by Thandisizwe Chimurenga
Ted Wafer’s defense lawyers spent his entire trial trying to convince 12 jurors that Renisha McBride was guilty in her own murder.
Renisha was on Trial All Along
by Thandisizwe Chimurenga
This article previously appeared in Ebony.
“The bulk of Carpenter's defense of Wafer was built on the vilification and criminalization of a teenager whose face had been blown off by her client.”
Like everyone else, I too was shocked and horrified that a man who shot a 19-year old Black girl in the face with a shotgun because she was banging on his door had not been arrested, had not been charged, until two weeks later.
Cheryl Carpenter, Wafer's attorney, was building a defense narrative on the premise that Renisha McBride was a thug/criminal who sold drugs and was trying to break into Wafer's house at the time she was shot.
In one media account Carpenter said that Renisha, intoxicated and disoriented from a car crash on the night she was murdered, may have thought she was breaking into her drug dealer's house at the time.
And that's when I knew I had to cover this trial. I had to be present.
I had to bear witness.
Both Renisha's family and the Wayne County District Attorney said that the case was not about race. But I knew better.
It was important for me to witness this trial for evidence of structural racism, also known as White supremacy. Ted Wafer was the least of my concerns.
I knew that White supremacy was always present. Like a haze of smog over the Los Angeles skyline that used to burn your eyes, but nowadays only mildly affects your breathing; some days you see it, some days you don't ...but it is always present.
It was present when Dearborn Heights Police officers (DHP) speculated that perhaps Renisha McBride was a prostitute - simply because she had been carrying a $100 bill in her back pocket -trying to get money out of Wafer. The money had been given to her by her mother.
It was present when DHP decided not to arrest Wafer the night he told them his gun accidentally discharged and he didn't know that the gun was loaded; the same night when, hours later, he changed his story in a police interview and said it was self-defense, standing and showing the police how he held the gun – about midlevel, between his waist and his chest.
White supremacy was present when the judge, Dana Margaret Hathaway, asked the potential jury pool, “Are there any African American jurors that feel a sense of loyalty to their race that would demand a guilty verdict?,” and it was present when defense attorney Carpenter used 7 of her 9 peremptory challenges to strike African Americans from the jury pool.
But no where was it more present than in Carpenter's defense narrative.
Carpenter argued that there was an “aggressive side” to Renisha McBride as a result of alcohol in particular, and Renisha's social media profile truly represented who she was. Carpenter sought to enter into evidence photos and texts from Renisha McBride's cell phone and pictures from her Twitter and Facebook profiles that talked about marijuana, “thuggin',” and “gettin' paid.”
A social media profile that began at age 15 and ended three years later.
“Carpenter used 7 of her 9 peremptory challenges to strike African Americans from the jury pool.”
The photos/texts weren't allowed into evidence but Carpenter would periodically repeat her request for them, reminding the jury of Renisha's alleged “thug life.”
In another media account, Carpenter complained that it was central to their case that they “be allowed to argue that Renisha was up to no good” the morning she banged on Ted Wafer's door.
Not prove she was up to no good, simply argue it. Simply argue that a teenager with a possible concussion, intoxicated, high from marijuana, and staggering through the streets wearing a torn/ripped boot, wanted to break and enter into Ted Wafer's house because she just wanted to.
Its what thugs do.
The bulk of Carpenter's defense of Wafer was built on the vilification and criminalization of a teenager whose face had been blown off by her client.
Cheryl Carpenter's defense was to murder Renisha McBride a second time.
I had to see that with my own eyes instead of reading about it – or not – in a mainstream media account of the case.
In response to Carpenter's slandering of their daughter, Renisha's parents stated to media that they knew who she was and how she was raised.
I can appreciate that.
But I had to see those 12 men and women – the jury that heard the evidence in this case – toss Carpenter's narrative onto the trash heap where it belonged with my own eyes.
And I'm grateful that I did.
Thandisizwe Chimurenga, a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles, CA, covered the trial of Theodore Wafer for the murder of Renisha McBride for Color of Change and Black Agenda Report.