Forty-six days after an unarmed 19-year-old named Renisha McBride was shot to death, her accused killer is set to appear in court for the first time since his initial arraignment.
Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, is scheduled to appear in 20th District Court in Dearborn Heights, Mich. Wednesday morning to determine if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial. He will face a probable cause hearing after being charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and a related gun charge in McBride's Nov. 2 death on Wafer's porch.
McBride, who had a blood alcohol content more than double the legal limit, crashed her car nearby in Detroit several hours before approaching Wafer's home. She was disoriented and bloody when she left the accident scene on foot before police arrived. McBride's family believe that when she banged on Wafer's door after 4 a.m., she was seeking help. Another theory posits that she confused Wafer's house with her own -- both are on corner lots.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy believes Wafer shot her with a 12-gauge shotgun through his locked screen door. He clearly states that he shot a woman on his porch in a recording of his 911 call. What happened in the moments leading up to the shooting has not yet been revealed.
Earlier, Wafer's attorney Cheryl Carpenter said her client was woken that night by the apparent sounds of someone trying to enter his home and that evidence will show Wafer acted as a "reasonable" person in fear for his life. Carpenter did not immediately return a request for comment for this story.
Gerald Thurswell, the lawyer for McBride's family, has disputed the possibility that Wafer had reason to act in self-defense.
"She was 5-foot-4 inches tall, 19 years of age, had no weapon, had nothing in the whole world that could cause him to reasonably believe that he was in fear of grave bodily harm or death and no evidence of breaking or entering," Thurswell told The Huffington Post. "There's no way he's going to be able to prove that there was self-defense, and there's no way he can prove it was an accident."
At the arraignment in Dearborn Heights' 20th District Court last month, Wafer's other attorney Mack Carpenter said his client, who had worked at the airport for a decade and cared for his elderly mother with his brother, was not a flight risk. Judge Mark Plawecki set Wafer's bail at $250,000 with a 10 percent surety.
In the days after McBride's death, protesters and national civil rights leaders like Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) and the Rev. Al Sharpton called for justice. Though her attorney dismissed the idea that her race was a factor in the shooting, some saw her death as more evidence of a system that places less value on Black life, pointing to the recent cases of Jonathan Ferrell and Trayvon Martin. Ferrell was killed while seeking help after a September car accident in Charlotte, NC. A homeowner in the neighborhood called 911, and an officer responding to the breaking-and-entering call shot Ferrell, who was unarmed, 10 times. Officer Randall Kerrick, the shooter, was charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Last year, 17-year-old Martin, also unarmed, was shot to death by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida after an altercation between the two. In the highly publicized trial, Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder. Trayvon's death also brought national attention to Florida's "stand your ground" law.
A similar law in Michigan states that an individual does not have the duty to retreat in his own home before using force if he "honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual."
It's possible that Wafer's case will hinge on whether his use of force was "reasonable," which Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy addressed in her announcement of charges last month.
"This 'reasonable belief' is not measured subjectively, by the standards of the individual in question, but objectively, by the standards of a reasonable person," Worthy said.
Thurswell said he believed a trial date will be set for next year. Wafer faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the second-degree murder charge, 15 years for manslaughter and a mandatory penalty of two additional years for the felony firearm charge if he is convicted.
"The family would hope that this would be a speedy trial and that he'd be found guilty soon, so that they can see some justice, see him behind bars," Thurswell said. "The family would like him to go to trial tomorrow. … Because as long as he's free on the street, they don't have any justice."