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April 25, 2014

Judge removed from porch shooting case

DETROIT (AP) — A judge removed another judge Friday from a case of a Detroit-area man who fatally shot an unarmed woman last fall on his porch.

Wayne County Circuit Chief Judge Pro Tem Timothy Kenny removed Judge Qiana Lillard from the case of Theodore Wafer, and Judge Dana Hathaway was drawn. His decision came after defense attorneys argued Lillard's previous employment with the prosecutor's office and associations with employees create an appearance of impropriety.

Kenny cited involvement of one of the prosecutors in Lillard's re-election campaign. Terry Anderson, a member of the prosecution team on the Wafer case, had been listed on her campaign committee and he sold tickets to a Lillard fundraiser.

There's no dispute that Wafer, 55, shot Renisha McBride in the face on Nov. 2 in Dearborn Heights. His lawyers insist he opened the front door and fired in self-defense, fearing that the drunken 19-year-old was trying to break into his home before dawn. Prosecutors, however, say he should have called 911 and kept the door shut.

McBride, who had an extremely high blood-alcohol level, was killed three hours after her car struck a parked car about a half-mile away in Detroit. She walked away from the crash. It's not known where she went on foot before arriving at Wafer's porch.

Prosecutors said they do not plan to appeal Kenny's ruling and supported the draw. Spokeswoman Maria Miller said in an email such activities by prosecuting attorneys are allowed as long it's "on their private time and not using any work resources."

Lillard had previously refused to recuse herself, and the matter was referred to Kenny. He presides over the court's criminal division.

McBride's aunt Bernita Spinks told reporters after the hearing that she was disappointed in the decision, which she said was a stalling tactic.

Civil rights groups have suggested race may have played a role in the shooting, but prosecutors haven't presented any evidence to make that connection. Wafer is white; McBride was black.

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