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Detroit man convicted of shooting unarmed woman on his porch

Theodore Wafer had claimed he was acting in self-defense.

Theodore Wafer, during his trial.
Theodore Wafer, during his trial.
Image: Paul Sancya/AP/Press Association Images

A MAN FROM the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan was today convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter, after killing an unarmed woman on his porch last year.

The jury in the trial rejected the 55-year-old’s controversial claim that he was afraid for his life and had acted in self-defense.

Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride through a screen door on 2 November 2013, hours after she crashed into a parked car a half-mile from his house in Dearborn Heights, near Detroit.

Prosecutors speculated that the 19-year-old woman, who was intoxicated at the time of the incident, may in fact have been seeking his help after the accident.

The jury convicted Wafer of second-degree murder and manslaughter after deliberating for about eight hours over two days.

McBride’s mother, Monica McBride, cried and clasped her hands as if praying when the jury’s decision was announced. She gave long hugs to prosecutors as the courtroom emptied.

Porch Shooting Monica McBride, mother of the deceased, Renisha, who broke down in court at the verdict. Source: Carlos Osorio/AP/Press Association Images

Wafer, who had been free on bond, was ordered to jail to await his sentence. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on 21 August, but it’s likely his punishment will be much shorter.

“He was a cold-blooded killer. … People have a right to bear arms, but you need to do it with reason and responsibility,” McBride’s father, Walter Simmons, told reporters.

During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Patrick Muscat told the jury that McBride “just wanted to go home” the morning she was killed.

“She ended up in the morgue with bullets in her head and in her brain because the defendant picked up this shotgun, released this safety, raised it at her, pulled the trigger and blew her face off,” Muscat said, holding the gun.

Porch Shooting Walter Ray Simmons, father of the victim, Renisha McBride Source: Paul Sancya/AP/Press Association Images

The Wayne County jury heard eight days of testimony before starting deliberations Wednesday.

Wafer, an airport maintenance employee who lives alone, said he was roused out of sleep around 4.30 am by pounding at his front and side doors. He testified that the noises were “unbelievable.”

“I wasn’t going to cower in my house,” Wafer said.

He said he thought there could have been more than one person outside of his 1,100-square-foot home near the Detroit-Dearborn Heights border.

Wafer said he pulled the trigger “to defend myself. It was them or me.”

Porch Shooting The house where Theodore Wafer shot dead Renisha McBride. Source: Carlos Osorio/AP/Press Association Images

“He armed himself. He was getting attacked,” defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter told jurors. “Put yourselves in his shoes at 4.30 in the morning.”

But prosecutors said Wafer could have stayed safely in his locked home and called 911 instead of confronting McBride.

“He had so many other options. … We wouldn’t be here if he had called police first,” Muscat told the jury.

Although race was not a prominent factor in the trial, the shooting of McBride, an unarmed young black woman, by Wafer, a white man, came after a series of high-profile, racially-charged criminal cases in the United States.

Most notably, there was outrage across America last summer when neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Additional reporting by Dan Mac Guill

Read: ‘Justice for Trayvon’ marches take place across America>

Obama: ‘Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago’

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