The jury has returned a verdict of guilty of second degree murder/voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges in the trial of Detroit homeowner Theodore Wafer for the front porch shooting death of Renisha McBride in the early morning hours of November 2, 2013. Trial Judge Hathaway has ordered Wafer imprisoned immediately, pending sentencing.
UPDATE: Sentencing scheduled for Aug. 21 to Aug. 25 time frame.
Wafer’s legal defense against the charge was self-defense. The guilty verdict necessarily means that the jury unanimously agreed that the prosecution had disproved Wafer’s claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The two strongest arguments counter to self-defense were:
“Accident” and “I didn’t know the gun was loaded”
(1) Wafer’s early and repeated references to the shooting as an “accident,” including his claims that he was unaware the shotgun was loaded, only to later claim the shooting was an act of “self-defense.”
“Accident” and “self-defense” are logically inconsistent arguments. “Self-defense” is an inherently intentionally act–I see a threat, I respond to the threat. “Accident” is by definition something we do not intend. When a defendant argues one, they generally lose the other–sometimes as a matter of law, often just in terms of the credibility of their narrative of innocence with the jury. The prosecution in this trial also requested and received a jury instruction on prior false exculpatory statements as consciousness of guilt evidence, and that certainly could not have helped the jury lean towards self-defense if they believed Wafer’s early claims of “accident” were an effort to escape legal jeopardy.
Unlocking and Opening the Steel Front Door
(2) Wafer’s decision to unlock and open the steel front door of his home. McBride never, in FACT, threatened entry–whatever she might have done to the screen door, there remained the steel door to get through. Had that steel door been substantively damaged or had there been any evidence to suggest an actual entry was imminent, I think Wafer would have been fine. Absent that, however, the jury likely expected him to hunker down and wait until entry was imminent before using deadly force–and certainly not to unlock and open that very steel door that was keeping the “intruders” outside.
For the whole post, head over to Legal Insurrection: