There is no dispute that Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride, 19, through the screen of his front door in the early hours of Nov. 2. His attorneys said he feared for his life, but Dearborn Heights Judge David Turfe said Wafer had other options.
"We can't allow (someone) to use a bad decision as a shield to criminal prosecution. ... The defendant made a bad choice," the judge said.
Wafer's attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, pointed to Michigan's 2006 self-defense law.
"If someone is breaking into a home there is a presumption that a homeowner can use deadly force," she argued.
"You don't know how many people are out there. ... There's violent banging on the front door. We have a man alone in his home," Carpenter said.
But Wayne County assistant prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark said it's "ridiculous" to believe that Wafer was deeply afraid but still decided to open the door and fire instead of first calling the police.
"He shoved that shotgun in her face and pulled the trigger," Hagaman-Clark said.
Wafer, 54, called 911 around 4:30 a.m. and said he had shot someone who was banging on his door. More than three hours earlier, McBride had crashed her car into a parked car in a residential neighborhood, about a half-mile away in Detroit.
A witness said McBride was bleeding and holding her head, but that she walked away from the scene before an ambulance arrived. It's still unclear, at least publicly, what she did between the time of the car wreck and her arrival on Wafer's porch.
An autopsy found McBride had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.22, more than twice the legal limit for driving. She also had been smoking marijuana.
Her best friend, Amber Jenkins, 18, said they had been drinking vodka and playing cards seven to eight hours before the shooting was reported to 911.
Spectators, mostly McBride's family and friends, left the courtroom immediately after the judge's decision. Wafer lingered and appeared dazed as he stood and looked out a courtroom window. He thanked his attorneys and eventually left through a back door.
Carpenter told reporters the ruling was a disappointment.
Before hearing final arguments, the judge rejected Carpenter's request to play Wafer's one-hour recorded statement to police. It was not introduced by prosecutors when they presented evidence Wednesday.
Hagaman-Clark, citing Michigan court rules, successfully argued that the defense could play the video only if Wafer would agree to testify and open himself up to cross-examination.
"The videotaped statement is not subject to cross-examination," the prosecutor said.