Detroit Porch Shooter Found Guilty

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The Chicago Tribune reports:

A white suburban Detroit homeowner was found guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder in the shooting of an unarmed black teen on his porch in a case that set off protests and fanned racial tensions.

Theodore Wafer, 55, sat stone-faced, staring straight ahead as the jury delivered its verdict after less than two full days of deliberations. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter and firearms charges.

The airport maintenance worker faces up to life in prison for killing Renisha McBride, 19, with a shotgun blast through his locked screen door after he was awakened in the early hours of Nov. 2 by repeated, violent knocking on his door. 

Wafer’s testimony seems to have been something of a mess. First, he claimed that the shooting was an “accident”; later, he settled upon “self-defense.” These two positions are mutually exclusive. You can’t, after all, defend yourself from a threat by accident. As the Tribune suggests, this proved extremely damaging:

Wafer’s testimony, in which he admitted to intentionally pulling the trigger after earlier telling the police that the shooting was an accident, also failed to win him an acquittal.

As for the integrity of that “self-defense” claim? It seems that the state had a reasonably easy time knocking it down. The victim may well have been drunk and on drugs, and her behavior may well have been erratic and confusing – especially in the middle of the night. Nevertheless, Wafer had the protection of a steel door between himself and his “assailant,” and he opened that door willingly. As Andrew Branca notes over at Legal Insurrection, that matters:

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.

By all accounts, this was not a close call. Under the law, a ”guilty” verdict requires the jury to agree unanimously that prosecutors have disproven the claim of self-defense beyond all reasonable doubt. That guilty verdict was forthcoming. Wafer will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. The right decision, I suspect.