Though Theodore Wafer was sentenced to 17 years in prison Wednesday for killing Renisha McBride on his front porch in November — a sentence his lawyer claims is equivalent to life for the 55-year-old man — it’s instructive to compare his sentence to another recent high-profile case in Detroit.
Residents there don’t have to look very far for a telling comparison. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison for racketeering, bribery and extortion. The 44-year-old, with time off for good behavior, will be 67 on his scheduled release date, Aug. 1, 2037.
While Kilpatrick was convicted of stealing millions from Michigan taxpayers, the former mayor didn’t kill anybody. But yet his sentence was 11 years longer than Wafer’s.
Is something wrong with this picture?
Before his sentence was announced, Wafer apologized to the family of the 19-year-old he shot in the face.
“I only wish that I could take this horrible tragedy back,” he said.
He said he was apologizing from the bottom of his heart.
“I am truly sorry for your loss,” he said.
After his statement, Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway sentenced Wafer to 15 to 30 years for the second-degree murder charge and seven to 15 years for manslaughter. They will be served at the same time. There’s an additional two years for felony firearm, which has to be served separately.
As they were leaving the courtroom, according to USA Today, McBride’s family said “justice was served.”
Wafer’s attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, came to tears as she made her argument about why his sentence should be limited.
“This wasn’t planned,” she said. “He didn’t go out looking for this. It came to him.”
But Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Athina Siringas wanted more time for Wafer.
“The jury has spoken and they have said his actions amount to murder in the second degree,” she said. “Murder, not manslaughter.”
Calling the case one of the saddest she has ever had, Hathaway said she doesn’t believe Wafer is a cold-blooded murderer or that the case had anything to do with race.
“One life gone and one life ruined,” she said.
Through his defense attorneys, Wafer during the trial 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 Dearborn Heights, Michigan, resident.
“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.”
The trial was followed closely by many African-Americans around the country, who fervently prayed that the family of the teenager 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.