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Prison term for Detroit porch gunman debated

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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 9:48 p.m.
 

DETROIT — Prosecutors are recommending at least 17 years in prison for a Detroit-area man who killed an unarmed woman on his porch, but his lawyer is urging a judge to go as low as six years.

Theodore Wafer, 55, of Dearborn Heights returns to court on Wednesday, about a month after he was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting of Renisha McBride.

In a court filing, Wayne County prosecutors said Wafer's sentencing guidelines for murder call for a minimum punishment between 15 and 25 years in prison — in addition to an automatic two-year sentence for unlawful use of a gun. Prosecutors said they would be comfortable with a sentence within the guidelines.

Wafer, like other convicts, could be released by the Michigan Parole Board after he serves whatever minimum sentence is ordered by Judge Dana Hathaway.

The guidelines for his sentence are enhanced because the jury also convicted Wafer of manslaughter, said assistant prosecutor Athina Siringas.

“There are no compelling, objective and verifiable reasons ... that would justify a downward departure from the guideline range,” she wrote.

Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter countered with her own 12-page filing on Thursday, urging Hathaway to go well below the guidelines and sentence Wafer to as few as six years in prison, including two for the gun crime.

“The facts and circumstances of this case are more akin to manslaughter than murder,” Carpenter said. “It does not seem fair or just that a person who does not intend to kill another person is convicted of murder.”

Wafer shot McBride on Nov. 2. He insisted it was self-defense in response to the 19-year-old pounding on his doors at 4:30 a.m.

The jury, however, found his reaction was unreasonable.

Jurors heard conflicting statements from Wafer. He suggested to police immediately after the shooting that it was an accident and that he did not know his shotgun was loaded. But on the witness stand, Wafer said he pulled the trigger because he feared for his life.

“What Mr. Wafer did may not be a choice you or I would make. That's not the standard,” Carpenter wrote. “What is reasonable to do when you are awoken in the middle of the night, alone in the house, the peephole and front screen broken by what you honestly believe is a person or persons trying to do you harm?”

Prosecutors argued that Wafer was safe inside his locked house and should have called 911 instead of opening the front door and shooting McBride through the screen door.

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