DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court is taking another look at the case of a suburban Detroit man who was sentenced to at least 17 years in prison for killing an unarmed woman on his porch in 2013.
The issue is whether Ted Wafer’s constitutional rights against double jeopardy were violated when he was convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.
Wafer’s attorney argues that murder and manslaughter contradict each other because murder requires malice while manslaughter doesn’t under Michigan law.
“The jurors were not instructed in a manner that would allow them to discern that,” attorney Jacqueline McCann said in a court filing.
McCann wants the Supreme Court to throw out the manslaughter conviction. If granted, Wafer likely would be eligible for a new sentence because his sentencing guidelines for murder were enhanced by the manslaughter verdict.
But the Wayne County prosecutor’s office said the manslaughter conviction is distinctive and should stand because it specifically requires use of a gun.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments during its 2020-21 term, which starts in fall.
Wafer opened his front door in Dearborn Heights and shot McBride through a screen door. He said he was awakened by pounding and feared for his life, although he didn’t call police. A jury rejected his self-defense claim.
No one knows why McBride ended up at Wafer’s home about 4:30 a.m. Prosecutors speculated she may have been confused while seeking help hours after crashing her car about half a mile away in Detroit. An autopsy revealed she was drunk.
Wafer, now 61, was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison for murder, plus two years for use of a gun during a crime. He would be eligible for parole in 2031 after serving 17 years.
“He’s been convicted of two homicides with a single victim,” said Detroit-area lawyer Neil Rockind, who is not involved in the case. “There is certainly a double jeopardy question. I have never seen a case when I was prosecuting or defending a person where you could be convicted of both.”