Homeowner Charged in Renisha McBride's Murder - FindLaw Blotter
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Homeowner Charged in Renisha McBride's Murder

A Michigan homeowner has been charged with second degree murder for shooting and killing 19-year-old Renisha McBride when she knocked on his door for help earlier this month.

Theodore Wafer, 54, of the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights, also faces charges for manslaughter and a felony gun offense for killing McBride with a shotgun blast to the face. The previously unidentified killer turned himself in for arraignment Friday, and is being held on a $250,000 bond, the Detroit Free Press reports.

What do Wafer's charges mean in light of his claims of accidental shooting or self-defense?

What Prosecutors Will Need to Prove

Wafer had initially told police, according to the Free Press, that he thought McBride was breaking into his home and he "accidentally fired his 12-gauge shotgun." Prosecutor Kym Worthy disagrees, noting "there was no evidence of forced entry" and that Wafer apparently shot McBride through a "closed and locked screen door."

For prosecutors to prove Wafer is guilty of second degree murder, they must convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • Wafer intentionally shot and killed McBride, or
  • Wafer's actions (which led to McBride's death) showed an obvious lack of concern for human life, and
  • The killing was not justified by self-defense.

Although Wafer's explanation of his actions seems muddled at present, at trial he may try to defend himself by claiming that McBride posed a reasonable and immediate threat on his life.

Michigan also has a "castle doctrine" akin to "Stand Your Ground" laws, which allow homeowners like Wafer to defend their homes with lethal force.

Wafer Could Face Life in Prison If Convicted

Michigan doesn't permit the death penalty for any offenses, but if Wafer is found guilty of second degree murder, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars for killing McBride.

The homeowner could also face serious prison time if convicted of the lesser manslaughter and felony gun charges, which prosecutors may lean on if they are unable to successfully prove the elements of second degree murder.

Many have drawn parallels between McBride's death and the fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, who was also seeking help after a car accident when a North Carolina homeowner called police. The officer who killed Ferrell was charged with voluntary manslaughter.

Although questions about racial profiling have followed McBride's murder since the investigation began, Worthy assured that "race did not play a role in making a charging decision," reports the Free Press.

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