DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A 55-year-old suburban Detroit man found guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of a young, unarmed woman on his porch is “shocked” by the verdict and deeply remorseful over her death, according to his attorney.
“I don’t think it’s fair or just that he is now labeled a murderer,” Attorney Cheryl Carpenter told WWJ’s Beth Fisher. “That was his worst nightmare and it happened.”
Theodore Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder Thursday in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. He said he was afraid for his life when he decided to open the front door and fire a shotgun through a screen door, instantly killing McBride before dawn last Nov. 2.
Wafer testified that he acted in self-defense in response to relentless pounding at his doors, but the jury didn’t agree. Prosecutors believe McBride may have been confused and was looking for help when she arrived at his Dearborn Heights home. She had crashed her car hours earlier, and an autopsy found she was very drunk.
The jury took less than two days of deliberations before returning their verdict.
“I would have been able to understand if they had come back with a manslaughter conviction, but I do not understand a conviction for murder-two,” Carpenter said. “Under the law and how the prosecutors charged Ted, was that for the murder-two, no intent was needed. It’s more of a reckless disregard for life which is, when you think about it, what manslaughter really is. When you think of murder, you think of somebody intentionally wanting to kill another person and Ted never wanted to do that.”
Carpenter said she just can’t wrap her head around the jury’s decision to convict Wafer of murder.
“I am shocked by it. I don’t like it at all, at all, at all,” she said. “I wonder why they didn’t hear what I said. It’s like ‘What didn’t they believe? Why didn’t they believe it was honest and reasonable? Didn’t they believe Ted?’ I hope some jurors will contact me and let me know because it’s eating away at me.”
“If the jury didn’t agree with Ted’s actions, I will accept that,” she continued. “But I don’t think the jurors wanted him to die in prison. I hope they didn’t. Ted is not a cold-blooded killer. Yes, he did kill somebody, but it was a reaction to the fear he was feeling. It haunts him.”
Wafer faces up to life in prison when sentenced on Aug. 25.
“This is essentially a death sentence,” Carpenter said, noting Wafer’s age. “If he gets sentenced under the murder guidelines, it’s a death sentence… An appropriate sentence would be manslaughter guidelines in this case.”
Carpenter said Wafer’s legal team will “definitely” file an appeal in the case.
“I will be filing a sentencing memorandum and I will be asking the judge to downward depart from the murder guidelines. I don’t think the murder guidelines are appropriate for Ted,” she said.
Prosecutors argued that Wafer should have called police instead of grabbing his gun when McBride showed up on his porch.
Wafer testified that he had been sleeping in a recliner and couldn’t immediately find his phone when he awoke to an “unbelievable” pounding on his doors. He testified that he opened his front door and noticed the screen door had been tampered with, then opened the front door further before a figure emerged quickly from the side of the house. He said he raised his shotgun and fired.
“There was no pointing,” Wafer said, during cross-examination. “Just a self-defense reaction to protect myself.”
The shot hit McBride in the face, killing her instantly.
“This case is not a stand-your-ground case. This is a Castle Doctrine case,” Carpenter said. “If you’re in your home minding your own business and something is brought to you, you’re put in fear for your life, you can use deadly force to protect yourself. Stand your ground is one where if you’re not inside the walls of your house, you’re out on the street, you don’t have to retreat — you can use deadly force and you don’t have to run and hide. It’s different. Ted never went out looking for this.”
A key exhibit in the trial was the screen door that Wafer claims was damaged when McBride tried to get into his home.
“I do think Renisha broke into Ted’s home. We heard the jury instruction the judge read that said simply, a porch is a part of a person’s home. So we have that, we know that Renisha was in Ted’s house because she was, and everybody agrees, she was on the porch,” Carpenter said. “If you have her on the porch, which is part of Ted’s home, and you have her breaking a screen, which is part of Ted’s home, she is breaking and entering.”
Prosecutors in their closing arguments repeatedly emphasized that Wafer had easier options than to directly confront McBride.
“She was a young girl looking for help,” prosecutor Patrick Muscat told jurors. “What he did had to be immediately necessary and it wasn’t. It was reckless. It was negligent. I don’t know how to describe it. It was horrific.”
Muscat said Wafer shot McBride because he was upset and wanted a confrontation when she knocked on his door at 4:30 a.m. He said Wafer’s Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun with a pistol-grip handle “is a dangerous weapon, and the way he handled it – he handled it like a toy….And as a result, a 19-year-old is dead.”
Carpenter, who saw Wafer in jail on Friday, said she’s concerned about his wellbeing behind bars.
“It was the hardest thing, besides getting that verdict, I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “We were sitting there waiting for Ted to come in and see us and having him walk in in jail garb and getting un-handcuffed, and he just had this blank look on his face, was so difficult. But it was so nice to see Ted.”
Carpenter, a mother, said she understands the anger McBride’s family must be feeling, but she hopes that one day, they might find it in their hearts to forgive Wafer.
“I want to tell Renisha’s parents and her family that since day one, Ted has wanted to talk to you. I was the one who told him, ‘You can’t go talk to her parents. We’re waiting for trial, that’s not proper,'” she said. “He couldn’t look at you during trial because he saw the pain. He is living with the fact that he took your daughter away from you, and it haunts him every single day. When he said that, he was honest and truthful. I don’t know if that will give you any comfort, but I hope it does.”
“There are times when he wishes it was him and not her,” she continued. “He’s 55, he knows he’s at the end of his life and he’s told me, ‘Renisha had her whole life. She was 19.’ I hope someday, the anger subsides and you can look at Ted as a human who is deeply sorry for killing your daughter.”
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