Self Defense Or Murder? Trial Begins In Dearborn Heights Porch Shooting Case
DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – It’s 4:30 a.m. and you hear someone pounding on your front door … would you be in fear for your life?
That was the question Theodore Wafer’s defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter posed to jurors in her opening statement, Wednesday morning, as the high-profile murder trial began before Judge Dana Hathaway.
Carpenter brought with her the metal and screen door that the accused killer claims was damaged when the victim, Renisha McBride, tried to get in.
Wafer, 55, of Dearborn Heights, does not deny fatally shooting the unarmed 19-year-old woman on his front porch last fall; but he claims he did so in self-defense.
Asleep in his recliner, Wafer heard pounding at a side door – “boom, boom, boom, boom” – Carpenter said. He dropped to the floor, couldn’t find his cellphone and then heard more pounding at the front door.
“His heart is coming out of his chest. … There’s a shadowy figure coming off the porch and going to the side of the house. He thinks it’s not one person; it’s two or more people,” Carpenter told the jury.
The banging continued and was so severe that the “floor was shaking, the picture window was rattling,” she said, so Wafer eventually loaded his 12-gauge shotgun, opened the front door and fired, hitting McBride in the face.
Earlier court testimony shows that Wafer was about 3-feet from McBride when he pulled the trigger.
He’s charged with second degree murder.
Carpenter didn’t tell the jury whether Wafer will testify or whether his version of events will be relayed during the testimony of police officers who interviewed him extensively after the shooting.
Prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark said Wafer had other choices when McBride arrived. She displayed a cheerful picture of the victim on a screen, followed by a photo of her dead body on the blood-stained porch.
“His actions that night were unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable,” Hagaman-Clark told the jury.
She said there was no evidence of an attempted break-in, and any damage to the screen was from the shooting – not McBride.
The jury heard four witnesses on the first day of testimony, including a woman who called for an ambulance for McBride after the crash. Carmen Beasley said McBride was bleeding and pressing her hands to her head, but she walked away before help arrived.
“I assumed she was drunk. … She just kept saying she wanted to go home,” Beasley said.
WWJ Newsradio 950’s Marie Osborne reported the victin’s mother, Monica McBride, broke down in tears on the witness stand as she was shown a photo of her daughter, and spoke about Renisha’s last words.
Another witness, the victim’s friend Amber Jenkins, told the court that she and McBride were drinking and smoking pot while playing a “drinking game” hours before her death.
On Tuesday, a Wayne County jury made up of seven men and seven women — including two alternates — was seated. There are four African-American jurors, including two women and two men on the panel. Carpenter was accused of, and denied, dismissing jurors based on race.
Wafer is white and McBride is black.
McBride, who had an extremely high blood-alcohol level, was shot in the head three hours after she walked away from a car crash in Detroit— about a half-mile away from Wafer’s home.
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