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We don’t Know – Ted Wafer Case

TedWafer_900x675
An article written in the Detroit Free Press by Mitch Albon is bang-on. At this point in the case, we don’t know many of the facts. It’s too early to be taking a side in the case.

Mitch Albom: Restraint needed, please, in divisive Renisha McBride case

November 17, 2013

Let’s practice saying the sentence.

“We don’t know.”

We will need to say it an awful lot in the coming months, because we may have our own Trayvon Martin case brewing.

The shooting death of a young woman, Renisha McBride, has sides lining up. And after the shooter was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm on Friday, the rumbling grew louder.

But remember. We don’t know. Say it. We don’t know anything except a woman is dead and a man allegedly shot her. I  write “allegedly” — even though no one apparently disputes that — because that is journalistic protocol for how you speak before a case is decided.

We would be wise to use protocol ourselves.

Because you already may have formed an opinion when you heard that a 54-year-old white man from Dearborn Heights shot a 19-year-old black woman from Detroit when she allegedly banged on his front door in the wee hours of the morning.

But we don’t know.

You may feel certain there is no justification for such violence;  the woman was just looking for help.

But we don’t know.

You may believe the woman said or did something threatening, because nobody just shoots someone for being on the porch, right?

But we don’t know.

You may argue that people get nervous with guns in their hands, and the man, Theodore Wafer, told police his 12-gauge shotgun went off by accident.

But we don’t know.

Two sides of the argument

You may say, as family members of McBride have told the media, that this was about racial profiling.

But we don’t know.

You may say the way Wafer shot McBride will prove his intentions, but the family first claimed she was shot in the back of the head and the autopsy by the medical examiner’s office revealed she was shot in the face.

And we don’t know.

You may agree with those who say, “She was just an innocent kid, her cell phone was dead, she had no options, she was trying to get home.”

But we don’t know.

You may say, “She was hardly innocent, her blood-alcohol level was 0.218% and there was marijuana in her system, according to the toxicology report.”

But we don’t know.

You may think people who answer the door with a shotgun are trigger-happy to begin with, prone to shoot first and ask questions later.

But we don’t know.

You may think every American has the right to defend his or her home, that guns are constitutionally protected, that evidence will show this woman was a threat to the homeowner.

But we don’t know.

Lessons from the past

You may think, “This is an irresponsible teen. She plowed into a parked car and fled the scene of an accident because she was drunk.”

But we don’t know.

You may claim, “This is an irresponsible shooter. There were no signs of forced entry, so what harm could he  have feared that justified pulling a trigger?”

But we don’t know.

You might declare, “This is what always happens. The victim will be blamed, the dead cannot speak, the shooter will be exonerated, and just like in the Martin case, the guy will go free.”

But we don’t know.

You might fret that, “Here we go again. A man trying to protect himself will be the latest pawn in the racial finger-pointing, to be vilified unfairly for the rest of his life.”

But we don’t know.

Emotions run hot. Conclusions run rampant. Everyone wants to solve this case before the people charged to do it get a chance. But that is not healthy. That is not wise. That is historically dangerous. Because history shows we are constantly amazed at how different a case looks once all the facts are brought to light.

I have no idea what actually happened that terrible night in Dearborn Heights. I do know that nobody wants to go through another Trayvon Martin situation, and this is a delicate tinderbox of a case, a blowing candle away from exploding.

Everybody wants justice quickly. But justice should be immune to impatience. Justice should take as much time and effort as it needs to ensure everything and everyone is heard from and considered.

That’s what makes justice so precious.

And that much, we all know.

http://www.freep.com/article/20131117/COL01/311170092/mitch-albom-renisha-mcbride-theodore-wafer-dearborn-heights-detroit

What we do know is that this man should be presumed innocent until all the facts are known.  We do know that prosecutors are capable of overcharging and need to be watched carefully that they aren’t bringing charges where the facts don’t support them.

It would do society well, to have the facts come out quickly and transparently.  We don’t know all the facts yet and it’s too early to be deciding whether Mr. Wafer is guilty.

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77 thoughts on “We don’t Know – Ted Wafer Case

      • thxs.

        I am trying to take care of lots of jobs I need to finish, not much progress to report, I sure have gotten slower and much better at procrastinating as I age.

        Seems were in for more exploitation of the TM incident in any questionable inter-racial killing.

        I spent some time reading and commenting on the local Santa Rosa incident in which the sheriff killed the 13 year old Andy Lopez who did not drop the replica AK-47 when ordered.

        It took about 2 1/2 weeks before the press wrote about the legal issues regarding brandishing a replica in public and the risk associated with minor use particularly in public which is against the law for the obvious reasons.

        When my then 13 year old tried to cross the street carrying a borrowed replica Gloch pellet gun I had a fit and refused to allow him to borrow a pellet type gun again. He bought one when he left for college and had fun playing in the woods with fellow students, only to be kicked out of the dorms for violating the rules of possessing a replica firearm. dumb kid.

  1. How would this case be perceived if instead of hitting a parked car, Ms. McBride hit and killed a pedestrian and fled the scene to avoid the consequences and met with the same end…at Wafer’s door in the middle of the night?

    • That’s a good question, Nettles, and it shouldn’t matter at all, but we know that it would. That’s why I am beginning to think we need professional jurors. Jurors who are capable of focusing on the facts that are pertinent, and also capable of keeping prosecutors honest by recognizing overcharging, and perhaps other misconduct on their part. We need judicial reform which is a mind boggling task.

    • Nettles ~ what a thought provoking question, yes indeed, there would be little sympathy for RM.

      Sadly, those that are drunk/loaded/driving kill everyday, RM wasn’t even old enough to drink legally.

  2. It’s a real tragedy. He looks so frightened.

    Detroit is a high crime area. There are so many murders committed maliciously and they get no attention. We can be pretty certain that this man was asleep and awakened by the girl. We can be sure that he didn’t just go out looking for someone to kill. We can be sure he was frightened when he woke up and grabbed the gun. We can be sure he didn’t have a long time to think about what to do.

    • Yeah, I can’t imagine he killed her intentionally. It may have been some freak accident due to poor gun safety and/or he just freaked out. Very few people wouldn’t feel like crap after finding out they killed a 19 y/o girl. I’m sure when he found out she probably just thought it was her house, or needed help, he felt even worse.

      If he really did tell LE he accidently shot her, I think he’s going to get a few years at least. Still though, there may be a rational explanation how that accident happened that doesn’t involve him being negligent in some way. We can’t dismiss the possibility he was intoxicated too. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

      • You would be stupid to kill intentionally kill a 19 year old girl on your front porch and the call 911 and report it. He said it was an accident and that’s all that makes sense to me.

        If she thought it was her house and it as a member of her family answering the door, she might have been impatient and tried to push or pull on the screen door. She might have said, “let me in” or something. He might have pointed the gun at her to warn her and it accidentally went off. I would not have shot through the screen. You never know what someone else might do. A lot depends on their level of fear.

        You are right about saying, “We don’t know.” There are some things we know and some things we don’t know. I realized this morning that trying to argue with the lynch mob only gives them energy. If they only talk to each other, maybe they’ll get bored with it.

  3. According to Wafer’s lawyer, Carpenter

    “She just attempted to get into his house using the front door and also the side door and so that just scared the hell out of him.”

    Renisha was heard at both Wafer’s side door and front door. V.P. on twitter, created this side-by-side comparison of the McBride’s house (left) and Wafer’s house (right).

    compare houses

    Ms. McBride refused help twice at the crash site and witnesses said she just wanted to go home. It is very possible that Ms. McBride tried to gain access into Mr. Wafer’s home thinking she had made it to her house.

    From this report, we learn that when police arrived, Mr. Wafer walked out his side door with his hands out to his side. The shot gun used was a Mossberg 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with a pistol grip and was found inside near the front door. A spent shell casing was near the front door.

      • If he was holding it with one hand (opening door with the other) with his finger on the trigger, I can see some angles where if his grip slipped the weight of the barrel dipping/dropping might cause a trigger pull. I’m so not a gun expert.

          • I know zero about guns. I recall reading some time ago that shot guns aren’t that accurate. Also could the glass door have sent the blast in the direction of her head? What I mean to ask is once the blast hit the glass could that have caused it to propel in the direction it went?

            • It could change the trajectory. But shot gun ammo hold small balls that disperse once shot. It depends on size of the shot pellets, distance. Lets just say the barrel was not at an angle that the shot would hit her where it did without him aiming at her face.

            • Nettie,
              I am sure or at least I hope the police or forensic unit looked at everything especially since his initial statements was a gun misfire. They will look at all evidence. This evidence can consist of the firearm, the cartridges, the projectiles, the cartridge cases, primer residue, gun powder residue, the projectile flight paths, the area surrounding the shooting, blood spatter patterns,and of course the shooting victim.
              Most times attention is paid to shooting distance. If a shot is fired close to a target, then gun powder residue can give an accurate determination of the distance between the firearm and the target. A contact shot to a target produces tearing, a large amount of burning, and unburned gun powder particles deposited in the bullet tract. A near contact shot will cause burning around the bullet hole and a tight pattern of unburned gun powder particles. As the firearm moves farther away from the target, there will be little to no burning around the bullet hole and the unburned gun powder particle pattern will generally get wider. As the firearm is moved even farther away from the target, no unburned gun powder will be seen around the bullet hole. Test patterns can be made from the suspect weapon and compared to the patterns found at the shooting scene to accurately reconstruct the distance of the firearm to the target. If a revolver is held close to a parallel surface when fired, then escaping hot gas from the cylinder gap and barrel will deposit on the surface in a manner that allows the length of the barrel to be accurately measured.

              There are so many youtube videos on youtube where you can watch the damage of a specific gun, and different ammo. It may help you visualize distance, damage, and how shot guns are handled.

            • The man who shot my sister used a shot gun. All I know is that the people who were shot but not killed got lots of small scattered bullets. I don’t know if you’d call them bullets. It wasn’t like a clean shot with one bullet hole but fragments all over the place. One woman put her hands to her head to try to protect herself. She had fragments all over her hands and her head.

              I don’t think that is the case with Ms. McBride. I don’t know if it was a different type of shotgun or a different range.

          • Their relative heights may have had something to do with where he hit her. He is reportedly over 6′ and she was 5’4″.

            I thought Wafer claimed he didn’t see her on the porch when he opened the door. I can’t find where I read/heard that now and have no idea if he actually did say that to LE. I wish they’d release his statements.

            Anyways, just speculating and it seems the gun had to be pointing towards the porch regardless.

          • “He HAD to be aiming at her face no matter where his trigger finger was.”

            What if he was holding it as you would a pistol with the barrel turned up and resting on his shoulder and a shift in his position caused it to fall forward and an involutary tightening of his grip on it combined with its momentum caused the trigger to be pulled as the muzzle was passing through the horizontal?No aiming involved.

            • Possible but improbable. Depends on the trigger pull weight. These guns are sometimes equipped with a LPA or ‘Lightning Pump Action’ trigger. There is an actual “skeleton” trigger and it is actually easier for a gun to jam not negligently fire if both triggers are not pulled together. But I do not know if his gun had this or if he modified it to have it, or what he had the trigger pull set at. The lighter the pull the more likely an accident can happen if you drop a gun or put your finger on the trigger unprepared. But that is why there are also two saftey measures. Not chambering a round until you are ready to shoot and using the saftey on the gun.

              He had to pump the gun to engage the shell. Stored fully loaded or not. Then he had to press off saftey near his thumb or utilize LPA. If it was an accident they could still get him on manslaughter, and the felony.
              There is a difference with an accidential killing and involuntary manslaughter.
              Accidental killings have no crime committed at the time. For instance you and a buddy are deer hunting and aim to shoot a deer and trip and fall and shoot your friend instead. That is an accidental shooting. But if you are playing around, point the gun at your friend (which is a crime) and you fall and shoot your friend it is manslaughter because prior to falling you pointed the gun at him, you shot him in the comission of a crime.
              In Michigan Involuntary manslaughter carries the same penality as manslaughter.

              CJI2d 16.8 Michigan Criminal Jury Instructions – Elements of the Crime

              Voluntary Manslaughter

              (1) [The defendant is charged with the crime of / You may also consider the lesser charge of] voluntary manslaughter. To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

              (2) First, that the defendant caused the death of [name deceased], that is, that [name deceased] died as a result of [state alleged act causing death].

              (3) Second, that the defendant had one of these three states of mind: [he / she] intended to kill, or [he / she] intended to do great bodily harm to [name deceased], or [he / she] knowingly created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm knowing that death or such harm would be the likely result of [his / her] actions.

              [(4) Third, that the defendant caused the death without lawful excuse or justification.]

  4. I was reading about GZ’s affair with his ex last night. I don’t know how much is true because the media sensationalizes everything. I had heard that he had an affair. I just didn’t know when it started. What I read hinted that he was having an affair before the shooting. That might be why Shellie had left him. I found information last night that said he left Shellie 2 days after the acquittal and the affair started immediately. It said Shellie was frightened being in the house by herself because of the death threats. If that’s true I’m more sympathetic to Shellie now and disappointed with George.

    I guess just because someone gets railroaded and we recognize it and want to see them get a fair trial, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be be honorable people in all aspects of their lives. Her family seems to absolutely hate him. His friend who stuck by him during the trial seems to side with Shellie. If this is true, I’m disappointed and hope Shellie can get on with her life and be free from the stigma.

      • USCCA, ACN, &NRA offer insurance. Each policy is different. An Umbrella homeowners policy also cover criminal and civil issues. One wants to make sure you are covered while being defended. Some polices will not pay until you are cleared of the charges which means you still need a defense fund. Or people can just keep aside their own money as atty. insurance in the event you need a defense fund.

        There are good and bad points about having gun insurance. If you have it prosecutors will look at you like as trigger happy gun owner, and estates as an easy way to make settlements against wrongful death claims. Yet, if you do not have insurance you need to hope you have money for a defense.

        • There’s some new insurance policies that were created because of the Zimmerman case. I heard an ad on the radio and googled it just now. I notices that NRA has a policy that pays a small amount. The self defense policy offers $50,000 for self defense and I don’t think it’s based on whether you’re acquitted or not.

  5. Traybot logic….just because McBride’s BAC was just under 3x the legal limit at death doesnt mean she was drunk when she crashed

    fauxmccoy says:
    November 16, 2013 at 9:17 pm
    dave, this has occurred to me as well. given all of the facts before us, we cannot even say that mcbride was drunk at the time of the car accident. all we know is her BAC at time of death.

    Dave says:
    November 16, 2013 at 8:44 pm
    I think it’s more likely that she walked a couple of hundred yards from the bar at the corner of Outer Drive and Warren.

    amazes me the mental gymnastics these clowns will perform to avoid facing the overt criminal acts committed by trayvon and mcbride!

  6. After reading tonight that my state had extended our Castle Doctrine laws in 2011 to include the immediate area surrounding the exterior of the home (curtilage), I checked and Michigan made the same revision.

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(rubj3o550mzrqdjuwr3o0s55))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-768-21c

    (1) In cases in which section 2 of the self-defense act does not apply, the common law of this state applies except that the duty to retreat before using deadly force is not required if an individual is in his or her own dwelling or within the curtilage of that dwelling.

    Now here in NC the common sense translation is that you can use deadly force to ~prevent~ a forcible entry, so I’m wondering if it has a similar interpretation in Michigan?

    • IANAL, but I’m pretty sure you can’t just kill at will regardless of the fact you can stand your ground on your own property. You still have to be in reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death. I think Wafer is in for a bit of a fight if he truly did tell LE that it was accidental. He faces up to 15 years if he’s convicted of manslaughter. Plus two years for use of a firearm in a felony. Apparently there are no mandatory minimums which may work to his advantage. I don’t think the 2nd degree murder charge is going to stick.

      http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-750-321

      Here’s the ‘friendly link’ for: 768.21c Use of deadly force by individual in own dwelling; “dwelling” defined’

      http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-768-21c

      • I think he has a chance of beating the gun charge. It’s reasonable to take a self defense weapon with you to investigate the noise, I would think. I saw Danny Cevallos, a CNN legal analyst, say that in Michigan if the homeowner thought this person was trying to gain entry into his house, he is reasonable in taking defensive action.

        That he heard the girl at his side and front door, according to his lawyer scared the hell out of him. If the jury can be convinced that she thought she was trying to gain access at her own home, it may establish his reasonable fear that she was trying to get into his house.

        I think he will have a challenge overcoming telling police that he accidentally shot the weapon.

        Cevallos thought the charges were excessive and unwarranted.

        • Has he changed his statement about it being an accident? I had not heard that.

          I think he will have a difficult time defending himself in court simply because of all the publicity and the pressure from the BGI. Much of it depends on the jury. Maddy whining about the trial ruining her life isn’t going to help Wafer. Of course, it wasn’t the trial itself that ruined her life, but her stupidity of going on television. It might make it difficult to get a jury that will be fair.

        • Nettles thanks for bringing up Daniel Cevallos! I always enjoy his views and have found him to always be right on target – a smart you man (and a cutie pie too haha). He was right-on with his views of the Zimmerman case, and I hope he is correct on the one also. Unfortunately I seldom watch the shows he appears on, because I might have to also listen to Sunny Hostin or Nancy Grace 😦

      • Coreshift,
        I am thinking along the same lines as you. Seems Wafer has backed off of the accidental shooting since he lawyered up. But he made those statements and whatever you say can…..be used against you.

        If the evidence is what prosecutors say “Evidence suggested that she knocked on Wafer’s locked screen door and that he opened his front door and was inside the house when he fired a shot through the open door, but a still closed and locked screen door, the prosecutor said.”

        How they know the screen door was locked before the shooting I have no clue. Could be it was not locked. She may have opened the screen door to pound and he opened the other door and shot. That would break the glass from the blast. He could have locked the screen door afterwards. If that was the case he may have a defense for fear because why lock a door after you just shot someone unless you believe they still are a threat? But again…we do not know.

      • “You still have to be in reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death.”

        But if a stranger is trying to enter your home at 3 in the morning, hasn’t that threshold already been met in spades…???

        The expansion of ‘dwelling’ to include the curtilage seems to recognize that the occupant will be put in even more danger if he or she is legally required to wait until an intruder actually gains entry into the home.

        “Many states have … expanded the conception of the home to include not just the house but the curtilage – a legal term for the property surrounding the house. While Stand Your Ground laws confer the right to use deadly force to protect against a forcible felony anywhere someone has a right to be, individuals can use deadly force against much less when one is defending their home, vehicle, or office. In a number of states, the law presumes a reasonable fear of imminent peril or death if an individual is unlawfully entering an occupant’s home, car, or office.”

        http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/07/24/2345901/three-self-defense-laws-that-could-be-even-worse-than-stand-your-ground/

  7. EXTREMELY similar case from Wisconsin…

    http://www.propublica.org/article/five-stand-your-ground-cases-you-should-know-about

    “In March 2012, Bo Morrison was shot and killed by a homeowner in Wisconsin who discovered the unarmed 20-year-old on his porch early one morning. According to friends, Morrison was trying to evade police responding to a noise complaint at a neighboring underage drinking party. The homeowner, thinking Morrison was a burglar, was not charged by the local district attorney.

    While Wisconsin doesn’t have a Stand Your Ground law that extends to public spaces, Gov. Scott Walker signed an “intruders bill” in December 2011 that presumes somebody who uses deadly force against a trespasser in their home, business or vehicle acted reasonably, whether or not the intruder was armed. Before the law was enacted, homeowners could only use deadly force if their own lives were at risk.”

    • It seems only similar in that Kind shot Morrison while he was on his porch at night. Kind had children to protect and Morrison walked toward him. Also,he wasn’t charged so it never went to a jury.

      “Kind, who said his concern was elevated because his wife, two children and a child guest were in the house, retrieved a handgun after he heard noises on his porch, the report said.

      Kind loaded the handgun, went to the porch and confronted Morrison, who was wearing dark clothing, the report said. Kind fired one shot as Morrison walked toward him, then yelled for his wife to call 911, the report said.”

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/27/us-usa-wisconsin-shooting-idUSBRE82Q02620120327

      • Agreed that they’re not identical, but the similarities are that both cases involved underaged drinkers, both with a BAC over twice the legal limit, both wound up being mistaken for intruders by the homeowners, and both were shot on the porch (though the porch in the Wisconsin case was enclosed).

        The young man in the Wisconsin case was fleeing a nearby party after the police were called, McBride similarly left the scene of her DUI accident after the police were called… we can’t know, but we can presume that both fled to evade arrest.

        The homeowner in the Wisconsin case was not charged, the homeowner in Michigan was charged with 2nd degree murder.

        It’s interesting to note, too, that if you include Trayvon in the mix, we’re talking about three young people now dead in large part because they had been shown leniency in prior incidents. (assuming the reports that McBride had been involved in numerous accidents before are true)

  8. That case in Wisconsin is really bizarre. It appears all involved are white, so there’s no race element. I thought the reason Wafer was being charged with 2nd degree murder was because Ms. McBride is black and the authorities were pressured by the BGI. Not so with the Wisconsin case. No shooting through a locked storm door, either. Seems they expected the Wisconsin home owners to just let the guy kick in the door and do what he wanted to them.

    That locked glass storm door is going to be a problem for Mr. Wafer. I have no doubt that the man was scared out of his mind. He may be more easily frightened than most people. He has a very fearful expression on his face in this picture. In the video, he looked terrified of the court proceedings. I would be frightened, too, if someone was banging on my door at 4 AM. I wouldn’t answer the door, though. I’d call 911. There’s something else we don’t know. Why did he open the door and why did he shoot instead of closing the door and calling for help.

    I also wonder if the front door looks similar to McBride’s front door. We’ve seen pictures of both houses from the side and his front door. If she doesn’t have a glass screen door at her house, it would be less likely she thought she was home.

  9. It will be an extremely close case. Look at Michigan Statute 780.951. It is not clear how much of a commotion she was making. I would tend to believe that it was enough to wake him up. The statute only requires that the defendant thought the person was trying to break in. The porch would be an area covered by the statute. There would be a rebuttable presumption that his fear was honest and reasonable. For the state to convict him, they will have to find evidence to rebut that. It will be hard to find. An example, would be if he said I will shoot the next black person who steps on my porch.

    • Welcome to the blog Warren. IIRC, the police found the gun case on the floor of his bedroom so it does appear he took it out of the case in the bedroom and headed to the front door with it.

  10. Theodore Wafer Trial Date Set

    Postby CourtChatter » Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:15 pm

    Detroit — A trial date has been set for June 2 for Theodore Wafer, the Dearborn Heights homeowner charged in the shooting death of Detroiter Renisha McBride.

    The trial is expected to last two weeks and will include testimony from about 25 prosecutor and defense witnesses.

    Wafer pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard.

    He was bound over last month in Dearborn Heights district court on charges in the case.
    http://whoopwhoop.tv/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3202

  11. It seems to be an extremely close case. I have been trying to find either the video of his statement to the police or a transcript. I think it would be reasonable to go to the door with shot gun ready to fire. Mi. does not have a diminished capacity defense. It is likely at the time he was experiencing the sleep inertia effect. It is also likely he was scared as he went to the door. That does strange things to a person’s mind too. The case seems to be that either he saw a face, and fired. In that case he will be found guilty. Or he could have seen the face, lurched backward and pulled the trigger on accident. This is just a sad set of circumstances for all involved.

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