Trayvon Martin’s ghost did not persuade the jury to convict Theodore Wafer

November 1, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Good afternoon:

Cheryl Carpenter, the lawyer who represented Ted Wafer, gave an interview recently about the trial in which she attributed the guilty verdict to Trayvon Martin’s ghost in the courtroom.

By that she meant the jurors felt like they had to find Wafer guilty or be subjected to the same intense scrutiny and criticism suffered by the jurors in the Zimmerman case.

I disagree.

The jury convicted Wafer in record time because, instead of calling 911, he grabbed his shotgun, opened his front door and fired his shotgun at point blank range through his screen door into an unarmed Renisha McBride’s face, killing her.

That is not self-defense since a reasonable person in his situation would not have believed he was in imminent danger of death or serious injury. It simply does not matter how fearful he was or claimed to be and no amount of wishing and spinning can change that.

Regardless what Carpenter wants to believe, Wafer had no defense, and that is why the jury rejected his claim of self-defense.

Before going to trial, most criminal defense lawyers will convince themselves they can win the trial, regardless of the evidence. However, no amount of positive thinking can transform a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

She obviously cared about him and there is nothing wrong with that. We should care about what happens to our clients. There’s nothing wrong with tears either. I’ve done that in death penalty cases. Lots of lawyers have done that.

She did her best, but she had a loser case, and it’s time for her to reconnect with reality.

I went through this experience. Every criminal defense lawyer does.

We don’t get to write the scripts and sometimes it’s better to zip it and move on instead of granting an interview and saying things that may come back to haunt us.

#TheodoreWafer: Closing arguments begin Wednesday morning

August 5, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good afternoon:

Both sides have rested and Judge Hathaway is instructing the jury with closing arguments by counsel to follow.

To review Wafer’s testimony this morning, go here.

Many thanks to Oralandar Brand-Williams who was my source for tweets again today and to Dave and his source for tweets, Gina Damron.

Closing arguments will start tomorrow at 9 am.

#TheodoreWafer testimony continues

August 5, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good morning:

The trial continues today with Theodore Wafer on the stand.

#TheodoreWafer testified today

August 4, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Good evening:

Many thanks to Oralandar Brand-Williams for her fine work tweeting today’s session. When I say “hear” I am referring to her tweets.

Theodore Wafer took the stand today and I did not hear him say that he opened the door and saw not one, not two, but three people on his front step. I guess he only told his attorney that.

I heard him say he was frightened as he stood with his back against the kitchen sink with the windows rattling and the floor vibrating ever more violently, but he believed his gun was unloaded when he opened the front door.

I heard him say it went off accidentally, but as far as he was concerned he shot her in self-defense.

I never heard him say he asked who was knocking on his door and what they wanted.

I did not believe him.

He will be back on the stand facing more cross examination tomorrow at 9 am EDT.

Go here to review today’s session by tweet.

#TheodoreWafer trial continues today with defense likely to rest UPDATE: WAFER TESTIFIED

August 4, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Good morning:

We continue the Wafer trial today with the testimony of David Balash and possibly the testimony of Theodore Wafer.

Unfortunately, we have to follow it on twitter because there is no live coverage.


Wafer testified today. You can read tweets of his direct and cross in the comments below.

Most of his cross today has involved playing his interview at the police station. The cross will continue tomorrow at 9 am.

Wafer never asked who she was or why she was there before he shot her.

#TheodoreWafer: position of screen when fatal shot fired does not matter

August 3, 2014

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Good morning:

I write today regarding David Balash’s testimony in the Theodore Wafer trial. He is the defense firearms expert.

He testified that the screen was out of its frame when Wafer fired the fatal shot.

Assuming for the sake of argument that he is right, the position of the screen when Wafer fired the shotgun does not matter.

Here is a summary of his testimony by Matthew Zarrell of HLNTV.

The defense firearms expert was also a retired Michigan State Police detective and has testified in hundreds of cases as an expert witness. After examining the evidence, Balash explained that in his opinion Renisha was shot at close range, less than 2 feet away. The battle over the screen door continued as Balash demonstrated for jurors how he believes the gun would had to have been held by Wafer if the screen was intact with the door at the time of the shooting, which would put part of the gun above Wafer’s head. Based on that analysis, Balash explained that the screen must have been out of the frame before the shot was fired, suggesting the force of Renisha’s pounding on the door is the cause.

Although I have previously written that the screen was in the frame when Wafer fired his shotgun, I am no longer certain that is true.

However, even if we assume it was not in the frame, that does not necessarily mean McBride dislodged it in an attempt to break into Wafer’s house.

Here is Zarrell summarizing the testimony of Detective Sergeant Stephen Gurka.

Gurka was the detective in charge of the case and was questioned about investigating the scene and gathering information. Gurka said he found no evidence of attempts to force entry into the home or damage to the front door or its locks when he arrived at the crime scene just over an hour after the shooting. Gurka did not observe any prying, kick marks, or damage to the locks on the front or side doors, which the defense says Renisha was banging on so forcefully that night that Wafer was in fear of his life.

The absence of any other evidence of an attempt to break into Wafer’s home when considered together with McBride’s loud and persistent effort to awaken the occupant of the home constitutes strong circumstantial evidence that she was not attempting to break into his home.

We also have his conduct to consider. He unlocked and opened the front door exposing himself to a possible attack by McBride. He initially told the police that he did not realize he had a chambered round in his shotgun and he fired it accidentally. This version of events is inconsistent with his subsequent claim that he was in fear for his life when he opened the door.

Therefore, his claim of self-defense appears to be based on his realization that his claim of death by accident was unlikely to prevail and that is true regardless of the position of the screen when he fired the fatal shot into Renisha McBride’s face.

This is our 1164th post.

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Predicting witness credibility based on facial features

August 2, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Good afternoon:

Have you ever wondered about the validity of first impressions when meeting someone for the first time?

Researchers at York University in the UK conducted a study of the response to certain variable characteristics in human faces. They found that despite the variability of human faces and expressions, they created a model that predicted the first impressions of faces seen for the first time using a combination of facial attributes that explained 58% of the variance in impressions.

The authors describe the significance of their study as follows,

Understanding how first impressions are formed to faces is a topic of major theoretical and practical interest that has been given added importance through the widespread use of images of faces in social media. We create a quantitative model that can predict first impressions of previously unseen ambient images of faces (photographs reflecting the variability encountered in everyday life) from a linear combination of facial attributes, explaining 58% of the variance in raters’ impressions despite the considerable variability of the photographs. Reversing this process, we then demonstrate that face-like images can be generated that yield predictable social trait impressions in naive raters because they capture key aspects of the systematic variation in the relevant physical features of real faces.

The results of this study are important because they permit us to accurately predict most of the time how people will react to meeting a person for the first time based on the shape of the person’s face.

We form our opinion of a stranger’s trustworthiness or dominance without conscious thought almost instantly. The shape of a jaw or set of the eyes can lead to long-lasting opinions about someone. The scientists listed 65 facial attributes.

Although this information may be most useful to advertisers, trial lawyers can use it to predict how juries will react to what they say and whether they are likely to believe their clients.

Read the abstract of the study, which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The implications of this study may be disquieting to those of us who want to believe that we do not make snap decisions about a stranger’s character based on the shape of the face.

Just for fun:

Based on looking at Theodore Wafer’s face, do you believe he is a trustworthy person?

Have you formed any opinions about him, based on his facial expressions?

If so, what are they?

What about Oscar Pistorius?

George Zimmerman?

Michael Dunn?

This is our 1163rd post.

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