The verdict is in. The jury only needed 6 hours to deliberate after a week-long trial. Michael Drejka has been found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton.
Yesterday, we updated you on the court proceedings. The prosecution rested and Drejka’s defense team had begun calling their witnesses and making their arguments. Early on, they were basing his defense on was Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law. His attorneys abandoned that argument for a while, but eventually came back to it during their closing.
“He did what he thought he had to do, in the moment, in the split-second time, given that he was attacked,” Drejka’s attorney, John Trevena, said during his closing argument. “You may not agree with the law. But you took an oath as a juror to uphold the law.”
According to Fox News,Florida’s self-defense legislation, which became law in 2005, established the right for gun owners to apply lethal force to defend themselves against threats regardless of whether it was possible to retreat first. In 2017, state legislators revised the law to put the burden of proof on prosecutors to disprove a Stand Your Ground claim instead of on defense attorneys to prove one.
The lengthy statute generally says a shooting is justified if a reasonable person under those circumstances would believe they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. But it also says the shooter could not have instigated the altercation.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially did not arrest Drejka, saying the controversial law precluded him from doing so.
“He told deputies that he had to shoot to defend himself. Those are the facts and that’s the law,” Gualtieri told Fox News at the time. “No matter how you slice it or dice it that was a violent push to the ground.”
The state attorney hinged most of their case against Drejka on the surveillance video that contradicted his claims of feeling threatened and toxicology reports that showed McGlockton had euphoria-inducing drugs in his system.
Surveillance video from the store shows the man, Markeis McGlockton, taking several steps back in the moments before the fatal shot. This is a point that police have challenged Drejka on.
“What happens if I told you that I looked at the video and at no time and point does he come running up toward you. He actually takes a step back,” the officer, Det. Richard Redman, says in an interview with Drejka on the day of the shooting last year.
“I would disagree,” Drejka responded.
Video of that police interview, including Drejka’s reenactment of the shooting, was played in court yesterday. Drejka’s attorney said the killing was in self-defense after he was threatened and then shoved to the ground.
According to a report from CNN, the fatal incident began when Drejka confronted and began yelling at McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, who was parked with two of her children in a handicap-accessible spot outside a Circle A food store. As their argument escalated, McGlockton came from inside the store and forcibly shoved Drejka, who fell to the ground. McGlockton was stationary, standing several feet away from Drejka when he fired the fatal shot.
Drejka discussed the ‘stand your ground’ law as part of his original interview with police.
“(Unclear) the ‘stand your ground’ thing, and I did exactly what I thought I was supposed to be doing at that time considering what was happening to myself,” he said.
During that interview, Drejka got down on the ground to reenact the moments of the fatal shooting. He said that he was shoved from the side and thought McGlockton was going to start kicking him and beating him.
“If he was going to hit me that hard to begin with, a blind side from the get-go, what else should I expect?” Drejka said.
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The prosecution heard testimony from a police use-of-force expert and a pathologist who examined McGlockton.
In his police interview, Drejka mentioned the 21-foot rule, which is a general consideration that a suspect within 21 feet can attack an officer faster than they can pull a weapon and fire.
Roy Dedary, a police trainer, testified for the prosecution that the rule does not mean that you can simply shoot someone if they are within 21 feet.
A forensic pathologist also testified that McGlockton had MDMA, or ecstasy, in his system when he died.
Bruce Goldberger, a toxicology expert testifying for the prosecution, said that MDMA is a social drug and causes empathy and euphoria in users. He stated that drug does not cause aggressiveness or impulsiveness.
To the contrary, defense witness Daniel Buffington, also a clinical toxicologist expert, said the amount of MDMA found in McGlockton’s body was “significantly higher” than what would be found in a clinical setting.
Buffington, an associate professor at the University of South Florida’s pharmacy department, said the drug can cause confusion and aggression and could have had adverse effects on how McGlockton acted.
Scott Rosenwasser, an assistant state attorney, sought to challenge Buffington’s opinion about the effects of MDMA during cross examination.
In the questioning, Rosenwasser asked if Buffington would agree that euphoria is one of the most common effects of using MDMA.
Buffington: “Yes, followed by depression and other neurobiological side effects.”
Rosenwasser then pointed to an article Buffington used as basis for his opinion, which said the most frequent effects of MDMA included euphoria, happiness and increased empathy.
Buffington: “I’m not saying those don’t happen. I’m saying that there’s no predictability that that’s going to be the outcome you achieve.”
Rosenwasser: “But the most frequent effects, what mostly happens are these things.”
Buffington: “I agree. And I don’t think we saw any of those displayed at the event in this case.”
He said in reviewing the evidence, he didn’t’ see happiness and contentment in McGlockton during the confrontation.
Rosenwasser: “Were you expecting to see happiness, warmth and contentment when Mr. McGlockton went outside the store after hearing that the defendant, over here, was confronting his girlfriend in the parking lot?”
Buffington: “I don’t even understand the nature of that question.”
Next up for Drejka is the sentencing phase and a likely appeal.
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