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A suburban Detroit homeowner has been convicted of second-degree murder for fatally shooting a woman on his porch who was looking for help.
Jurors found Theodore Wafer, 55, of Dearborn Heights, guilty of second-degree murder for shooting and killing Renisha McBride, 19, of Detroit, who showed up knocking on his door last November. Defense lawyers argued the shooting was in self-defense, but prosecutors insisted McBride was only seeking help after a car crash, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Why second-degree murder, and what will happen to Wafer now?
Jury Didn't Buy Self-Defense
In shooting cases like Wafer's, a jury may choose to find a defendant not guilty if they feel the victim's killing may have been in self-defense. When arguing self-defense in the face of second-degree murder charges, Wafer had to convince a jury that while he may have intentionally killed McBride, he did so because he had a reasonable fear for his own death.
In closing arguments on Wednesday, jurors heard two different accounts of what happened that fateful night in November. According to the Free Press, prosecutors told jurors about how McBride had crashed her car and suffered a concussion, causing her wander to Wafer's door for help. Wafer's attorney argued that the "violent pounding" on his door gave him the impression that multiple people were outside his home, leading him to shoot her in self-defense.
In Michigan, a second-degree murder conviction requires that a killing be either intentional or caused by reckless disregard for human life. Even if jurors choose not to believe a defendant's claims of self-defense, they may still find that there is reasonable doubt to support a murder charge -- see George Zimmerman. But in Wafer's case it appears the jury believed if he intended to shoot McBride, it was not in self-defense.
The Free Press reports that Wafer's attorney Cheryl Carpenter mentioned in closing arguments that she didn't blame Renisha for her own death, "[b]ut alcohol is what caused all of this."
Having found Wafer guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter, and felony firearm charges, Wafer is scheduled for sentencing on August 21. He may be sentenced to life imprisonment or a varying term of years in prison with the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors asked Wafer to be remanded until this sentencing date, meaning he would still in jail until the hearing. His defense attorney argued he was neither a risk to the community nor a flight risk, but a judge remanded him anyway.