Florida Jury Rejects “Stand Your Ground” Defense In Parking Lot Argument Case

A Florida jury has convicted a man involved in an argument over a parking space of manslaughter, rejecting his attempt to invoke the state's 'stand your ground' law

A Florida man was convicted of manslaughter last week in a case that started out as a dispute over a handicapped spot and involved a test of the state’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law:

Late Friday night, a jury delivered the guilty verdict that Markeis McGlockton’s family never thought would come.

They had many reasons not to get their hopes up, family attorney Michele Rayner told The Washington Post. First, there were the 25 days it took to arrest the man who fatally shot 28-year-old McGlockton in a dispute over a handicap parking spot. There was the county sheriff who backed the shooter’s invocation of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law. There were parallels to the case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen whose shooter was acquitted in the same state after he claimed self-defense.

But on Friday there were sobs, sighs and hugs in the courtroom as Michael Drejka, 49, was convicted of manslaughter in a case that’s captured national attention. McGlockton’s girlfriend clapped her hands, the Tampa Bay Times reported, while others squeezed the shoulder of the slain man’s father.




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National
A white Florida man cited ‘stand your ground’ for shooting a black man. A jury found him guilty.





Michael Drejka sits in court during a hearing at the Pinellas County Justice Center in Clearwater, Fla. in 2018. (Jim Damaske/Tampa Bay Times/Associated Press)
By Hannah Knowles
August 25
Late Friday night, a jury delivered the guilty verdict that Markeis McGlockton’s family never thought would come.
They had many reasons not to get their hopes up, family attorney Michele Rayner told The Washington Post. First, there were the 25 days it took to arrest the man who fatally shot 28-year-old McGlockton in a dispute over a handicap parking spot. There was the county sheriff who backed the shooter’s invocation of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law. There were parallels to the case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen whose shooter was acquitted in the same state after he claimed self-defense.
But on Friday there were sobs, sighs and hugs in the courtroom as Michael Drejka, 49, was convicted of manslaughter in a case that’s captured national attention. McGlockton’s girlfriend clapped her hands, the Tampa Bay Times reported, while others squeezed the shoulder of the slain man’s father.

Drejka’s lawyers argued the Florida man acted reasonably in self-defense last year after McGlockton pushed him to the ground in the parking lot outside a Clearwater, Fla., convenience store. Prosecutors, however, pointed to video footage showing McGlockton backing away before Drejka shot him. He would collapse before his 5-year-old son.
Jurors rejected Drejka’s defense.

Drejka “took the life of another human being without any legal justification,” Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub said at the trial.

Schaub delivered passionate closing arguments, the Tampa Bay Times reported, walking the courtroom and at times throwing up his hands.

“He was a human being in our world,” he said of McGlockton. “What have we come to in this country?”

Drejka’s lawyers, who plan to appeal the verdict after an Oct. 10 sentencing, maintain that their client thought he was at risk, saying he didn’t see McGlockton’s backing away as removing the threat in the three seconds between pulling his gun and firing.

“He had really no time to assess the danger,” defense attorney Bryant Camareno told The Post.

(…)

Like Trayvon Martin, McGlockton was black and shot by a man who said he felt threatened. The judge in the case wrote that he did not consider race a factor in the killing, defense lawyers said. But Rayner framed McGlockton’s death as one of many unjustified killings of black men, mentioning not just Martin but also Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

She said McGlockton’s family was pained by the defense’s attacks on the victim’s character throughout the trial, saying that Drejka’s attorneys used racist tropes when they called McGlockton violent and badly parented. Defense lawyer John Trevena told The Post the accusations of racism are “absolutely absurd.”

“Obviously while you are hopeful the jury will get it right, there is a real concern that this is a another case where the jury won’t convict and will say that this life — Markeis’s life, as a black person — did not matter,” Rayner said.

The confrontation that led to last week’s verdict is fairly straight forward. On the afternoon of July 19th, 2018, McGlockton, who was traveling with his five-year-old son and girlfriend and her children when the group stopped at a local convenience store. McGlockton had pulled into a handicapped spot and went inside with his son while his girlfriend and her children remained in the car. While McGlockton was inside, Drejka approached the car and started arguing with the girlfriend about the fact that the car was in the handicapped spot despite not having a handicapped parking permit.

McGlockton left the store and saw Drejka confronting his girlfriend, confronting him and shoving him to the ground. Based on the surveillance video from the camera outside the store, McGlockton then steps back from Drejka while he was still on the ground. In the meantime, Drejka pulls out a gun while he’s still on the ground and shoots McGlockton in the chest. The wound was sufficient that by the time McGlockton arrived at the hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Drejka and his attorneys argued that he shot McGlockton because he feared his life was in danger or that he would suffer great bodily injury if he didn’t stop McGlockton. This meant that the jury had to decide if Drejka had a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm, which would make the killing justifiable under Florida law, despite the fact that the video showed McGlockton backing away from Drejka after knocking him to the ground. Based on the verdict the jury obviously did not believe that Drejka had such a reasonable belief.

The issue of “Stand Your Ground” laws in general, and Florida’s law in particular, became the focus of national attention four years ago during the aftermath of the incident in which George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin after the two got into a confrontation in Zimmerman’s neighborhood during a fateful night in February 2012. While the Zimmerman case was not, strictly speaking, a “Stand Your Ground” case, and that Zimmerman had ultimately waived his right to a pre-trial hearing that could have resulted in his acquittal, the case brought the issue of these somewhat controversial laws, and the question of the acceptable limits of self-defense in general and the Florida law in particular. Ultimately, of course, Zimmerman was acquitted of the charges against him, although, again, it’s worth noting that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was not the basis for this acquittal.

Under Florida’s law, in particular, a person who has a reasonable belief that they are in grave danger does not have a legal obligation to retreat from a confrontation even if that can do so safely. Instead, they have a right to stand their ground and defend themselves with deadly force if that becomes necessary. In the years since the state legislature amended the law to provide further protection to those who use force. These changes put the burden of proof on prosecutors to establish that the law does not protect the defendant rather than giving the defense the burden of having to establish that it does. Obviously, this makes a prosecutors job in these types of cases more difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily make it impossible.

With respect to the facts of this case, there are two items that stand out here that argue strongly against the applicability of the “Stand Your Ground” law.

First, this entire confrontation was started by Mr. Drejka, who was apparently upset by the fact that McGlockton had parked his car in the spot reserved for handicapped persons. While McGlockton was in the store, Drejka apparently engaged an in a loud an unruly rant directed at McGlockton’s girlfriend, who was in the car by herself with two small children. McGlockton sees this when he leaves the store with his son and, not unreasonably, assumes that his girlfriend and the other children are in some kind of danger from a man who was ranting and screaming at them. He responds by confronting Drejka and knocking him to the ground. It was at this point that Drejka pulls his gun. The video surveillance clearly shows McGlockton backing away from Drejka at that point but Drejka ends up pulling the trigger anyway and firing, shooting McGlockton in the chest and killing him. While I’ll admit to not being an expert in Florida law, the fact that McGlockton was backing away before Drejka fired strikes me as being significant in that it tends to undercut the idea that Drejka had a reasonable belief at the time that his life was in danger notwithstanding the fact that he was on the ground. Apparently, the jury in this case agreed.

No doubt, the defense will appeal this case but absent some evidence of clear error, it seems fairly clear that the jury verdict will most likely stand.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    You know what this is, minus a gun? A fistfight.

    With a gun? One man dead, the other on his way to prison, a family destroyed.

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  2. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Yes, probably two families, because….. gun

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I find it interesting how in these confrontations it always seems to be the guy with the gun who is presumed to be standing his ground and not the unarmed guy. I would like to say that this case is an exception to the rule but for the fact that if McGlockton had in fact stood his ground (not advancing or retreating after shoving Drejka) it is very likely the jury would have found Drejka not guilty. But then, dead men can’t defend themselves in court.

    Interesting that defending my family can now be seen as a capital offense.

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  4. KM says:

    Good. This idiot stalked that lot, repeatedly confronting people over parking spots and picking fights over his pet peeve. While armed, he harassed a woman and child in a car, mostly likely looking to them like a crazy person and possible threat. His only possible claim to “self-defense” was that he was shoved to the ground but even then it was because he was acting aggressively and McGlockton was defending his family and property. He wouldn’t have “feared for his life” if he wasn’t out starting sh^t; the situation was entirely of his own making and from past documented actions, likely the desired outcome.

    Frankly, I think the only reason he wasn’t acquitted like Zimmerman was because the video shows a clear attempt at retreat and disengagement. Harder to lie about how you “fear for your life” when someone’s backing away from you brandishing a gun – *they* are clearly fearing for their life or they wouldn’t have backed up. Logic isn’t a particularly common Floridian strength but even a jury of his peers was able to see the hole in the BS Drejka was peddling.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    What Reynolds said, coupled with a stupid law. I see it’s not as bad as it could be. There’s a world of difference between “feared for his life”, the standard that seems to be applied to cops, and “a reasonable person would fear for his life”. The FL law does apply a reasonableness requirement.

    if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself

    That said, the conviction seems to hinge on the video. And perhaps on surviving witnesses other than the shooter. It might also matter that the shooter had the option of “threatening” force, which he apparently did not do before shooting. I also wonder if we aren’t seeing a shift in attitudes on guns that may have affected the jury.

  6. Slugger says:

    This is what the expression “a well regulated militia” has come to mean in America. We are at the point that people who are looking for confrontations in parking lots are presumed to have a right to deadly weapons. I wish that the plain meaning of the second amendment were the law, and it doesn’t say that any yahoo gets to carry. Florida has about 2,000 state troopers and a National Guard of 9,600; that is their “well regulated militia.”

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  7. Mister Bluster says:

    Mr. Drejka was “frustrated” and “mystified” by the ruling, one of his lawyers said, vowing to appeal.
    “He doesn’t know how it went from the sheriff saying he committed no crime to the state attorney then charging him and so aggressively pursuing him,” the lawyer, John Trevena, said on Saturday morning.

    I’ll translate this from Honkey Speak into language we can all understand:
    “I don’t know why I just can’t kill a ni99er and get away wth it. I am white after all!”

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  8. grumpy realist says:

    @Slugger: Either that or we use the Originalist view for determining what “arms” are and insist no one can carry anything more modern than a flintlock rifle, must manufacture his own gunpowder, and forge his own bullets.

    I suspect that the appeal is going to fail. Even aside from anything else, the defence lawyers’ argument for appeal is nuts. Three seconds is a long time to not notice that the other guy is retreating, and I’ve never heard of any case involving affirmative defence where “oops, I just didn’t pay attention to the other guy retreating” has been an allowable excuse.

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    I am compelled to note that the sentences in my comment above that begin Mr. Drejka was “frustrated” and “mystified” by the ruling,.. were copy and pasted from Mr. Mataconis’ post the first time I read it.
    Upon review I find that the paragraph has vanished.
    Don’t know what’s up with that.

  10. Fortunato says:

    We shouldn’t overlook the actions of Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who clearly would have viewed this very same convenience store footage before choosing to set the gun toting (fellow) winger free.
    From the Tampa Bay Times, here’s a recent article/link that sums up all you need to know about good ol’ boy, Sheriff Bob:
    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is now the star cop in Florida politics. Who is he, and how did he get there?

  11. Slugger says:

    @grumpy realist: In the wild west of the nineteenth century, they had laws about carrying weapons. Wyatt Earp famously believed in keeping armed people out of Tombstone…was even willing to put you under a tombstone if you insisted. Our current policies reflect political goals that allow a minority, the southern Republicans, to control our government.

  12. KM says:

    @grumpy realist:
    The Originalist view of “arms” is *any* weapon, not just guns. Gun nuts have been remarkably effective at making people think it means only guns when that’s not how the term was understood at the time. Do they really think everyone had or could afford a gun back in the 1770’s? It was one the most expensive things an average person could conceivably buy back then. Arms meant weaponry – anything that could be used to fight because that’s what a militia would have to use to defend itself. Bayonets, knives, flintlocks, hell even bows and arrows since they were still agrarian.

    The Originalist view was always one of protectionist intent and use. It was never “because I felt like owning one” or “I wanna see that thing go boom”. Anyone arguing for Originalism completely ignores that they would have seen it as a tool and not a toy or collectors item. It completely perverts the intentions behind the law to argue someone should be able to own something that can kill dozens in seconds because of “freedumb” – they’d want to know the purpose behind being able to move down fellow citizens and frankly demand why you weren’t in an insane asylum.

  13. Gustopher says:

    @KM: From the fine folks on Wikipedia:

    In the years prior to the American Revolution, the British, in response to the colonists’ unhappiness over increasingly direct control and taxation of the colonies, imposed a gunpowder embargo on the colonies in an attempt to lessen the ability of the colonists to resist British encroachments into what the colonies regarded as local matters. Two direct attempts to disarm the colonial militias fanned what had been a smoldering resentment of British interference into the fires of war.[16]

    These two incidents were the attempt to confiscate the cannon of the Concord and Lexington militias, leading to the Battles of Lexington and Concord of April 19, 1775, and the attempt, on April 20, to confiscate militia powder stores in the armory of Williamsburg, Virginia, which led to the Gunpowder Incident and a face-off between Patrick Henry and hundreds of militia members on one side and the Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, and British seamen on the other. The Gunpowder Incident was eventually settled by paying the colonists for the powder

    The 2nd Amendment was largely a response to this — the Brits attempting to disarm the colonial militias. The 2nd Amendment should, in theory, protect cannons as well as guns.

    The militias, however, were supposed to consist of every able bodied man, who had to provide his own gun and powder.

    So the militia argument and the individual right argument are intertwined, and court cases since then have basically been all over the place. The original intent is murky.

    But, clearly, field artillery should be covered by the 2nd Amendment. I’d posit that we can restrict guns as much as we restrict field artillery, and that any looser gun restrictions are at the whim of the governments.

    I’d be fine with gun owners being a volunteer state militia, with required training, field exercises, etc. And, of course, learning to man the field artillery.

  14. Bill says:

    @KM:

    The 2nd Amendment should, in theory, protect cannons as well as guns.

    The thought of people being allowed to have cannons made me think of F Troop’s recurring gag of their canon knocking down the lookout tower.

  15. dennis says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Mister Bluster gets for real, and some of you get all butthurt. Lmao.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Bill:
    One of about three songs I know all the words to is the F-Troop song. The shit that gets stuck in your head. . .

    @Mister Bluster: @dennis:
    It’s almost like white people shooting black people was the whole fking point of the law. Yep, almost like that.

    I never thought I’d say this but I miss the Black Panthers. It would be fascinating to watch reactions as they exercised their rights to open-carry weapons into Wal-Mart.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @KM:

    Do they really think everyone had or could afford a gun back in the 1770’s? It was one the most expensive things an average person could conceivably buy back then.

    Good point, but that phenomenon went on for a long time past the 17oos. I was reading a book last year about life in the Oregon and Washington Territories in times leading up to and following the Civil War. One of the inducements that the Federal government used to encourage men in the territories to join the Army Reserve was that the government would give all enlistees a Springfield rifle.

    Of course, this was a typical government promise which the government reneged on citing an undersupply of such rifles that necessitated saving most of them for soldiers who were actually fighting the war right now, but cheap firearms became a thing only during my lifetime. Maybe my dad’s, but my grandfather was a plumber in the mines, so he made better money than a typical miner and may have had money for the .22 that he bought for his sons (yes, only one for the two boys) that other miners didn’t have.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: “The 2nd Amendment was largely a response to this — the Brits attempting to disarm the colonial militias. The 2nd Amendment should, in theory, protect cannons as well as guns.”
    OMG! Sarah Palin was right! :-0

    “The militias, however, were supposed to consist of every able bodied man, who had to provide his own gun and powder.
    So the militia argument and the individual right argument are intertwined, and court cases since then have basically been all over the place. The original intent is murky.”
    And the world returns back to normal.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is now the star cop in Florida politics. Who is he, and how did he get there?

    Oh this is rich…in the link, Gualtieri tells Al Sharpton to go back to New York and mind his own business but claims that McGlockton wouldn’t be dead if he hadn’t slammed Drejka to the ground…meanwhile, if Drejka had simply minded his own business, none of this would have happened…

  20. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    As an aside to the “it’s the guns” angle: Germany and Austria have pretty much identical stand your ground laws. They nevertheless rarely prove fatal due to a less macho culture underlying them.

  21. Mu says:

    I don’t know where you got that idea from about Germany. Not only have Germany a duty to retreat, Germany has an explicit “excessive self defense” felony, if you shoot to kill you’re automatically guilty.

  22. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Take it from a German lawyer who was in the top 5% in his criminal law class – neither the first nor the last of your claims are true and the middle one is, at best, misunderstood ;-).

  23. Hisnameisralphman! says:

    If this was white on white or black on black or asian on asian or gay on gay you would have never heard this story. What the media is attempting to do is divide and conquer. All the participants made some pretty stupid moves. The girlfriend for parking in the handicapped spot. The other dude for yelling at her and the boy friend shoving the guy to the ground. You get that many stupid people in such close proximity and this are bound to go wrong.

  24. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: More people are killed every year by hands and feet (punching kicking not choking that has it’s own stat) than “assault weapons”. It’s shocking how easy it is to kill someone with one punch.

    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8.xls