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

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.

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

  1. bettykath says:

    First thing Monday morning. NYC cops beat man for sleeping on the train while riding home from work.

  2. bettykath says:

    I don’t think it matters whether there was a screen door, intact or not even there. He opened the door to the house and shot her. If he really was fearful, he wouldn’t have opened the door.

    I think he was angry that someone dared to bother him.

    • Yep, that’s it in a nut shell.

      • butterflydreamer2 says:

        I agree…

        I believe someone banging at the door at 4am would alarm anyone, but my first thought is that there is an emergency. I would attempt to find out who it was before I opened the door, by asking who’s there before I would attempt to open the door. It could be one of my kids (adult), my mother, a neighbor, an officer, ect.

        Leaving out everything else (the screen door, race, who was drinking, her hand bleeding, ect) I believe the only question that needs to answered is….

        Is it reasonable to believe person who is in fear for his life, would bring an unloaded gun, open the door to confront 1 or more people he believes are breaking into his house, that may be armed?

        I do not believe he will be able to overcome why he opened the front door that will pass the reasonable test.

    • bettykath says:

      One other point. If he had several drinks before he went to bed, he may have been hung over as well. People with hangovers tend to be more than a little bit testy.

  3. crustyolemothman says:

    Professor as I have previously stated, I suspect the screen on the “Storm Door” (please note the door was a storm door not a screen door!) was dislodged by the actions of the shotgun being held by TW. But I do have a question that I would like your input on, if you would agree to provide it? Do you consider the reason that TW’s defense has moved away from the “accidental shot” claim that was first presented by TW to now claiming simply self defense could be because of the claim of accident discharge indicates a degree of negligence on the part of TW that would pretty much guarantee a conviction of at least manslaughter? Also, if I am understand the case as outlined in the opening statements from the defense, the castle doctrine is not being stressed but self defense is? Now for the final question, can the claim of accidental shooting and self defense co-exist or would they be in effect contradictory? I have read Michigan Law until I am cross eyed and have yet to find a case that puts TW on solid ground in a self defense argument, the fly in the proverbial ointment is the opening of the locked inner door simply deifies any logical explanation of his actions…

    Simple test for anyone of interest: Measure the height from the floor (of any man approx. 6′ 1″ tall) to the bottom of his elbow when his arms are at his side. Then measure the length of his lower arm (back of elbow to end of closed fist). Then take that dimension and add 30 1/4″ (the length of his shotgun) this will give you the distance from the back of his elbow to the end of the barrel, (note: in my case it is approx. 47 1/2″) Now if you consider the distance from the floor to the elbow (in my case approx. 42″, and if the shotgun were held level the end of the muzzle would be the same. Now let’s look at the storm door. I have a similar door, but the dimensions may vary slightly but not to a large amount. from the interior floor to the beginning of the actual screen wire is 40″, you might note if he was standing in front of the door with the shotgun level in his hands he would be approx. 2″ above the end of the screen wire. Now let’s look at the position of Mz. McBride on the porch. For this test we will assume that she was standing relatively upright on the porch. Her height was given as approx. 5′ 4″. We have been told that there was a drop of about 5 1/2″ from the interior floor to the porch so we need to deduct that distance from Mz. McBride’s height to determine the height to the top of her head, that measurement is 4′ 8 1/2″ approx. Now if the screen wire was 40″ + 5 1/2″ from the floor the barrel would have been approx. 3′ 9 1/2″. Now at this point we can see that the end of the barrel is approx. 11″ from the top of her head. Now if you use a little logic, you will/can assume that she was probably not standing fully erect at his door due to he intoxicated condition combined with possible injuries she had sustained in the accident she had been involved in. Can one reasonably assume that not only the screen was in place when the shot was fired, but that unlike the claim of the alleged expert for the defense the shotgun did not need to be held over his head to make the hole in the screen and hit Mz. McBride in the head….

    • crustyolemothman says:

      Please note: The above was not intended to be a scientific study, nor does it contain anything that is absolute, it was only a simple easy exercise indicating the possible miss leading statements made by the defense expert made during his testimony… All measurements are approximate and not cast in stone and could be off by a small measure, however the basic theory of the angle of the shot, and the screen being in place immediately before the shot was taken is sound.

    • Accidental shooting is inconsistent with shooting in self-defense because the latter is an intentional act whereas the former is not.

      I don’t believe the position of the screen matters.

      The problem for the defense is he told the police he opened the inner door when he thought his gun was not loaded. That is not consistent with a belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious injury.

  4. MKX says:

    The pictures of his home show a lack of TLC. How do we know that the screen was not loose before McBride knocked?

    It is a defense deflection to minimize the fact that Wafer intentionally opened the inner door.

    And in the world of the sane and non-delusional, opening an inner door in response to knocking is taken by the person knocking as a sign that they wan to communicate, so what do they do?

    They step forward and face whoever opened the inner door.

    This trial is becoming paranoid sense vs. common sense,

    • crustyolemothman says:

      MKX, I’m glad you brought up the state of repair of his house, is it possible the residue that the defense medical expert alleged saw in the photo of Mz. McBride was actually from the bushes or grass or even paint flakes from the overhang on the house? I would have a lot more faith in the eyes of the man who actually examined the body in person than I would someone who only saw the photo’s of questionable quality taken of the body… If the defense wishes to claim the evidence was contaminated then perhaps this evidence was as well? I would also like to point out if the shot was made at 12″ as the defense expert claims then the “full load” of pellets would have gone into and thru the head and there would be very little left to examine…. The photo’s do not agree with his claim of 12″….

      • Dave. says:

        Crusty, you show once again how slipshod the entire investigation was.

        First, that powder should have been analyzed. I don’t believe that it was even mentioned by Dr. Kesha.

        Second, while I would question your assertion about the penetrative power of a load of Number 4 shot, I admit that I am far from being an expert on ballistics. That issue should have been addressed and as far as I know was not.

        We can expect the Defense to take advantage of the half assed investigation and claim that because of it, exculpatory evidence may have been lost or hopelessly contaminated.

        • crustyolemothman says:

          Dave, Actually we only have the eyes of a man who admitted that his were not as good as they could be stating that what he sees is gunpowder or filler residue. I would suspect the reason that the “alleged” powder or debris that the expert allegedly saw in the photo was of superficial value and was of no consequence to the investigation. The problem is there are those who “assume” the story as told by the defense attorney is true and the witness who is being paid by the defense is telling the truth, but then turn around and say the pros evidence is not accurate or that it (even if it has absolutely no bearing on the facts of the case) has been contaminated and thus the states case is not good, is that their bias in favor of the defendant is overriding their judgment by failing to actually look at the facts that are in evidence. The problem with that assumption is that you actually have as yet not actually heard the defendants latest story (only his attorney’s version of it, which is not evidence), you have however heard his first and only story that can accurately attributed to him, and that is that it was an accident, and even if that were true (possible?) then at best he should be convicted of manslaughter. While this case is not over, and anything could yet happen, unless we have one or two jurors whose thinking is like some commenting here and other places, believe that regardless of the evidence that he should walk, if for no other reason he only took the life of a black person, and that is ok because they have encroached on his and their way of life and deserve to die… As for my opinion, if his first story is truthful, then regardless of any other evidence presented in his favor he is guilty of manslaughter abet involuntary (questionable), I honestly think the defense has presented a better case for conviction on 2nd degree murder than the pros have. Will he testify, if he does it is likely that he will be convicted of 2nd degree murder, if for no other factual reason, his story is not convincing as to his fear factor that is totally blown out of the sky by his opening the locked door, exposing himself to greater danger, end of story….

          • Dave. says:

            Thanks for the correction on shot size. (A #4 buckshot pellet is about twice the diameter and four times the weight of a #4 bird shot pellet, as I’m sure you knew and I didn’t.)

        • crustyolemothman says:


          “First, that powder should have been analyzed. I don’t believe that it was even mentioned by Dr. Kesha.

          Second, while I would question your assertion about the penetrative power of a load of Number 4 shot, I admit that I am far from being an expert on ballistics. That issue should have been addressed and as far as I know was not.”

          The only mention of the powder thus far has been from the defense, and it is of questionable validity.

          While the penetrative power of the load of #4 buckshot (note not #4 shot)… Is actually not a true factor, according to the ME who did the autopsy there was no powder burns aka Stippling visible on her skin, indicating that the shot was not from the distance the defense witness testified to, however the damage is realistic at the distance suggested by the ME. The experiment I suggested above merely disproved his statement of how the shotgun had to be held by TW to shoot the victim, however the same measurements can and should be considered even at a longer distance. The real problem with my and the defense theories is that no one knows exactly where either the shooter or the victim was standing, nor their posture at the time the shot was fired. I attempted to replicate the scene as the defense described but to do it more accurately would have required a volunteer to take the victims place and I was unsuccessful in finding one….

      • MKX says:

        Yes, it is the same tactic as making all sorts of assumptions about the “horrific” injuries suffered by George Zimmerman, based on a cheap cell phone photo taken in very poor light and suffering from massive pincushion distortion because the cell phone had been pushed far inside the focal point of a cheap lens.

        And then the photos of Zimmerman taken in the police station with proper light, a decent camera, and with no image distortion that show what amount to scrapes were blithely ignored.

        Hell, I dropped a gym V handle on my head, went “ouch”, and kept on doing reps till I noticed the “drip drip” I was hearing was due to blood, not sweat. After wiping up the blood, it was just a minor cut that took 60 seconds of thumb pressure to stop. My point is that superficial scalp and face wounds look nasty till they are cleaned and assessed. The way some Zimmerman supporters were prattling on about that photo, one would think he was seconds away from Hemorrhagic shock 🙂

        A person can be the greatest mind in the world and not be able to reach any real conclusion, if they are given poor data.

        The old computer science mantra:

        “garbage in = garbage out”

        So I agree. The person with the “best look” is going to make the better assessment.

  5. Malisha says:

    I think he’s basically a little ugly, relatively unsuccessful, morally bankrupt guy with a chip on his shoulder and a moderate, at best, intelligence. He’s a drunk and an anger junkie. HE wants what’s HIS and HE should have THIS and THAT and nobody should BLAH BLAH and HE’s blah blah blah and …

    So don’t come knocking on his door expecting that he’s going to regard anything YOU do as even “in the picture.” You made him mad. You’re no good; what does HE care about you? Nothing. BANG. DIE and go away. HIS needs and HIS being trumps everything. Oh…especially if you’re something like Black or a woman. Or both.

    • Malisha says:

      Oh, I forgot: about the screen door. What idiot breaks through a screen door to get to an inside door with just their bare hands? Why not prowl two or three houses down (wait — look at the quality of that house — why bother? Go two or three BLOCKS down at LEAST) and break in to a better house.

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