“He Had Never Been So Scared” Attorney Argues Man Who Killed Renisha McBride Feared For His Life

July 24, 2014  |  

This past winter, we all mourned the tragic and senseless death of Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed on the front porch of Theodore Wafer, a 55-year-old White man.

Now, Wafer is on trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter in Renisha’s death.

Al Jazeera reports that his defense attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, told the 12-person jury, consisting of four Black members, yesterday that Wafer was acting out of self-defense.

“He was acting and reacting to escalating fear. He had never been so scared in his entire life. It’s horrible and it’s sad that a 19-year-old woman is dead. But Ted is justified in what he did.”

The jury has to decide whether or not Wafer had a reason to shoot and kill McBride when she was banging on his door at around 4:20 am. An autopsy found that her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit for an adult driver. She had crashed her car a few hours before when she started knocking on Wafer’s door.

The prosecution is arguing that Wafer took a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach because there was no sign of attempted burglary, there’s no evidence of any effort to breaking in. His actions that night are unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable. Because of that, a 19-year-old girl is dead on a porch in Dearborn Heights.”

Wafer and his attorney claim that he had no idea that McBride was Black or female and have tried to downplay the racial significance of it, especially in light of other Black teens being shot and killed by other, often older White men.

Civil rights advocates state that the fact that the defense is citing Wafer’s unawareness of McBride’s race prove that it is a factor.

Mark Fancher of the Racial Justice Project says that this case could be racially significant even if McBride’s race is not what initially motivated Wafer to shoot. He said, “I don’t know if the prosecution believes race is an element of the crime, but the defense felt they needed to head off assumptions the jury might make whether he’s biased or not … If they assume the jury will see this through a racial lens, then race is relevant here in that way.”

The prosecution has yet to mention race in their arguments, instead they’re focusing on the time and thought it took for Wafer to find, position and fire his weapon.

“It is the state’s position that taking a gun and having it loaded, having the safety off, opening a locked door and aiming at an unarmed stranger was a situation created likely to cause great bodily injury,” she said. “It has to be loaded, locked, the safety has to be off and the trigger has to be pulled. There’s no hair trigger on this shotgun. It requires 6.5 pounds of pressure to fire it.”

McBride’s mother and best friend have taken the stand so far during the trial. Between the two women, the jury learned that McBride and her mother argued that she hadn’t cleaned the house the evening she was killed. And they learned that she’d drunk vodka and smoked weed on Nov. 1, hours before she encountered Wafer.

She got into the car accident at 1 am, hitting Carmen Beasley’s vehicle. Beasley said that she tried to get McBride to wait for the police and an ambulance to arrive to the scene of the accident but as they were waiting, McBride left.

Beasley testified, “She just wanted to go home. She wasn’t belligerent. She was young and she just wanted to be at home. That was her goal, to be home.”

At this point, defense attorneys have yet to reveal whether or not Wafer will take the stand.

As this trial progresses, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the updates and final outcome.

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