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“I Didn’t Mean to Kill Renisha McBride.” But Does it Matter? | Bennett L. Gershman

RT_Renisha_McBride_funeral_nt_131113_16x9_992While accidents are commonplace, many can have legal consequences. Spilling hot coffee, slipping and falling, and the often-occurring automobile “fender bender” may cause injury to people and property and result in lawsuits seeking monetary damages. But some accidents are far more serious. Automobile fatalities and drug overdoses come to mind. And, of course, hundreds of accidental deaths are caused each year by guns. Accidents lie on a spectrum of increasing seriousness, generally depending on the degree of fault, and a serious accident may be punished as a crime, even as murder. So, was Theodore Wafer’s fatal shotgun blast to the face of 19-year-old Renisha McBride on the night of November 2 anunintentional accident, as he has claimed? And even if it was an accident, is it nevertheless a punishable homicide, either as murder or manslaughter?

The shotgun killing of McBride, a young black woman, who was standing on Wafer’s porch in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, apparently seeking help after her car crashed, has attracted considerable media attention, and is certainly a tragedy. It has been equated with the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Some of the commentary has addressed purported similarities between the two cases, particularly allegations that race was a factor in both killings, and that self-defense as justification may play some role. However, whereas the prosecution of George Zimmerman for killing Martin focused almost exclusively on the issue of self defense, and related critiques of Florida’s “stand-your-ground” self-defense law, it is far from clear at this point whether Wafer can or will invoke self-defense as a justification for his act.

Piecing together the reported facts and trying to make rational inferences form these facts offers some basis for conjecture on what may have happened on Wafer’s porch that night. It has been reported that McBride crashed her car into a parked car on a Detroit street on Nov. 2, around 1:30 a.m., was attended to by passersby who reported to the police that she was injured and bleeding from the face. Before the police arrived, McBride wandered away from the accident scene, returned briefly, and wandered away again. Several hours later, at 4:42 a.m., the police received a 911 call from Wafer stating: “I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun banging on my door.” It is not known when Wafer fired the fatal shot. According to the toxicology report, McBride was highly intoxicated when she was shot, with a blood-alcohol level of 2.18 percent, and marijuana in her system. There is no evidence that the shot was fired at close range, according to the Medical Examiner‘s Office. The District Attorney has charged Wafer with both Murder in the Second Degree and Involuntary Manslaughter. Wafer also was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. His next court appearance is December 18. 
There is some evidence that McBride may have been seeking help when she arrived at the killer’s residence and walked onto his porch. There is no evidence that McBride, 5 foot 4 inches tall, was armed, or threatened Wafer with harm. Wafer told the police that he “believed the girl was breaking into [my] home,” and that the “gun discharged accidentally.” There are several items of evidence that are not yet known: ballistic reports that may help to determine where Wafer was standing when he shot through the screen door, and how far away he was from McBride when he shot her; autopsy evidence that might show the trajectory of the shot; and cell phone records that might corroborate whether McBride’s cell phone had died, and that she was going door-to-door for help.

Even if the shooting was accidental, as Wafer has claimed, is he nevertheless potentially guilty of murder or manslaughter? Under Michigan’s penal law, charging Wafer with murder in the second degree is not unreasonable. The key element in the murder charge is proving that the defendant acted with “malice,” and without legal justification.

Under Michigan law, malice requires proof that the defendant had the intent to kill or do great bodily harm, or created and disregarded a very high risk of death, or as one courtobserved, had the “intent to do an act that is in obvious disregard of life-endangering consequences.” A lesser manslaughter charge requires proof that the defendant caused the death of the victim from the discharge of a firearm that the defendant intentionally pointed at the victim without lawful justification. Thus, what distinguishes manslaughter from murder is the absence of malice, namely, that the killing was committed with gross negligence, a less blameworthy state of mind.

So, if Wafer claims that he was awakened in the middle of the night by loud banging at his front door, that he grabbed his shotgun, rushed to the door, and that as he held the gun, and under the stress of the moment the gun discharged accidentally, he might be able to convince a jury that he should not be blamed for McBride’s death. A jury under these circumstances might have a reasonable doubt about whether Wafer acted in utter disregard of human life, or even with gross negligence. By contrast, if he perceived that the person on his porch posed no threat, and pointed his gun at the person, and the gun discharged, even accidentally, a jury might conclude that he created an unacceptably high risk of danger by arming himself and under the circumstances behaved so recklessly as to be guilty of murder or manslaughter.

There are a host of obviously relevant questions that need to be addressed. Whether Wafer will claim that his killing was justified as self-defense is hard to predict, but under the circumstances, if he does that will be an extremely difficult argument. Wafer would have to claim that he killed McBride intentionally and allege that he did it because he feared for his life from the unarmed, diminutive young woman who was banging on his door but posed no life-threatening harm. Such a claim might strike most jurors as unconvincing and unreasonable, and so far there are no facts that would make such a claim plausible.

However, claiming that his shotgun discharged accidentally may be a more persuasive defense, but its success would hinge on several facts, which are not yet known: What was Wafer’s experience with guns? Did he take any gun safety course? How often did he fire the weapon previously? Where was his shotgun stored? Was it stored loaded? Was there a safety mechanism on the weapon? At what point did he load the weapon and take the safety off? At what point did he put his finger inside the trigger guard? If he was standing at the front door pointing the weapon at McBride, why was his finger inside the trigger guard? If he was not standing at the door, where was he standing? Did he place his finger on the wrong place on the weapon in a moment of stress?

Did race play a role in the killing of Renisha McBride? The claim has been made. One recalls the case of Yoshihiro Hattori, a teenager in Louisiana out trick-or-treating on Halloween who was killed by a homeowner who claimed the boy was trespassing, or the arrest in Boston of Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard professor who was detained by police as he was trying to enter his residence. These kinds of incidents may happen more often than we know. To be sure, perceptions of danger may be very real, but they are also highly subjective. The extent to which race plays a role in these perceptions is difficult to measure, as in the Trayvon Martin case. Whether race influenced Wafer’s actions, even if his shooting was an accident, is unclear. But even if the shooting was an accident, if it was influenced by the race of the victim it would seem to be more blameworthy. We don’t yet know where this killing will fall on the spectrum of culpable accidents.

“I Didn’t Mean to Kill Renisha McBride.” But Does it Matter? | Bennett L. Gershman.

Views – 440

Who will defend Black women? | Florida Courier

Who will defend Black women?

 Filed under COMMENTARIES 

00-drjuliannemalveauxAll Renisha McBride wanted to do was to go home.  She had been in a car accident, her cell phone was dead and she needed help.  She knocked on a couple of doors in the suburban Detroit neighborhood where she was stranded, but it was well after midnight and people weren’t opening their doors.  Finally, she found a homeowner who opened his door, but instead of offering the help she so desperately needed, he shot her, saying he thought she was going to break into his home.

He didn’t shoot her at close range; he shot her from a distance.  He might have simply shut the door, or he might have shut the door and called 911.  Instead he shot 19-year-old McBride in the face.

Law enforcement officials have said that Renisha’s death is a homicide and her family is waiting to see if the 54-year-old homeowner will be charged.

Blame the victim
There are chilling parallels to the Trayvon Martin case.  All we know about the murderer is that he is a homeowner.  But already the character assassination of Renisha has begun. Her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. She may have had marijuana in her system.  She may have, but that’s not definitive.  So why has that information been leaked when no one has leaked a murderer’s name.

If Renisha were drunk as Cootie Brown and high as a kite, she did not deserve to be killed. Why didn’t the “54-year-old homeowner” call 911 and tell them there was a drunken woman on his porch?  Why did he shoot?

Renisha McBride’s murder bears attention for several reasons.  First of all it reinforces the unfortunate reality that young Black people are at high risk for violence, often because too many shoot first and ask questions later.  Secondly, in the cases that are highly publicized, usually it is the massacre of a young man that is at the center of a case.  It is important to note that young Black women are too often at risk.  And it is important to ask what we plan to do about it.

The case of Marissa Alexander
Marissa Alexander didn’t want to take another beating.  Her husband Rico Gray is an admitted abuser whose brutal beatings of his wife were described as “life threatening”. She fired a warning shot into the ceiling to warn off her abuser husband. She was charged with felony use of a firearm and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

The prosecutor in this case, Angela Corey, is the same one who only reluctantly charged George Zimmerman in the massacre of Trayvon Martin, the same prosecutor who assembled a flawed legal team, the same prosecutor who believes in the Stand Your Ground laws. That is, except for Marissa, who stood her ground against an abusive husband and hurt no one.

With domestic violence an epidemic in our country, it seems unfathomable that a woman who wanted to prevent it is charged with a crime.  While the civil rights community has surrounded Marissa, I am not aware of women’s organizations or domestic violence organizations that have been similarly supportive.  E. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women says that her organization has been active in assisting Marissa, and that’s a good thing.

Black women vulnerable
Marissa Alexander’s incarceration and the murder of Renisha McBride have something in common. They illustrate the vulnerability of Black women, both in the legal system, and in the public perception of race and gender.  Black women are not afforded the privilege of standing their ground against batterers.  Black women can be shot at far range because a 54-year-old homeowner was so frightened that he had to shoot.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and writer, and president emerita of Bennett College for Women.

Who will defend Black women? | Florida Courier.

Views – 149

Renisha McBride and Other Black Women Need to be Defended | New Pittsburgh Courier

All Renisha McBride wanted to do was to go home. She had been in a car accident, her cell phone was dead, and she needed help. She knocked on a couple of doors in the suburban Detroit neighborhood where she was stranded, but it was well after midnight and people weren’t opening their doors. Finally, she found a homeowner in Dearborn Heights who opened his door, but instead of offering the help she so desperately needed, he shot her, saying he thought she was going to break into his home.

He didn’t shoot her at close range; he shot her from a distance. He might have simply shut the door, or he might have shut the door and called 911. Instead he shot 19-year-old Renisha McBride in the face.

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On Friday, Theodore P. Wafer, 54, was charged with second-degree murder. He also faces a manslaughter charge.

There are chilling parallels to the Trayvon Martin case. The character assassination of Renisha has begun. According to a toxicology report, her blood alcohol level was 0.22, more than twice the legal limit for driving. Her blood also tested positive for an active ingredient in marijuana.

If Renisha were drunk as Cootie Brown and high as a kite, she did not deserve to be killed. Why didn’t Wafer call 911 and tell them (if he could tell) that there was a drunken woman on his porch? Why did he shoot?

Renisha McBride’s murder bears attention for several reasons. First of all, it reinforces the unfortunate reality that young black people are at high risk for violence, often because too many shoot first and ask questions later. Secondly, in the cases that are highly publicized, usually it is the massacre of a young man that is at the center of a case. It is important to note that young black women are too often at risk. And it is important to ask what we plan to do about it.

Marissa Alexander didn’t want to take another beating. Her husband Rico Gray is an admitted abuser whose brutal beatings of his wife were described as “lifethreatening.” She fired a warning shot into the ceiling to warn off her abuser husband. Yet, she was charged with felony use of a firearm and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

The prosecutor in this case, Angela Corey, is the same one who only reluctantly charged George Zimmerman in the massacre of Trayvon Martin, the same prosecutor who assembled a flawed legal team, the same prosecutor who believes in the Stand Your Ground laws. That is, except for Marissa Alexander, who stood her ground against an abusive husband and hurt no one.

Marissa Alexander, the 32-year-old mother of three, has no criminal record. Her conviction has been thrown out because a judge ruled that the prosecution, not the defense, has the burden of proof. (Alexander was asked to prove that she had been beaten). Friends and family have raised her bail, but the judged in her case says he won’t rule on her release until January 15.

She languishes in jail, supposedly, because she remains a threat to her batterer, but even he supports her release. Her continued incarceration is not only mean-spirited, but also an illustration about the unevenness of law. George Zimmerman got away with murder for standing his ground. Marissa Alexander is incarcerated because she stood hers.

With domestic violence an epidemic in our country, it seems unfathomable that a woman who wanted to prevent it is charged with a crime. While the civil rights community has surrounded Marissa, I am not aware of women’s organizations or domestic violence organizations that have been similarly supportive. E. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women says that her organization has been active in assisting Marissa, and that’s a good thing. Still, just as the hoodie came to represent Trayvon Martin, and people from around the world, including on the floor of Congress, donned the hoodie in solidarity with Trayvon, there has been no similar support for Marissa Alexander.

Marissa Alexander’s incarceration and the murder of Renisha McBride have something in common. They illustrate the vulnerability of Black women, both in the legal system, and in the public perception of race and gender. Black women are not afforded the privilege of standing their ground against batterers. Black women can be shot at far range because a 54-year-old homeowner was so frightened that he had to shoot.

More than 20 years ago, when now Associate Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas attempted to character assassinate attorney Anita Hill with his wild accusations, a group of Black women stood up in her defense. Using the moniker of “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves,” the group took out ads both in the New York Times and in the Black press supporting Professor Hill. (Disclosure – my mom, my three sisters and I all signed the ad). We defended ourselves then, and we must defend ourselves now. The legal system seems unwilling and unable to do so.

Renisha McBride and Other Black Women Need to be Defended | New Pittsburgh Courier.

 

Views – 146

George Zimmerman arrested on domestic violence charges | www.wftv.com

George Zimmerman
George Zimmerman booking mugshot 11/18/13

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

Channel 9 has confirmed George Zimmerman has been arrested on domestic violence charges in Seminole Countyon Monday.

The disturbance was at a residence on Topfield Court in unincorporated Apopka, although authorities haven’t said what exactly happened.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said Zimmerman will be booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility.

No other details have been released.

George Zimmerman has made national headlines several times since his acquittal in July in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Stay with WFTV.com and tune in to Eyewitness News at 4 p.m. as we work to uncover more details.

Over the summer, authorities were called to a domestic dispute involving Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, shortly after she filed for divorce.

Shellie Zimmerman accused her estranged husband of punching her father and threatening them at the father’s home on Ridgewood Road.

In the end, no charges were filed against Zimmerman in the case.

Zimmerman was also accused by his wife’s mother of stealing property from her Lake Mary home, where Zimmerman had been staying.

Police are reviewing the case to determine if it will be a civil or criminal matter.

Zimmerman was also pulled over twice for speeding, once in Texas where he was let off with a warning and another time in Lake Mary, where he was issued a $256 ticket.

And he drew controversy for visiting the Kel-Tec gun manufacturing company in Cocoa, where he toured the facility and posed for a photo with a worker at the plant.

George Zimmerman arrested on domestic violence charges | www.wftv.com.

Views – 123

17 Deplorable Examples Of White Privilege

Because of white privilege, you'll never have to worry about becoming the victim of law enforcement officers.

Think about Jonathan Ferrell, Amadou Diallo, even Oscar Grant. It isn’t a coincidence that hundreds of incidents like these have been happening for years.

2. Thankfully, you’ll never have to know what it feels like to see your teenage son’s death being mocked.

Thankfully, you'll never have to know what it feels like to see your teenage son's death being mocked.

Yes, that is someone dressed as Trayvon Martin. Yes, you’re looking at someone in blackface. In 2013.

3. Because of white privilege, you’ll never have to inform your children of the harsh realities of systemic racism.

Because of white privilege, you'll never have to inform your children of the harsh realities of systemic racism.

4. White privilege means you can be articulate and well spoken without people being “surprised.”

White privilege means you can be articulate and well spoken without people being "surprised."

5. Because of white privilege, you’ll never know what it’s like to have the following statistic looming over your head.

Because of white privilege, you'll never know what it's like to have the following statistic looming over your head.

According to this report , one-third of black men will go to prison at least once in their lifetime.

6. You can wear and act however you’d like without being labeled a thug, low life, gangster, etc.

You can wear and act however you'd like without being labeled a thug, low life, gangster, etc.

Everyone wants to “act black,” but no one truly wants to be black.

7. White privilege allows you to speak on any particular subject without being the sole representative for your entire race.

White privilege allows you to speak on any particular subject without being the sole representative for your entire race.

White privilege allows you to believe that all people of color think alike and share similar views.

8. White privilege means no one questions why you got that really great job; it’s assumed you were just highly qualified.

17 Deplorable Examples Of White Privilege

Also, it means that you got into that prestigious university based on merit, not because a certain quota had to be filled.

9. White privilege means not having to worry about your hair, skin color, or cultural accessories as the reason you didn’t get a job.

White privilege means not having to worry about your hair, skin color, or cultural accessories as the reason you didn't get a job.

People of color must assimilate every.single.day. It’s hard to break free of the ways of the dominant hegemony and forge your own path.

10. White privilege means you don’t have to worry about being monitored in a store just because the hue of your skin is a bit darker than most.

White privilege means you don't have to worry about being monitored in a store just because the hue of your skin is a bit darker than most.

People of color are seen as leery and untrustworthy.

11. Having white privilege means people will never label you a terrorist.

Having white privilege means people will never label you a terrorist.

12. White privilege means not being affected by negative stereotypes that have been perpetuated and ingrained so much into American society that people believe them to be fact.

White privilege means not being affected by negative stereotypes that have been perpetuated and ingrained so much into American society that people believe them to be fact.

Black men are angry, primitive beasts with insatiable sexual appetites.

13. White privilege means you never have to explain why cultural appropriation is a bad thing.

White privilege means you never have to explain why cultural appropriation is a bad thing.

14. White privilege means not having to worry about being stopped and frisked.

White privilege means not having to worry about being stopped and frisked.

15. If you benefit from white privilege, you’ll never be told to “get over slavery.”

If you benefit from white privilege, you'll never be told to "get over slavery."

Ironic, isn’t it?

16. White privilege means that you’re never just your own person.

White privilege means that you're never just your own person.

For example, Nicki Minaj is often referred to as the “black Lady Gaga.” I guess black people can’t be quirky or eccentric.

17. Benefitting from white privilege means you can walk the Earth unaware of your color.

Benefitting from white privilege means you can walk the Earth unaware of your color.

People of color don’t have such a luxury.

17 Deplorable Examples Of White Privilege.

Views – 267