CLEARWATER, Fla. — The trial for Michael Drejka, the man who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton outside a Clearwater convenience store in July of 2018, begins Monday with the start of jury selection.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MICHAEL DREJKA CASE
The shooting stemmed from a dispute over a handicap parking space between Drejka and McGlockton's girlfriend.
"Our defense team and Mr. Drejka look forward to his day in court and the truth being told about what really happened on July 19, 2018," Drejka's attorney, John Trevena, said on Sunday
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said he would be protected under Florida's "stand your ground" law, but he was later charged with manslaughter.
Since then, Drejka's lawyer has said he would not pursue the stand your ground hearingto gain immunity in his manslaughter case, but would instead go to trial and let the jury make that decision.
“I think that he has a better chance with the jury because it’s an emotional charged situation," said Jeff Swartz, a former attorney and judge now with WMU-Cooley Law School.
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Swartz says if there was a stand your ground hearing, a judge would have made the ruling after going through the surveillance video frame by frame.
“Whereas with a jury, he can argue while it was happening in real time. I’m the guy on the ground. I’m the guy being threatened. And as a result of which you can’t slow it down and know the emotions I felt at the time.”
Since the incident, numerous pretrial hearings have been held, including one where a judge ruled which parts of the surveillance video from the scene would be admissible in court.
The key piece of that video will be the moment where prosecutors say McGlockton is retreating, while the defense will argue that in real time Drejka was fearing for his life and acted in self-defense.
"What it's going to come down to is the prosecution's going to argue it frame by frame and the defense is going to argue it at standard speed," said Swartz.
Prosecutors also intend to use Michael Drejka's past against him. In another hearing, a judge decided that one past incident, which occurred just five months before the shooting, will be allowed. In that incident, Drejka confronted a driver name Richard Kelly after Kelly parked in a handicap parking space without a placard. Kelly says Drejka, who is Caucasian, used a racial slur against him, then threatened to shoot him.
Pre-trial publicity will be a delicate factor in this case, as for more than a year now the shooting has been highly publicized.
"I'm expecting that the jury selection may be difficult because of all of the publicity on this case," Swartz said.
An attorney representing McGlockton's parents, Michele Rayner-Goolsby, said they did not plan to be in court for the selection, but will attend when arguments began.
"The force that Mr. Drejka met Markeis McGlockton with was not an equal or same force and it was more force than a push," Rayner-Goolsby said.
She said ahead of the trial, they're focused on a conviction.
"I think that one of the impacts is is that we really have to begin to look at the self defense statute and the stand your ground statute the immunity statute, but I think moreover, especially for people of color and black folks, I think people want to know that our lives do matter," Rayner-Goolsby said.
The trial is expected to take place at the Pinellas County Justice Center.