June 20, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Judge to allow recordings in fatal Dearborn Heights porch shooting trial

Theodore Wafer during a final pre-trial conference hearing Friday. He's charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 19-year-old Detroiter Renisha McBride. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

Detroit — Recordings of 911 calls and tapes and transcripts of police questioning a Dearborn Heights homeowner charged with shooting 19-year-old Detroiter Renisha McBride to death will be used in his trial next month.

One of the videos expected to be shown will be of the homeowner, 54-year-old Theodore Wafer, shortly after he shot McBride on his front porch in the early morning of Nov. 2. He’s charged with second-degree murder.

McBride’s family says she was looking for help around 4:42 a.m. after a single-car crash about a mile from Wafer’s home on West Outer Drive near Warren Avenue.

During a final conference hearing Friday, Wafer’s defense attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, asked Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway to not allow the admission of printed transcripts of police interrogations after the shooting.

Carpenter said transcripts could “prejudice Mr. Wafer’s due process” and that the videos and audio recordings paint a clearer picture of Wafer’s demeanor and emotions that morning.

She pointed specifically to a video of him in the police squad car after the shooting. “He’s in a squad car and he goes ‘Oh my God ... Oh my God,’ ” Carpenter said.

Assistant Wayne County prosecutors Terry Anderson and Danielle Hagaman-Clark, however, said the transcripts are part of their trial strategy.

Hathaway ruled she will allow the transcripts, audio recordings and videotapes.

Another pretrial hearing is scheduled for Thursday on other motions, including an order in which the Wayne County Medical Examiner and the defense’s expert witness, former Wayne County Medical Examiner Werner Spitz, will testify.

Wafer’s trial is scheduled to begin July 21. It is expected to last about three weeks and will have about 35 witnesses from both sides. Jurors will be chosen from a pool of 200 Wayne County residents.

A motion for a change of venue for the trial’s location also has been filed in the case which has garnered national attention because of racial undertones. Wafer is white and McBride is African-American.

McBride, who had a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit, crashed her Ford Taurus into a parked car in Detroit around 12:57 a.m. Unarmed, she made her way to Dearborn Heights, about a mile away.

At 4:42 a.m., a 911 call came in from Wafer: “I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun, banging on my door.” Wafer’s lawyers have said he believed McBride was an intruder.

McBride’s aunt, Bernita Spinks, who attended Friday’s hearing with McBride’s parents, was satisfied with the proceedings.

“We’re going to let God handle it,” she said. “The right decision will be made in my niece’s defense.”

bwilliams@detnews.com
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The mother of Renisha McBride sits in the courtroom, during the pre-trial ... (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
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