Friday, June 13, 2014
Theodore Wafer is back in the news today. He will be in court for an important pretrial hearing regarding the admissibility of evidence that his unarmed 19-year-old victim, Renisha McBride, was a pot smoker with a violent disposition.
He is accused of shooting her in the face through a screen door with a shotgun after opening the locked inner door in response to her knocking and asking for assistance after wrecking her car.
He also wants to introduce evidence that crime was increasing in his neighborhood.
He is claiming self-defense.
The rule is that evidence of prior acts of misconduct by the victim in a homicide case are not admissible unless the defendant knew about them and they are probative (i.e., more likely so than not so) of the victim’s intent. Since he did not know her, the evidence is not admissible.
Defense counsel, who are a father and daughter team, are attempting to get around the rule by arguing that the evidence, much of which consists of photos and text messages recovered from her cell phone, is admissible to show that she had a violent disposition. They base their argument on a different rule that allows a person claiming self-defense to introduce such evidence, whether or not they know about it.
The problem they face and the reason they are likely to lose this argument is that pot smoking and talking smack with friends do not make it more likely than not that McBride had a violent disposition. She was alone, unarmed, injured from the crash and asking for help.
Defense counsel are making the same argument that Mark O’Mara and Don West made in the Zimmerman case; namely, that smoking pot makes people violent. There is no credible scientific evidence to support that argument, so the trial judge should deny the defense motion.
Evidence regarding increasing crime rates in the neighborhood may be admissible to show Wafer’s state of mind, assuming he was concerned about them, but that evidence does not reasonably justify opening a locked inner door and firing a shotgun through a screen door at an unarmed teenage girl knocking on the door and asking for help.
Reasonable people do not execute unarmed teenage girls knocking on their front door in the middle of the night asking for help. If they are concerned about their own safety, they remain behind their locked doors and call 911.
Wafer did not call 911 until after he shot and killed McBride and he did not tell the police that he shot McBride in self-defense. He told them that he accidentally pulled the trigger. He changed his story and that is why he is likely to be convicted of murder.
The outcome of this case, as was true of the Zimmerman and Dunn trials in Florida, will likely depend on how successful the prosecutor is at identifying racists during jury selection and excluding them from the jury. It only takes one racist juror to hang the jury by ignoring the evidence and the jury instructions.
Will white fear and hatred of people with dark skin dictate the outcome of this case?
Racists should be excused for cause in all trials in which the defendant is a person of color because racist beliefs are irrational. They are by definition not evidence-based and, therefore, cannot be considered when deliberating on a verdict.
Two Florida juries flunked the test. Let’s see what happens in Detroit.
UPDATE: According to the Detroit Free Press, the hearing today was cancelled. I imagine that it will be rescheduled, but the date and time has not yet been announced.
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