#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.

UPDATE:

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.

If you appreciate what we do, please make a donation to enable us to keep the lights on.

Thanks,

Fred


Should we tolerate shooting through locked doors in self-defense

August 1, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

Good morning:

With the Theodore Wafer trial on hold until Monday at 9:00 am, we return our attention to Oscar Pistorius.

You Magazine is reporting that he sold his house for R4.5 million ($420,000) to pay his escalating legal bills. The buyer is Louwtjie Louwrens, a Boksburg mining consultant who plans to rent it out.

Prosecution and defense have submitted their written closing arguments and Judge Thokozile Masipa has set aside Thursday and Friday next week for their oral summations.

We are fortunate to have the opportunity to witness a conjunction of two media intensive criminal cases that present the same issue:

Whether a person can justifiably kill another person in self-defense when that other person is on the other side of a locked door.

In the Pistorius case, the other person was his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius claims that he mistook her for an intruder after he was awakened by the sound of the bathroom window opening and the door to the toilet cubicle closing.

In the Wafer case, the other person was Renisha McBride, an intoxicated 19-year-old girl who had crashed her car into a parked car about 1 mile from Wafer’s house and walked away from the scene of the accident dazed and bleeding approximately 3 hours earlier. Wafer was awakened by McBride banging on his door. He unlocked and opened his inner front door and fired his shotgun through his locked outer screen door. Wafer first claimed that the gun fired accidentally and later switched to self-defense.

Neither Pistorius nor Wafer said anything to the person on the other side of the door before shooting.

In the Pistorius case, the prosecution claims Pistorius killed Steenkamp in a rage after she locked herself in the toilet cubicle to get away from him during an argument. Then he lied about it to escape responsibility for killing her.

The law of self-defense is similar in both cases. A person may justifiably use deadly force in self-defense, if they reasonably believe they are in imminent danger of death or serious injury.

The word “reasonable” in both cases refers to whether a reasonable person in the same situation as the shooter would have believed he was in imminent danger of death or serious injury.

In both cases, a locked door separated the victim from the shooter. The situation differs in that the victim in the Pistorius shooting could unlock the door whereas the victim in the Wafer shooting could not.

Both victims were unarmed.

Race is a probable factor in the Wafer case. He is white and she was black. Many people believe, myself included, that he would not have feared imminent death or serious injury, if she had been white.

South Africa does not have jury trials. Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide the case assisted by her two assessors who can overrule her verdict, if they disagree with her conclusion.

The 12-person jury will decide whether Wafer is guilty or not guilty.

Join us in the comments below and let us know whether you believe we should tolerate shooting through locked doors in self-defense.

This is our 1162nd post.

If you appreciate what we do, please make a donation to enable us to keep the lights on.

Thanks,

Fred


#TheodoreWafer: Was McBride seeking help or trying to break and enter

July 31, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Good evening:

Was Renisha McBride banging on Theodore Wafer’s door at 4:20 am to obtain assistance or was she trying to break in?

I believe she was seeking assistance because she was making a lot of noise.

Noise attracts attention. Burglars prefer silence.

The defense claims she was trying to break in.

Judge Hathaway recessed the trial for the weekend before the defense completed the direct examination of its firearms expert, David Balash. He disagrees with the prosecution’s expert, Sgt. Shawn Kolonich, who testified on Tuesday that the muzzle of the shotgun was 8 feet from McBride’s face when Wafer pulled the trigger. Balash said the distance was only 2 feet.

Defense expert Dr. Werner Spitz, the former Wayne County Medical Examiner who testified ahead of Balash, agreed with him. Dr. Spitz based his opinion on the presence of white flecks of gunpowder in McBride’s hair. He spotted them in photographs taken at the autopsy.

Two feet from the muzzle is easier to spin as more favorable to the defense than the prosecution, but I do not believe the disagreement regarding distance is going to affect the verdict because her position relative to the door when Wafer opened it could have been anywhere within that 6 foot range, regardless of her intent.

Dr. Spitz also testified that he noticed that both of McBride’s hands appeared to be swollen in the autopsy photographs. He said the swelling was likely caused by McBride banging on the screen door.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Dr. Kilak Kesha, the assistant medical examiner, testified that there was significant blood on the teen’s right hand and a trace of blood on her left one but no injuries to her hands.

I agree that the swollen condition of Mcbride’s hands is likely due to her banging on the door. Unlike others, who argue that her swollen hands help the defense because they confirm that she was attempting to break into Wafer’s house, I think the evidence helps the prosecution because it confirms that she was attempting to wake up the occupant so that he would come to the door and she could ask him for assistance.

Burglars with crime in mind prefer silent entries to noisy ones that would awaken the dead from their eternal sleep and bring down the heat.

We will have to wait until Monday morning to find out if Wafer is going to testify.

Have a safe weekend everyone.

This is our 1161st post.

If you appreciate what we do, please make a donation to enable us to keep the lights on.

Thanks,

Fred


#TheodoreWafer trial: definition of burglary and breaking and entering

July 30, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Good morning:

I write today to clear up some confusion regarding the legal definitions of burglary and curtilage. I will also comment about the police video that was played in court after the jury was excused for the day.

A residential burglary is defined by statute as a breaking and entering into a dwelling with intent to commit a crime. The breaking-and-entering requirement does not require proof that a defendant damaged property while entering a dwelling. The breaking-and-entering requirement can be satisfied by proof that a defendant entered or remained inside a dwelling without permission.

The breaking requirement refers to breaking the vertical plane that separates the inside from the outside of the dwelling. That plane is established by the exterior walls of the dwelling. The position of a closed door establishes the vertical plane in doorways. Therefore, evidence that a defendant stepped through an open doorway without the owner’s permission would satisfy the breaking-and-entering requirement.

Curtilage is a legal term that refers to the property between the boundaries of the property and the outside the dwelling. This area typically includes the yard and occasionally some outbuildings. Sidewalks, driveways and front porches are structures that define avenues of ingress and egress through the curtilage so that members of the public can reach the front door without trespassing.

Police officers do not need to obtain a search warrant in order to reach the front door. As is the case with any member of the public, police officers can walk from the street to the front door without trespassing so long as they remain on the driveway/sidewalk and porch.

Working in two-person teams, police will use a procedure called a knock-and-talk to initiate a conversation at a particular address. One officer does the talking while the other officer peers inside to see if any evidence of a crime is in plain view. For example, if he sees a plastic baggie containing green vegetable matter that looks like marijuana or if he smells marijuana,

Renisha McBride likely did not violate any law when she approached Wafer’s house from the street and knocked on the door. Officers have testified that, with the exception of the damage caused to the locked screen door by the shotgun blast, there was no damage to the doors or windows of his house. The absence of damage means there is no evidence that she attempted to enter the house. The Castle doctrine does not apply, unless she was attempting to enter the house. Mere knocking and yelling in an effort to get someone to answer the door is insufficient to justify the use of deadly force.

Finally the lawyers and a police witness discovered an inconsistency regarding the amount of money McBride had when Wafer shot snd killed her. One of the officers said she had a $100 bill, whereas a police report says she had $56.

Something ain’t right, so the judge is going to have to decide what to do about the discrepancy. Fortunately, the jury was not present in the courtroom when the discrepancy was discovered. I do not believe the discrepancy warrants a mistrial because it does not make it more or less likely that Wafer was justified in using deadly force.

See you on twitter.

Fred


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