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Michael Drejka’s lawyers ask for a new trial

The defense team has filed a motion asking a judge to vacate the manslaughter conviction in the shooting over a parking space.
Defendant Michael Drejka, front, enters the courtroom with his attorney William Flores, center, Aug. 23 in Pinellas County.
Defendant Michael Drejka, front, enters the courtroom with his attorney William Flores, center, Aug. 23 in Pinellas County. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Sep. 6, 2019

Lawyers for Michael Drejka, convicted of manslaughter last month for shooting Markeis McGlockton in a 2018 parking lot dispute, have asked for a new trial.

The motion relitigates many key points in the case, including the circumstances surrounding McGlockton’s shove of Drejka, which preceded Drejka training his gun on McGlockton.

RELATED STORY: Michael Drejka convicted

RELATED STORY: The Clearwater parking lot shooting: Everything you need to know about the case

Among the concerns raised, defense lawyers said the jury was prejudiced when it heard testimony about a prior instance in which Drejka confronted a man, Richard Kelly, for parking a work truck in the very same handicapped spot. Kelly’s boss, John Tyler, testified that he had a phone conversation with Drejka after that confrontation, and Drejka said if he had his gun, he could have justifiably shot Kelly.

Drejka’s lawyers also took issue with the fact that the surveillance video of the July 19, 2018 shooting outside the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road near Clearwater was played for the jury in slow motion.

“The slow-motion video served no basis whatsoever and did not serve to establish anything and was only used to inflame the jury,” Drejka’s lawyers wrote.

The motion additionally attacks prosecutor Fred Schaub’s closing arguments. The lawyers wrote that Schaub “mimicked the defense witnesses” and “personally attacked defense counsel.”

Collectively, Drejka’s team wrote, the mishaps contributed to the jury finding Drejka guilty on Aug. 23, and that he deserves another chance.

He has not been sentenced but faces up to 30 years in prison. The 49-year-old remains in the Pinellas County Jail.

The sequence of events that led to the shooting began when Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend about parking in a handicap-reserved space without a placard or designated plate. McGlockton, 28, walked out of the convenience store and pushed Drejka, who fell to the ground. Drejka then drew his .40-caliber Glock and shot McGlockton.

News of the case rocketed across Tampa Bay and the country, sparking renewed debate about Florida’s stand your ground law, race and justice. Drejka is white; McGlockton was black.

RELATED STORY: Think you know stand your ground? The recent Clearwater case tells us you’re probably wrong.

Most of the facts, including that Drejka shot McGlockton, were not in dispute. But interpretations of the surveillance video that captured the incident varied.

Prosecutors argued it showed McGlockton stepping away after Drejka pulled the gun, meaning there was no reason Drejka should have feared further harm and the shooting was unjustified. Drejka’s lawyers argued it showed he acted in self-defense.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe could not be reached for comment late Friday.