A Detroit jury Thursday afternoon convicted suburban homeowner Theodore Wafer of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.
Through his defense attorneys, Wafer tried to make the case that he legitimately feared for his life when he was awakened in the early morning hours by McBride pounding on his front and kitchen doors. Wafer opened fire on the teen, blasting her in the face with his shotgun. The jury apparently rejected his claim that he had acted in self-defense, since McBride wasn’t armed and posed no clear threat to the 55-year-old Dearborn Heights, Michigan, resident.
Wafer shot McBride on Nov. 2, 2013, when she knocked on his doors after a car crash.
“She just wanted to go home,” prosecutor Patrick Muscat said during closing arguments, according to trial reports, as he held up to the jury the shotgun Wafer used to kill McBride. “She ended up in the morgue with bullets in her head and in her brain because the defendant picked up this shotgun, released this safety, raised it at her, pulled the trigger and blew her face off.”
Wafer, an airport maintenance worker who lives alone, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison — though most experts don’t expect his sentence to be that long.
The trial was followed closely by many African-Americans around the country, who fervently prayed that the family of the 19-year-old would get the justice that was denied the families of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, teenagers also killed by white men claiming they were acting in self-defense.
On the second day of deliberations, the jury of seven men and five women — four Blacks and eight whites — ultimately rejected the attempts by Wafer’s lawyers to portray McBride as a bad girl prone to violence, particularly after it was revealed she was drunk and had smoked marijuana earlier in the evening.
Testifying in his own defense, Wafer told the jury earlier in the week that just before he opened fire with his shotgun and killed McBride, he was fearfully thinking: “It was them or me.”
Wafer said he awoke to the sound of banging on his front and then kitchen doors that was so violent it made the floor vibrate beneath his feet. He said he couldn’t find his cellphone to call 911‚ but he did get his Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun from the closet.
However, he told the jury, he forgot it was loaded.
When a figure came from around the corner, Wafer said he pulled the trigger as a “reflex reaction” due to fear.
“I was not going to cower. I didn’t want to be a victim in my own house,” he said.
But Wafer also attempted to show a softer side, telling the jury he thinks of McBride every day.
“This poor girl, she had her whole life in front of her,” he said, wiping his eyes.
However, Wafer showed no emotion when the verdict was read. He was remanded to the Wayne County Jail and will be sentenced on Aug. 21.
McBride’s parents, Monica McBride and Walter Simmons, said they were pleased with the verdict, according to ABC News, but said they never would have had to be in this position if Wafer had just called 911.
“Me and Walter know who she was,” McBride said of her daughter. “She was not violent. She was a regular teenager. … Her life mattered.”
Asked what he learned about Wafer during the trial, Simmons said, “We learned he was a cold-blooded killer.”
After the verdict was read, jurors were escorted out the back of the building without speaking to the media.
During the deliberations, the jury requested to see Wafer’s shotgun and also his screen door. Apparently they were investigating the likelihood that the door had been moved out of position by McBride’s pounding or whether it was already that way, as the prosecution offered. Michigan’s version of the Stand Your Ground law allows a homeowner to use force during a break-in. If that isn’t the case, the homeowner has to prove his life was in danger.