Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Mich. on Jan. 15, 2014, for the Nov. 2, 2013 shooting death of Renisha McBride in Dearborn Heights, Mich.
Rebecca Cook/Reuters

The aggressive defense in the Renisha McBride case

Defense attorneys and prosecutors sparred in court over what could have a major impact in the murder trial of an unarmed black teenager who was shot in the face by a white suburban homeowner last year.

What remains unresolved in the pretrial motions are requests to bring the victim’s lifestyle into play in the case of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who was fatally shot by 55-year-old Theodore Wafer after she showed up at the front porch of his home in suburban Detroit on Nov. 2. 

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Attorneys launch aggressive defense in porch shooting

Defense attorneys representing Ted Wafer in the shooting of Renisha McBride launched an aggressive defense in pretrial hearings Friday, trying to have the judge dismissed over the appearance of impropriety and seeking to have evidence relating to question
In pretrial motions filed in advance of a Friday hearing and reported on by the Associated Press this week, attorneys representing Wafer, who faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, argued photos from McBride’s phone that show her with marijuana and alcohol should be entered into evidence. 

Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said those images, along with text messages and prior legal troubles, are relevant to “whether Ms. McBride had a character trait for aggression.”

Carpenter on Friday press for Judge Qiana Lillard to also recuse herself from the case, citing an appearance of impropriety in the judge’s social media use. Carpenter pointed to how Lillard joined Facebook and became friends with members of the prosecution shortly after she received the Wafer case, and to campaign donations given by employees in the prosecutor’s office.

Lillard disagreed with the defense and declined to recuse herself. 

“The record must show actual bias or prejudice,” she said. Defense attorneys will appeal the matter to presiding Judge Timothy Kenny, who said he intends to make a decision by the end of the month, according to the Detroit Free PressThe trial is scheduled to begin June 2. 

McBride had been in a car accident about a half mile away from Wafer’s home a few hours before the incident, and her whereabouts in between those two events are still unknown. Wafer’s defense attorneys contend McBride belligerently banged on the door of his home and that he feared for his life when he fired the ultimately fatal shot. McBride’s family has insisted she was seeking help that morning. 

McBride’s aunt, Bernita Spinks, told NBC station WDIV that introducing evidence from the teen’s phone would put her niece on trial, instead of her killer. 

“If they’re going to try to make her as the suspect, she was not the suspect,” Spinks said. “She shouldn’t have been killed, and if she was a drug dealer it’s police’s job to arrest her, not for Ted Wafer to kill her.”

Justice System and Michigan

The aggressive defense in the Renisha McBride case