August 6, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Jury to continue deliberating Thursday in Wafer murder trial

Wafer (Clarence Tabb Jr. / AP)

Detroit — The case of Theodore Wafer, the 55-year-old Dearborn Heights homeowner charged in the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his front porch last fall, rests with jurors.

The jury which includes four African Americans and eight whites began deliberations shortly after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and ended at 4 p.m. after listening two hours of closing arguments in the trial before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway.

During Wednesday’s deliberations jurors sent notes to the judge asking to see Wafer’s shotgun, the screen door to Wafer’s home and the plastic clips used to hold the door in. But the judge did not grant the request for the plastic door insert clips because they were not admitted in evidence.

The case has drawn comparisons to the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, in which the unarmed teen was shot to death by self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. In both cases, the accused shooter is white and the victim black.

Wafer was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and a weapons charge. The murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. A manslaughter conviction carries a 15-year prison sentence. The weapons violation is a two-year mandatory consecutive prison term.

During their closing arguments, prosecutors portrayed Wafer as a man who shot and killed McBride because he was seeking a “confrontation” with the person he says was banging on his door. Wafer told police he believed it was neighbor kids who had paint-balled his vehicle a couple of months before the shooting early Nov. 2.

But Wafer’s defense attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, said her client was in fear and the shooting was in self-defense even though Wafer had described it as accidental.

Using Wafer’s quote to police that he was “full of piss and vinegar” about the noise at his doors, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Pat Muscat told jurors Wafer went to the door as an angry man.

“He wanted a confrontation. ... He wanted the neighborhood kids to leave him alone ... he had had enough ... enough of the paintball,” Muscat said. “He went and took a shotgun ... to show it to them and scare them away.”

Muscat said McBride was injured and disoriented, after possibly falling asleep from her injuries due to an earlier car accident and alcohol consumption, when she showed up on Wafer’s front porch looking for help.

“She just wanted to go home ... she just wanted to go home,” Muscat told jurors at the beginning of his hour-long closing arguments Wednesday. Instead, Muscat said, McBride “ended up in the morgue” because Wafer raised his gun and “blew her face off.”

Muscat told jurors Wafer “shot and killed an unarmed, disoriented teenager.”

Muscat said through Wafer’s own admissions and actions, there was “no evidence of fear ... no evidence of that he was going to get hurt ... no evidence anyone was in his home.’’

He told jurors Wafer admitted to intentionally shooting McBride but has waffled between portraying the shooting as self-defense and an accident. He called 911 at 4:42 a.m. Nov. 2 to report the shooting.

“His testimony is not worthy of belief,” Muscat said. “His credibility is lacking.”

In her closing argument, Carpenter said Wafer told her he “thought they were coming in” to the house.

“It was getting louder and louder and louder until the floor was shaking,” Carpenter said Wafer told her about the shooting.

Carpenter said Wafer “was in pure terror” and McBride came at him from the side of his house. She said Wafer just wanted the banging on his door to stop.

“That’s all he wanted,” she said. “He’s not a gun nut. He’s not an angry person. He’s not paranoid. He did it in the heat of that moment. He was in terror.”

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Athina Siringas bristled over Carpenter’s comparison of Wafer’s case to the 1925 murder of Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African-American physician who was attacked by a white mob at his eastside Detroit home when he moved into the mostly white neighborhood.

“The nerve of bringing Dr. Sweet into this,” Siringas said. “He’s not under attack by armed citizens of his community. If I hear one more time, ‘We’re not trying to attack Renisha McBride’ ... if they are not trying to attack her, why are they telling you all this stuff? They don’t want you to care about Renisha McBride.”

Siringas said the prosecution has met its burden.

“There is no self-defense here,” Siringas said. “Where’s the fear?”

Muscat ended his closing statements by saying the shooting of McBride was unjustified and unreasonable and urged jurors to find “justice for Renisha McBride.”

In her closing statements, Carpenter asked jurors to acquit Wafer.

“I ask you all to send Ted home. ... Find him not guilty.”

bwilliams@detroitnews.com
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