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Jury rejects self-defense in porch shooting death

Friday - 8/8/2014, 6:02pm  ET

Theodore Wafer testifies in his own defense during the seventh day of testimony for the Nov. 2, 2013, killing of Renisha McBride, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, in Detroit. He said he feared for his life when he fired at McBride on his porch in Dearborn Heights, Mich. Wafer is charged with second-degree murder and could be sentenced to up to life in prison with the chance for parole, if he's convicted. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Clarence Tabb Jr.)

ED WHITE
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A suburban Detroit man who said he fatally shot an unarmed woman on his porch out of fear prompted by early morning pounding on his doors faces up to life in prison after jurors rejected his claim of self-defense.

Theodore Wafer was convicted Thursday of second-degree murder after a nine-day trial that centered on whether the 55-year-old had a reasonable and honest belief that his safety was in peril.

"I don't know why this was brought to me," Wafer testified this week. "I didn't go out looking for this."

No one knows why Renisha McBride ended up at Wafer's Dearborn Heights home about 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 2, though prosecutors speculated the 19-year-old may have been seeking help. She had been out with a friend hours earlier before crashing her car in Detroit around 1 a.m. and an autopsy found she was extremely drunk.

Wafer opened the front door and shot McBride in the face, firing through a screen door while she stood on the other side. He first suggested to police that it was an accident but later admitted to intentionally pulling the trigger.

"This was a monster that killed her. All he had to do was call 911," instead of shooting, said McBride's aunt, Bernita Spinks.

The jury convicted Wafer of murder, manslaughter and a gun-related charge after deliberating eight hours over two days. He faces up to life in prison when he returns to court on Aug. 25 but would be eligible for parole after serving whatever minimum sentence is ordered.

The judge revoked Wafer's bond and ordered him to jail over the objections of defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter.

"He's not going to go on a rampage. ... He's a quiet, introverted man," Carpenter said.

McBride's mother, Monica McBride, cried and clasped her hands when the verdict was announced. She gave long hugs to prosecutors as the courtroom emptied.

"We learned he was a cold-blooded killer," McBride's father, Walter Simmons, told reporters.

"People have a right to bear their arms and everything else, but you have to do it with reason and responsibility," Simmons said. "Not just murder somebody when it's not justified."

Jurors declined to comment on the verdict. Carpenter, did, too. She had urged jurors to put themselves in Wafer's shoes in the wee hours last fall when he said he heard "unbelievable" pounding at his front and side doors.

"I didn't know it was a teenager. In that split second, I didn't know what's coming next," Wafer testified.

Several trial witnesses called by prosecutors described their encounter with McBride after she crashed her car into a parked car a half-mile from Wafer's home. They suspected she had been drinking, but she walked away before an ambulance arrived to treat her head injury.

Witnesses said she talked about just wanting to go home -- a key point repeatedly emphasized by prosecutors as they tried to counter the defense team's portrayal of McBride as a reckless woman.

McBride "is dead, not because she was drunk. Not because she crashed her car," prosecutor Athina Siringas said during closing arguments. "But because she had the misfortune of maybe being confused of where she was. ... He wanted a confrontation. That's what this was all about."

Wafer had told police that he was sensitive to crime, especially after his vehicle was hit with paintballs.

Wafer is white and McBride was black, and some wondered in the aftermath of the shooting whether race may have been a factor, likening it to the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. But the race angle was hardly mentioned at trial.

"It's about people with guns who don't use the right judgment before they pick them up," Spinks said.

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Associated Press writer David N. Goodman contributed to this report.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap


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