** BACK IN THE NEWS **
The accused killer of Markeis McGlockton, Michael Drejka, went back to criminal Court in Pinellas County on Thursday to seek a reduction in his $100,000 bail. The request – in a hearing described by the St Petersburg Times as feeling “more like a trial” – was denied.
Drejka is being held in the Pinellas County Jail on one count of manslaughter in the July 19th shooting at a Clearwater, FL convenience store. The genesis of the shooting and resultant fatality was an argument over McClockton’s girlfriend having parked in a handicap parking space without a permit.
Drejka, the jailed shooter is White. McGlockton, the dead victim was Black, as is his girlfriend Britany Jacobs.
Bail Reduction Hearing
According to the St. Petersburg Times article on August 24th, the bail reduction request was one aggressively opposed by the prosecutors. During the hearing, the state’s attorney showed actual video taped footage of the shooting while recounting allegations concerning past accusations of Drejka’s aggression. The prosecutor’s also spoke out against some of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s reasoning in deciding, at first, not to arrest Drejka.
In a move that brought a strong objection from Drejka’s counsel, prosecutors questioned whether Drejka was OK with some of the conduct by his lawyers. (*)
(*) regarding whether Drejka was aware of a radio interview done by
one of his attorneys and out-of-court statements by an attorney that
called into question the legitimacy of Drejka’s taking the shot
One of Drejka’s lawyers objected that the prosecutors’ “had gone way beyond the parameters of a bail hearing”. The defense also argued in favor of reducing bail that: Drejka poses no flight risk, cannot afford the $100,000 bail, has no criminal history, and hasn’t used the ‘national platform’ to his advantage”.
At the end of the short hearing, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone denied the bail-reduction petition.
Drejka’s attorney tried to favorably use the early position of Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, saying the Sheriff stated on the day of the shooting that “Mr. Drejka was in fear for his life and therefore the ‘stand your ground’ defense was applicable.” The Prosecutors immediately countered that “the Sheriff’s explanation wasn’t complete and included inaccurate information. The state’s attorney added “The Sheriff’s personal opinion about what he believes happened in this case isn’t relevant.”
Bolstering their argument that the $100,000 bail should stand; the state’s attorney went on to list several factors in favor of the manslaughter charge, as follows:
- First, McGlockton was ‘more than a few feet away – as the Sheriff had stated – when Drejka fired his fatal shot
- Second, the surveillance video showed that McGlockton was backing up and turning his body away from Drejka in the seconds before the shooting
- Third, the autopsy supported the view from the video by establishing that the fatal bullet entered McGlockton’s body through the left side and lodging below the right armpit
- Fourth, these noted details show that Drejka’s alleged “fear” wasn’t “reasonable” as is required by the “stand your ground” law
Then, as if the above details weren’t enough to persuade the Judge to keep bail as set, the attorneys for the state then went on to address an alleged “history” of prior “bad acts”.
Prosecutor Fred Schaub addressed Drejka’s history by pointing out that Drejka’s it included:
- At least three instances of “road rage” documented by law enforcement in 2012 and 2013 (in two of those instances, Drejka showed a gun)
- A prior incident a few months earlier at the same store over the same handicap parking space where Drejka threatened to shoot another man involved in that altercation
The prosecutor argued that the alleged prior incidents “show that Drejka is a danger”.
In the end, the prosecutor’s arguments outweighed the arguments and objections of Drejka’s attorneys and the Judge ordered “that bail shall remain as set”.
Rarity: “Stand Your Ground” Shootings on Video
The Clearwater convenience store killing has reignited the debate over Florida’s first-in-the-nation “Stand Your Ground” law. This time the debate may take a different turn than previously because this time – unlike in the Treyvon Martin shooting or others – there is video of the entire shooting portion of the incident.
As University of South Carolina Law Professor Seth Stoughton said recently:
People can talk about stand your ground, they can come up
with examples, they can say, “Well, I heard about this one. I
read about this one in the news” … It’s different when you can
see it on video.
And that – a graphic video – seems to be a real difference in the recent Clearwater, Florida convenience store shooting. A “difference” because the accused’s attempt to assert “stand your ground” immediately after the shooting failed (ending with his arrest and booking). A “difference” because the Judge in the recent bail-reduction hearing refused to grant the petition. And, a “difference” because the debate is again being argued widely and forcefully across many jurisdictions that have legally embraced “stand your ground”
In the past decade, there have been other “stand your ground” incidents in Florida that have sparked both debate and outrage.
The first was the Treyvon Martin incident in Central Florida. Treyvon Martin was shot and killed by Neighborhood Watch member George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012. Zimmerman successfully asserted a “stand your ground” defense before a jury that acquitted him of murder.
On November 23, 2012, a young Black teen named Jordan Davis was shot and killed outside a Jacksonville, Florida gas station by Michael Dunn. Dunn got into an argument with Davis and a group of Davis’ friends about “loud music” that the teens were listening to in their car. Dunn fled the scene immediately after the shooting – and still attempted to claim “stand your ground” immunity for the shooting. At trial, Dunn was convicted on three counts of attempted 2nd degree murder (firing into the car containing three teens besides Jordan Davis). The same jury, however, could not reach a verdict on the 2nd degree charge in Davis’ death. In a second trial, Dunn was found guilty of first degree murder.
On January 13, 2014, a patron at a Pasco County movie theater got into an argument with another patron who was allegedly using a cell phone during a movie. An argument ensued, and Curtis Reeves pulled a gun and shot Chad Oulson in an alleged act of self-defense. Reeves invoked the “stand your ground” law but the defense was denied at a special hearing and again on appeal. Reeves remains free on bail. At present, trial is set for February 25, 2019. Reeves is charged with one count of 2nd degree murder.
The above-related history of “stand your ground” in Florida shows mixed results – just one “success” out of at least three tries. The McGlockton / Drejka case is yet another “test” of stand your ground in the Sunshine State. Most observers and analysts expect the law to eventually make its way to the Florida Supreme Court.
Stay tuned – both in terms of the Drejka case as well as regarding whether the Supreme Count will allow “stand your ground” to legally stand in Florida.
Image credit: Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office