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Jury Selection Begins Detroit Front Porch Shooting of Black Woman

Jury Selection Begins Detroit Front Porch Shooting of Black Woman

Theodore Wafer claims self-defense in his early-morning hours shotgun killing of Renisha McBride as she stood on his Detroit porch.

Jury selection begins today in the murder trial of Detroit homeowner Theodore Wafer, as reported in the Detroit Free Press. Wafer shot and killed Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old black woman, on his front porch. Wafer is claiming self-defense.

The most recent news in the Wafer case was the June 27 denial by trial judge Dana Margaret Hathaway of defense requests to have McBride’s cell phone texts and a map illustrating local crime incidents admitted into evidence (Judge Bars Cellphone Texts, Crime Map From Evidence in Renisha McBride Case).

The cell phone texts suggested that McBride, the victim in the shooting, might have been engaged in the dealing of marijuana the night she was shot.  Such evidence could potentially be relevant in this self-defense case if it suggested a potential for violence on the part of McBride, but the judge ruled that it failed to do so.

The judge also denied a motion by the defense to admit into evidence a “crime map’ of Wafer’s neighborhood. Based upon police reports of local crime, it illustrated the local crime incidents with large markers over a broad area around Wafer’s home.

A high rate of local crime could potentially be relevant as to Wafer’s state of mind at the time he shot McBride.  Of course, it could only have done so if Wafer actually possessed this knowledge at the time of the shooting. Judge Hathaway declined to allow the map to be used for that purpose, stating: “What matters to me is what the defendant actually knew [about nearby crimes], testimony from him and his neighbors.”

 How the Michigan Porch Shooting case may be defended

Analysis: Self-Defense Claim May be Legally Weak in Michigan Porch Shooting

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and (paperback and Kindle). He holds many state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and produces free online self-defense law educational video- and podcasts at the Law of Self Defense University.


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JackRussellTerrierist | July 21, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Andrew, will there be a broadcast feed of this trial?

Now this one is going to be interesting and frankly could go either way. I have a feeling this one is gonna come down to the forensic evidence and expert witness testimony.

The judge also denied a motion by the defense to admit into evidence a “crime map’ of Wafer’s neighborhood.

This is nuts; a guy certainly knows if he’s living in a bad neighborhood … or not. I think this would be very relevant.

    Milhouse in reply to walls. | July 22, 2014 at 3:59 am

    I agree. He shouldn’t have to know the exact number of crimes, or their exact location, in order to have an impression that it’s unsafe. If there is evidence that backs up that impression, it should be admissible.

    It’s like saying that a witness can’t have known that this past winter was unusually cold and snowy if he hadn’t seen a chart of the exact date and size of each snowstorm.

    Ragspierre in reply to walls. | July 22, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Guys, read the stuff Andrew wrote more carefully.

    Nobody is going to “suppress” crime information.

    But trial exhibits are often excluded on the grounds they are merely graphic representations of what can…and should…come as live testimony.

    And go back to Andrew’s oft-stated elements of self-defense. A “crime map” won’t show what someone knew and how that affected their objective and subjective use of deadly force.

Wafer is screwed if he gets another OJ jury, but then he’s probably screwed anyway. Even if he can prove self-defense, he’s going to get the Zimmerman treatment and/or the Paula Deen treatment. The prosecution has no-doubt already gone through his entire life history looking for any use of the “n” word.

Looks like a tough defense. Wasn’t this the case where the guy was safe in his house, then opened up his front door and shot the decedent? Why did he open the door when he was safe inside? Or is there more to it?

It’s interesting how NPR is portraying this incident. From their summary: “…The African-American teen knocked on Wafer’s door late one night. He says the shooting was an accident.” Then about half-way down the page, we get “…McBride was found to have high levels of alcohol in her system, along with trace amounts of marijuana.”

Then on the radio today, she was supposedly “…seeking help after an auto accident.” But they don’t mention that she hit a parked car more than *two hours* before the shooting, fled the scene, returned to the scene, and then fled the scene again before police arrived.

No doubt the defense will attempt to suppress all of this before trial so they can portray her as an innocent, knocking gently on the door in hopes of finding a kind soul who would call AAA for them. But when even NPR admits to it…

    Hello. You and others seem to believe that Wafer has a valid self defense claim. Fine with me. I’m curious do you believe Detective Joseph Walker has a valid self defense claim? Others can answer.

      “I’m curious do you believe Detective Joseph Walker has a valid self defense claim?”

      Probably not, given that he shot an unarmed man in a “duty to retreat” state, when it looks like he had plenty of opportunities to retreat.

      And FTR, even though Florida *is* a Stand Your Ground state, I don’t think “self defense” is going to fly with Dunn either, given the circumstances of the case.

      I’m not that well-informed on the Wafer case, so all I have is my gut instinct as to what I would have done in his place, if I were behind a solid locked door with someone on the other side yelling and pounding away: Get my weapon out, get myself to a safe place in the house, call 911 and let them know what’s going on and keep them on the line, and then if my solid front door is breached tell 911 “I’m in the master bath/closet/basement/whatever, and my front door has just been breached. If s/he gets to me before you all get here, and I’m afraid for my life, I’m sadly going to have to use my weapon.”

      Not everything is about race, truly. Stop trying to make it so.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to m1. | July 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      Actually, nothing of the sort was said, the comment was about an obviously bias media report.

      As far as Walker, personally, I think he is toast, he didn’t retreat and appears to have had more than ample time to do so.

      In this case, I am just not sure and don’t have enough information to give a good opinion.

    Chem_Geek in reply to georgfelis. | July 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    “the defense will attempt to suppress all of this before trial so they can portray her as an innocent, knocking gently on the door in hopes of finding a kind soul who would call AAA for them.”

    I think you mean the Prosecution, but yeah that’s exactly what they’re trying to make of McBride. The comment sections of the Detroit papers’ Web sites are full of that depiction (“knocking gently on the door”) rather than the truth, that she did serious damage to the screen door before Wafer opened the inner door.

    IMHO: opening the inner door was tactically stupid – despite the screen door failing, the inner door was still secure. No, take cover and call for help and prepare to repel a home invasion IF they make it through the inner door.

      Prosecution, correct. (oops) And I can see a chain of events that would fit Wafer’s defense if he went to the door to “brandish” the shotgun in order to frighten away the intruder and failed to keep his finger off the trigger. (a common newbie mistake combined with exceptionally bad luck)

        Gremlin1974 in reply to georgfelis. | July 23, 2014 at 7:36 pm

        Also, if I remember correctly, Wafer was awakened from a dead sleep, which might have had something to do with him opening the door, which while a poor tactical decision doesn’t necessarily mean it was an illegal decision.

        Also, I would be interested to hear a more cohesive time line. We don’t really know how much of the girls episode he slept through. My bet is this all went down in just a few seconds, as would be the usual case.

        Frankly, I am betting that he opened the door and a piece of it flew in towards him and spooked him and he stroked the trigger.

          “Frankly, I am betting that he opened the door and a piece of it flew in towards him and spooked him and he stroked the trigger.”

          I have little doubt that this is essentially what occurred.

          Opening that door . . . very foolish.

          Of course, State has to prove it was criminally foolish beyond a reasonable doubt.

          So, he might make it yet.

          Remember, conduct is judged to standard of a reasonable and prudent person, in the same or similar circumstances, with the same or similar capabilities, possessing the same or similar specialized knowledge, and possessing the same or similar mental state, at the time.

          I wouldn’t be surprised at a hung jury.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    tom swift in reply to georgfelis. | July 22, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    The “seeking help after an auto accident” statement has appeared intermittently since this case was first reported.

    Of course that claim is speculation; we’ve seen no evidence or testimony which would support it. Exactly why McBride decided to attack Wafer’s screen door at that time remains unknown.

Richard Aubrey | July 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Strikes me that the defense attorney can put up a map of the area and ask Wafer about various crimes. He can be coached to “remember” them in order of their distance from his home, the farthest first. t

Richard Aubrey | July 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm

What is it with this thing?
Anyway, as the crimes are “remembered”, approaching his home, one by one, it ought to make an impression on the jury

From the linked item in the Voice of Detroit

“‘Quite frankly, I don’t know how the defense can put on a case of self-defense without the defendant testifying,’ [Judge] Hathaway said.”

That seems like a peculiar thing for a judge to say.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to tom swift. | July 23, 2014 at 12:57 am

    It’s a hint to the defense. You either better have more evidence of self-defense, or have your client testify, or I will not give the instruction.

    The defense has to meet it’s burden of production on the elements of the defense. If the State’s evidence doesn’t do so, the defense will have to produce evidence of it’s own. And given Wafer was the only witness–well, there you go.

    Unless Wafer managed to provide at least some evidence of the defense elements in a form already admissible into evidence–e.g., during the 911 call–it is indeed hard to see how his burden of production is met without Wafer testifying.

    It was much the same in the Michael Dunn case–why he was obliged to take the stand and testify.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense