Photos, texts not admissible in Wafer case

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Text messages and cell phone photographs from Renisha McBride will not be shown to jurors when Theodore Wafer’s trial begins later this month.

Wafer is charged with second degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm for his role in the shooting death of McBride on his front porch in the 16800 block of Outer Drive about 4:40 a.m. Nov. 2.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway issued the ruling on the text messages June 27 and on the photographs June 30 during motion hearings.

Hathaway said the photos and text messages could be “prejudicial” to the case and distract from why Wafer felt he had a reasonable feeling of being in danger that night.

According to court documents, defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said the texts show that McBride was out selling marijuana before the shooting and was not the timid person she has been made out to be by prosecutors.

Carpenter also said photos on McBride’s cell phone showed her with a firearm and making gang signs with her fingers but Hathaway ruled that the photos themselves do not indicate that McBride had a reputation for violent or aggressive behavior.

Carpenter said McBride was the aggressor in the confrontation and that Wafer was afraid for his life when she came to his house.

An autopsy performed by the Wayne County Medical Examiner showed that McBride had a blood alcohol content of .218 percent (almost three times the legal limit of .08 to drive in Michigan) and traces of marijuana in her system at the time of death.

Hathaway also refused to allow the defense to show a crime map of Wafer’s neighborhood, stating that the map was inadmissible because all that matters is what occurred between the victim and the defendant the night of the incident and that there was not a good chance that Wafer was aware of every crime that had taken place nearby.

The judge also denied a motion to drop the second-degree murder charge.

A request from the defense attorneys that retired Michigan State Police Firearms Examiner David Balash be allowed to testify against evidence from the Wayne County Medical Examiners Office autopsy was not denied, but Hathaway said Balash can only testify about what kind of evidence might have helped investigators, not whether the medical examiner did anything wrong during the autopsy.

Wafer is facing possible penalties of any term of years up to life in prison for the second degree murder charge, up to 15 years for the manslaughter charge and two years for the felony firearm charge.

The trial is scheduled to begin before Hathaway July 21.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)