A Michigan white man who said he feared for his life when he killed a Black girl on his porch in 2013, was resentenced to 17 years in prison after the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial.
Theodore Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Renisha McBride in Dearborn Heights in 2014, but the Michigan Supreme Court vacated his manslaughter conviction, saying that he should not have been punished twice for the same killing.
However, Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway said on Wednesday, June 22 that the facts of the case and prison sentence remain the same.
“You cannot murder someone for simply knocking on your door in the middle of the night. You had choices,” Hathaway said.
The judge ordered Wafer to serve 15 years for second-degree murder and two years for using a gun while committing a felony. With credit for the eight years he already served, Wafer will be eligible for parole in 2031.
Many compared the crime to the death of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman also argued self-defense, but was acquitted by a jury.
The jury in Wafer’s case rejected his self-defense claims. His legal team later appealed the case in 2017, arguing then to the state Supreme Court the jury did not receive instructions about Michigan’s “stand-your-ground law.”
State law allows residents of Michigan to use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief it is required “to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm” to themselves or someone else.
The state’s castle doctrine provision also gives homeowners the legal right to use deadly force with “rebuttable presumption” of self-defense if they use it to stop someone in the process of breaking and entering.
However, the Supreme Court rejected Wafer’s request for a new trial in 2017.
Prosecutors argued that there was no evidence the 19-year-old girl was trying to break into the man’s house when she banged on the door at 4 a.m. A toxicology report shows McBride had alcohol and marijuana in her system, and she had just had a car accident before the shooting. Prosecutors believe that she may have been disoriented.
Wafer said he could not find his phone to call 911 when he heard the relentless pounding on his door. He reportedly opened his front door and shot the girl through the screen door of his porch with a shotgun.
“Although the evidence clearly showed that Miss McBride made some terrible choices that night, none of them justified taking her life,” Hathaway said during Wafer’s first trial. “I do not believe that you’re a cold-blooded murderer or that this case had anything to do with race or that you’re some sort of monster.”
She added, “I do believe that you acted out of some fear but mainly anger and panic. An unjustified fear is never an excuse for taking someone’s life. … So what do we have? One life gone and one life ruined.”
Supreme Court Justice David Viviano wrote in the February ruling ordering the new trial that the court was unaware of any “cases in this state in which defendants were convicted of and received punishments for both second-degree murder and statutory involuntary manslaughter on the basis of a single killing.”
On June 22, as McBride’s family appeared in the courtroom, Wafer expressed regret for shooting McBride.
“I remain terribly sorry,” he said.
The teen’s mother, Monica McBride, said her death shattered the family.
“Holidays are no longer holidays because we have no joy,” Monica McBride said in court. “Every day is a living nightmare that we can’t and won’t wake up from.”