A Michigan homeowner will stand trial on murder charges in the shooting of an unarmed, intoxicated young woman on the porch of his house, a judge in Dearborn Heights, Mich., ruled Thursday.
Judge David D. Turfe said there was enough evidence to prosecute Theodore Wafer, 54, on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter, as well as a gun charge, in the Nov. 2 shooting of Renisha McBride, 19.
The ruling at the probable-cause hearing means that a criminal trial can go forward in the shooting case that had angered the black community. The McBride family and civil-rights advocates had called for an investigation into the death of the woman, who is black, at the hands of a white man.
“The defendant has been bound over on all charges for trial,” a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said in an email to reporters.
There is no dispute that Wafer shot McBride -- who was drunk and seeking help after a car crash -- through the screen of his front door in the early hours of Nov. 2.
Wafer called 911 around 4:30 a.m. and said he had shot someone who was “banging on my door.” More than three hours earlier, McBride had crashed her car into a parked car in a residential neighborhood.
Wafer’s attorney said his client feared for his life, but the judge said Wafer had other options.
“We can't allow [someone] to use a bad decision as a shield to criminal prosecution. … The defendant made a bad choice,” said the judge, according to media reports from the courtroom.
Wafer's attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, cited Michigan's 2006 self-defense law.
“If someone is breaking into a home there is a presumption that a homeowner can use deadly force,” she argued. “You don't know how many people are out there. … There's violent banging on the front door. We have a man alone in his home.”
But Wayne County assistant prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark said it's “ridiculous” to believe that Wafer was deeply afraid but still decided to open the door and fire instead of first calling the police.
“He shoved that shotgun in her face and pulled the trigger,” Hagaman-Clark said.
An autopsy found McBride had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.22, more than twice the legal limit for driving. She also had been smoking marijuana.
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