Renisha McBride, 19, was shot by the homeowner through his locked screen door. / Detroit Free Press
DETROIT -- Text messages sent by a woman who was shot and killed by a homeowner may offer insights into her past and her character, but a jury will not be allowed to see them as they decide the fate of her accused killer, a judge ruled Friday.
"They are just unfairly prejudicial," Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway said of Renisha McBride's texts, which the defense had hoped to use to bolster its claim that the defendant acted in self-defense when he shot and killed the unarmed woman on his porch last fall.
Specifically, the defense claims it has text messages and cellphone pictures that show the 19-year-old McBride was a marijuana dealer who had a knack for getting into trouble, not the "meek and mild" person the prosecution is trying to portray. On the night of her killing, the defense argued, text messages on McBride's cellphone showed she was out dealing drugs when she showed up in the early hours of the morning on the front porch of Dearborn Heights resident Theodore Wafer.
Wafer has claimed he acted in self-defense, and that he was scared out of his mind when the woman pounded on his front and side doors. His lawyers argue that McBride's past and her behavior is crucial to the case because, it contends, it shows that McBride may have been the aggressor on the night of her killing.
It's an argument that didn't go over well with the prosecution, which has argued that McBride's text messages are irrelevant and that nothing she texted about the night she was killed justified a homeowner opening fire on her when she showed up unexpectedly on his porch.
Hathaway also wasn't convinced that the defense had any proof that McBride was the aggressor.
"Simply selling marijuana doesn't make a person an aggressor," Hathaway said in rejecting the defense's request to admit text messages as evidence.
Hathaway also refused to let the defense show the jury a map documenting crime in Wafer's neighborhood, concluding that it was unlikely that Wafer knew about each and every crime that happened in his neighborhood.
"What this case boils down to is what Mr. Wafer knew, and what he believed the situation to be," Hathaway said, concluding the crime map is inadmissible.
The defense also wants to show jurors cellphone pictures that show McBride holding a gun and flashing gang signs to further bolster its claim that she had a history of getting into trouble. Hathaway has not yet ruled on whether she'll allow the cellphone pictures.
The prosecution, meanwhile, has argued that nothing in McBride's past is relevant to her killing, nor does it justify her shooter's actions.
Prosecutor Danielle Hageman-Clark argued that if she were to get shot, and someone went through her cellphone and found nude pictures, "Does that make me a hooker?"
Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said she's not trying to make McBride look bad. She just wants the jury to get a full picture of what really happened that night. She believes the defense has evidence that shows McBride was the aggressor, and argues it has a right to show its evidence to the jury.
"I don't want to use this to drag her through the mud," Carpenter said, later noting: "She's not a bad person."
McBride's family, including her parents, sat in court and nodded their heads in disbelief as they listened to the defense paint McBride as a drug dealer.
Wafer, who was charged with second-degree murder, is accused of shooting McBride with a shotgun through a locked screen door on Nov. 2. Authorities have said McBride was drunk and crashed her car hours before she ended up on the porch of Wafer's home.
Contributing: Elisha Anderson of the Free Press
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