Defense Presents Case In Dearborn Heights Porch Shooting Trial
DETROIT (WWJ) - It appears Renisha McBride was knocking so hard she hurt her hand — That’s what a former Wayne County Medical Examiner testified to Thursday, as the defense presented its case in the murder trial of Theodore Wafer.
Handed a photo of McBride’s left hand, forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz told jurors that the nature of a small, superficial laceration indicates it was not suffered in a car crash hours before she died. He also testified that McBride’s right hand was so swollen, her fingers looked like hot dogs.
“Did those injuries come from Ms. McBride pounding on something?” defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter asked.
“Yes,” Spitz replied.
Wafer, 55, of Dearborn Heights, does not deny fatally shooting the unarmed 19-year-old woman on his front porch early one morning last fall; but he claims he did so in self-defense.
The defense is trying to prove that McBride was forcefully pounding on Wafer’s door, trying to break in, and that Wafer was in fear for his life.
The defense also claims that Dearborn Heights police botched the investigation. In cross-examination Wednesday, it also came out that police didn’t take fingerprints from Wafer’s door.
WWJ’s Legal Analyst Charlie Langton talked about Carpenter’s questioning of Det. Sgt. Stephen Gurka.
“The issue is, did the detective do a thorough investigation of the crime scene? The detective admitted that fingerprint evidence was not important in this case, and that he failed to test plastic clips that may have been used to hold the screen door together,” said Langton. “Also, the officer admitted that he failed to investigate a man that may have been running away from the house just after the shooting.”
Gurka testified that he thought there was no evidence of a break-in, and that he believed this was an open and shut case.
McBride, who had an extremely high blood-alcohol level and marijuana in her system, was fatally wounded three hours after she walked away from a car accident in Detroit — about a half-mile away from Wafer’s home.
A retired Michigan State Police crime scene reconstruction expert testified Thursday for the defense.
“He said that the screen was dislodged and broken before the shot was fired, you add that with the footprint in the back on the AC unit, you add that with what looks like to be that hammer hit on the side door – together – it shows that a person or people were trying to get into Mr Wafer’s house,” said Carpenter.
In opening arguments last week, Carpenter said Wafer was asleep in his recliner when he heard a “boom, boom, boom, boom” sound at his door. The banging was so severe, Carpenter said, that the “floor was shaking, the picture window was rattling.” That’s when, Carpenter said, Wafer loaded his 12-gauge shotgun, opened the front door and fired, hitting McBride in the face.
So, how much does all this information presented so far by the defense hurt the prosecution’s case?
“That doesn’t have anything to do with the facts in evidence,” said Ron Scott, a spokesman for the McBride family. “The facts in evidence is a young woman was killed, mortally wounded; and, as was testified by the medical examiner, her head was almost literally blown off at close range — and those are the salient facts of the case.”
Defense attorney Carpenter was asked if she’s attempting to make McBride the villain in this case.
“No, I’ve never done that. I’ve never tried to drag Ms. McBride through the mud,” said Carpenter. “It’s not about Renisha McBride, it is about Mr. Wafer. What was going on in his head when he was inside that house.”
Prosecutors say Wafer should have called the police instead of shooting.
It’s unclear whether he will take the witness stand in his own defense when testimony resumes on Monday.