Saturday, August 9, 2014

More Lessons from the Damned


White Detroit-area man charged with murder of black woman                                                    Reuters Headline


Theodore Paul Wafer is fighting for his life.  The evening of Nov 1 2013 he thought it was going to be an ordinary night.  At 4:30 the next morning everything changed beyond his and our ability to fix.

I pulled the following information from several news websites.  I’ll try to keep their text in italics.  I don’t know what will happen to Mr. Wafer at trial.  (…guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter Thursday afternoon 7 Aug 13)  I do know he is a victim of poor or non-existent training and will be forced live with the death of a young woman, Renisha McBride, on his soul.  I’m asking a series of rhetorical questions and statements, but think about how they apply to your worst day possible.  Tactics isn’t always about the holster or the flashlight or even pieing a corner.  Sometimes it’s actions done the least stupid way.

Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday to second-degree murder charges in connection with the November 2, 2013 shooting of Renisha McBride.

Wafer told police he didn't know his gun was loaded and said he shot the unarmed teen by accident.  Later he admitted he knew the gun was loaded.  How does one shoot a gun by accident?  Somebody had to pull the trigger or does Wafer want to claim the gun was defective?  That might be even worse, painting a picture of a ticking time bomb that would discharge deadly force on its own.  No, he told the police a lie.  It may have been a face-saving lie or one to sooth his conscience about taking a life, but it’s a lie.  And the police and the jury must wonder “What else is he lying about?”

"I didn't know there was a round in there," he tells McManmon on the recording. (I assume it’s a police recording) "I don't get it. Who's knocking on your door at 4:30 in the morning? Bang, bang, bang -- somebody wanting in."
Put yourself in his shoes.  You’re at home.  It is early morning and the sun isn’t up; it sounds like someone is trying to break in and not being able to find his cell phone, you can’t call the professionals, AKA the police.  So, with help not in the picture or arriving shortly, you go to investigate what you assume to be a violent criminal offender trying to break down your door, with an unloaded gun.  Tactical nonsense and I’m sure it made the police itchy.

Authorities say he shot McBride from behind a closed, locked screen door.”  I’m sure it was dark.  I’m sure Wafer was scared.  But I can’t help wondering why the entrance to the house had only had a locked screen door?   Wouldn’t you have a closed and locked storm door in the early hours of a cold November morning?  Did he open the storm to see who was out there?  Could he see who was there?  Did she say anything? Or do the papers just have the facts wrong?  I don’t have an answer to these questions, but I hope Wafer can answer these questions to the jury’s satisfaction.

Almost every news article played the race card hence my opening line.  Wafer is white and the dead girl is black.  Newspaper and news media aren’t about fairness.  The story isn’t about a scared man who shot a young woman on his porch.  It is about selling advertising and nothing sells like conflict.

During the trial the prosecutor shows a stockless shotgun and plenty of pictures of the lifeless, mangled body (McBride was shot in the face, falling on her back, with her feet facing Wafer's door).   I’m sure there’s a photo of her at high school graduation or a class photo for contrast.

Wait a minute, you tell me.  Doesn’t it matter she was high and drunk?  (…friend of McBride told the court that she and the victim had been playing a drinking game with vodka and smoking marijuana the night of the shooting.)

It only matters if Wafer knew this before he pulled the trigger.  What you find out afterwards has no bearing of your act of self-defense.  She is portrayed as a 19-year-old girl (not a woman which carries the notation of responsiblity, but a teenage girl)  who was drunk and high and should have been perceived as harmless.  I’m sure that was not lost on the jury.

Ah, what about the Castle doctrine?  I’m not a lawyer, but she was on the outside of a locked door.  Wafer isn’t claiming he saw a weapon.  You may not have a duty to retreat in your castle, but you still have to demonstrate your reasonable belief that the danger was immediate, present and life-threatening. 

Wafer shotgun held by pregnant prosecutor
Stockless shotgun held by pregnant prosecutor.  Was an expectant mother chosen for jury sympathy?  Yes, I am that cynical.    
In my opinion, Wafer harmed himself by using a stockless shotgun.  It screams thug.  If it was a normal, three-round duck and rabbit hunting shotgun it would not be so sinister looking.  Remember, court is theater and the jury decides who has the better song and dance.  So what does your self-protection weapon look like?

He took the stand in his own defense.  Some of his testimony contradicted what he told officers when they arrived at his house minutes after the shooting.
Wafer metaphorically shoots himself twice in the foot.    I don’t advise not cooperating with the police, but do so with moderation and circumspect.  Point out that you were forced to defend yourself.  Point out any evidence supporting your claim and then insist on speaking with a lawyer.  Stop talking!

Everything you say to the police, under the burden of stress or fear and emotional upheaval will be used against you.  The presence of button video cameras worn by many police officers and the ubiquitous cell phone  means your appearance and actions will be studied and used as well.

That was actually the second time he shot his toes off.  The first was not calling the police at the beginning.  He couldn’t find his cell phone, he claims.  Maybe.  I lose/misplace mine all the time.  But there’s always one in my bedroom every night.  That phone is my and my wife’s lifeline to the police.  At the very least the call to the police demonstrates you tried to resolve the problem without violence.  Juries like that.

I am a Second Amendment supporter.  I see the right to bear arms as a political statement recognizing the God-given right to self-protection and self-determination.  But I've got to say, with every right goes specific duties.  Frankly, spending 4 to 8 hours in class learning about those responsibilities is an inexpensive insurance policy.  Just ask Mr. Wafer. 

Follow-up:
Mr. Wafer was convicted of the murder of Ms. McBride.  The judge, unmoved by his statement, sentenced him to at least 17 years.

Reflect on this grasshopper. 
One has to wonder what the outcome would have been if he said nothing to the police other than "I was in fear for my life and I acted to defend myself.  I want to speak to a lawyer before I answer any questions."  

Of course, think how much better it would have been if he had his cell phone and simple dialed 911.



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