer’s door for help after her cell phone died. Wafer shot her on the spot.
Wafer, who is White, claimed during the trial that he shot McBride in self-defense, after initially telling police he discharged the gun by mistake. In the weeks after her death, McBride’s shooting resulted in protests around the country, and drew comparisons with the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. According to TPM, prosecutors weren’t even sure whether they wanted to try him or not:
Prosecutors mulled whether to charge Wafer for several weeks, governed by Michigan’s expansive “Shoot First” laws that authorize individuals to deploy deadly force in self-defense without a duty to retreat. But in announcing she would charge Wafer with second-degree murder, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said her office determined that Wafer “did not act in lawful self-defense.”
The defense argued that “alcohol is what caused all of this” — that is, they tried to paint Wafer as a victim. Defense Lawyer Cheryl Carpenter argued that it happened because Rensisha had consumed alcohol earlier that night:
“I’m not blaming Renisha,” Carpenter told the jury during closing remarks Wednesday. “But alcohol is what caused all of this.”
She proceeded to paint two narratives of that night, contrasting McBride’s evening consuming alcohol with friends to Wafer’s quiet evening at home. As described by the Detroit Free Press’s Live Blog of the trial, the 19-year-old Carpenter was at a friend’s house at 8 p.m., drinking and smoking marijuana, while Wafer was at home eating a sandwich. When Wafer left her home at around 11 p.m., Wafer had been asleep for several hours.
“This man told the truth,” Carpenter said, referencing Wafer.
Prosecutors did not dispute McBride’s intoxication. McBride’s friend did testify that they engaged in social drinking earlier that night, and her blood alcohol level was tested at .218 — three times the legal level. But testimony also corroborates that Wafer fired the deadly gunshots in response to nothing other than McBride’s knocking at the front door after an apparent car accident. He never spoke to her. He never heard her say a word. he says he didn’t even see what she looked like. Prosecutor Athina Siringas said McBride had “the misfortune to walk on Wafer’s porch.”
The ruling was also a victory for civil rights groups:
The jury verdict is likely to elicit a collective sigh of relief in the civil rights community, after acquittals in the trials of George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn involving racially charged killings reinforced the perception that Stand Your Ground-like laws skew outcomes against African Americans.
Wafer, during his own lengthy testimony, also tried to convey the immobilizing fear over who was outside his door that night:
In his own lengthy testimony, Wafer conveyed immobilizing fear over who was outside his door that night. While he initially told police after the accident that he deployed his gun by accident, he conceded at trial that wasn’t the truth. He said he didn’t know why he lied at first, speculating that perhaps he was in “denial” about what he had done.
“I wasn’t gonna cower in my house,” he said.
He later added, “she had her whole life in front of her and I took that from her.”
Yes, you did.
Was it worth to know you didn’t have to “cower” from a 19-year-old girl asking for help?