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Trial in the Clearwater parking lot shooting, Day 1: It begins

We’ll provide live updates in the manslaughter case against Michael Drejka, accused in the July 2018 shooting death of Markeis McGlockton.
Defendant Michael Drejka, center, looks over a list of potential jurors Monday in Pinellas Circuit Court with his attorneys Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, right, and William Flores, left. Drejka is charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, 28, at a Circle A Food Mart in Clearwater in July 2018. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Aug. 19
Updated Aug. 19

Click here to read this story in Spanish.

DAN (5:49 p.m.)

After a short break, the jurors reenter and Judge Bulone tells 14 people they are excused from further jury service. The remaining 45 will return tomorrow at 9 a.m.

DAN (5:18 p.m.)

After the last juror leaves, Judge Bulone says it appears they have all overestimated the extent to which people read about and watch local news.

“The bottom line is we probably can get a jury out of these 90 people here,” he says.

They’re winding down for the day. Probably more individual questioning tomorrow. It’s possible we could have a jury picked by Wednesday.

KATHRYN (5:10 p.m.)

The last prospective juror enters the courtroom for questioning about pre-trial publicity.

In the hallway, the rest of the pool cheers.

DAN (4:50 p.m.)

An older man, dressed in a black suit and carrying a briefcase, says he is a prolific consumer of news.

“I’m a news junkie,” he says. “I’ve been watching this since it first hit the TV and I read the paper this morning.”

He’s asked what news he watches.

“ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN …”

He’s asked if he has seen the shooting video.

“No.”

He’s asked if he has heard any commentary about the case.

It has been a topic of conversation among friends, the man says.

Does he have an opinion about the case?

“I don’t know enough,” he says. “For me it’s one of those cases where there’s a lot of information and you don’t know what you’re reading or what you’re hearing except the facts that are being portrayed in the media.”

The conversations he’s had, he says, are mostly centered around the question of “what do you think?”

What does he think?

“I think it’s a very interesting, complicated case,” he says.

What makes it complicated? asks defense attorney Coy.

He mentions the stand your ground issues. He says he recently moved to Florida from Indiana. He said he had never heard of something like stand your ground before moving here.

“There’s disagreement on the law,” he says. “This case depending on how it’s resolved may set some kind of precedent. … In my experience in Indiana and Chicago, there was no legislation like this … so this is all new to me.”

Does he agree or disagree with the law?

He says he hasn’t read the law, but has family and friends who own guns. He says he is “not at all anti-gun.”

Nevertheless, “it seems to me that a lot of weapons is not necessarily a good thing.”

DAN (4:29 p.m.)

Several people in this jury pool are readers of foreign news. One guy says he gets his news from the BBC.

Some have scant knowledge of the case. Others know quite a bit, but still say they have no opinions.

“There’s two to three sides to every story,” says one woman. “The video they showed on TV is grainy. I have no idea what happened inside (the store).”

A woman in a yellow blouse tells the judge she knows someone who is apparently related to Britney Jacobs, McGlockton’s girlfriend. But it seems to be only a loose acquaintance.

She also says she has seen the shooting video, which was sent to her in a news alert.

The judge asks if she has an opinion about the case.

“I know what I saw, what it looked like,” she says,. “but I don’t know.”

Defense attorney Coy asks: “What did it look like?”

She says: “All I saw was it looked like the victim walked up to him …” and then there was a shooting.

Another woman, with purple hair, says her husband is a correctional officer at the Pinellas County Jail. She says he had interactions with Drejka and told her “he’s actually a nice guy.”

She says all else she really knows about the case is the video, which her husband showed her.

“I don’t have an opinion,” she says.

Prosecutor Schaub asks if her husband told her his opinion about the case.

“We talked about it a little bit,” she says, “but we never came up with an opinion about which side was right or wrong.”

Schaub asks if she could still find Drejka guilty if the evidence supports it, even though her husband said he’s a nice guy.

“Yes,” she says.

DAN (4:01 p.m.)

A man in a blue-and-white striped polo says he watches political news, mostly from a libertarian perspective. He says he tends to lean more to the right.

Defense attorney Coy asks if he paid attention to the last governor’s race. Before the primary, the Democratic candidates were vocal about wanting to see Drejka charged and the stand your ground law repealed.

The man says he doesn’t recall news from the governor’s race.

“I’m pro Second Amendment, pro-right to defend yourself,” the man says. “But I don’t know too many of the details.”

He says he would separate his political stance from the facts of the case.

KATHRYN (3:53 p.m.)

An older woman mentions she has a concealed-carry permit to protect herself. When asked if she’s been the victim of a crime, she said she felt like she could have been and described an aggressive driver she tangled with on Drew Street.

Interestingly, Drejka was the accused aggressor in three documented incidents of road rage. You can read more about those here.

But if the woman is picked as a juror, she won’t hear about them. Only one of Drejka’s prior incidents will be heard by the jury — a fourth confrontation in which he argued with a man over the same parking space at the same convenience store.

The woman mentioned that she had heard about the case and read the Tampa Bay Times daily, but she didn’t indicate whether she remembered reading about Drejka’s reported road rage.

DAN AND KATHRYN (3:38 p.m.)

A man in a dark blue T-shirt says he has followed the case closely. Yet, he has not seen the video. He says he knows that one of Drejka’s original lawyers got in trouble for soliciting him in jail and later gave up her law license. He says he thinks he knows too much to be impartial.

A prosecutor asks if he thinks he can put aside his knowledge of the case.

Candidly, he shakes his head no.

Two guys have said they don’t pay much attention to local news, but they keep track of foreign news. One guy says he reads the news of Germany and Sweden. Another says he pays attention to news in Japan.

"I still have a Facebook, but I don't check it," said the latter, capturing the sentiment of Americans everywhere.

Social media came into play for another woman. She saw the video there but didn’t read any of the comments. While watching, she said, she put herself in Drejka’s shoes. When asked about her opinion, she said:

“It just would be, in my own sense, scared myself, so I could see…” she trails off, and later clarifies that she could understand acting in self-defense in that situation. But it’s not a fixed opinion, she said.

Michael Drejka, standing trial on manslaughtercharges, listens to interviews with prospective jurors on Monday. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

KATHRYN (3:07 p.m.)

The first real push-and-pull between the state and defense.

A prospective juror who used to work in the public defender’s office and whose wife is a public defender came back before Judge Bulone to say that after giving it some thought during lunch, he did have a fixed opinion about the case. Drejka was briefly represented by a public defender.

“I think he did act in self defense,” the man said, wearing a blue button-up shirt and navy khakis.

Bulone asked if it would be fair to say he probably wouldn’t be a good juror for this case, and he concedes. But Drejka’s defense lawyers press more on his potential to be objective and he does a bit of about-face, saying that, yes, he would be open to the evidence and apply the law to the facts of the case.

Prosecutor Fred Schaub jumps in, pointing out that the man felt the need to come back in the courtroom to voice his opinion.

“When His Honor asked you, ‘Do you think this would be a particular case where you might not be a good juror, you indicated that’s probably true?’”

“It’s hard to say,” he said. And then, returning to his original answer: “Probably true, yes.”

DAN (2:43 p.m.)

Another guy in a blue polo says he’s seen the video of the shooting “dozens of times.” He’s asked if he has a fixed opinion about the case based on what he’s seen.

“I wouldn’t say I have a fixed opinion,” he says, “but I do have an opinion.”

“What is that opinion?” the judge asks.

“I believe the gentleman took it upon himself to get in an argument over a handicapped spot,” he said. "Then the other gentleman shoved him to the ground … And then he got shot. … Based on what I saw, I’m not so sure deadly force was necessary.”

The next guy, in a brown polo, remembers a video, but he can’t recall what was on the video. He says he hasn’t seen news coverage of the case.

Another man, dressed in a crisp white collared shirt and khakis, says he’s seen coverage on TV and online. He has seen the video and has a fixed opinion that it wasn’t a stand your ground case. That said, he tells the judge his opinion could change based on seeing the evidence.

Asked more about it, he says:

“I remember seeing it and it looked like when the shots were fired, the guy was backing up.”

KATHRYN AND DAN (2:34 p.m.)

Judge Bulone and the lawyers decide it’d be better if all the jurors left the courtroom and to individually call in the jurors exposed to pre-trial publicity. That means we get to listen in.

One guy in a blue polo shirt is brought in and questioned. He says he saw the video of the shooting on the news, but holds no fixed opinion about the case. He says he would listen to the testimony and evidence before judging.

Another juror says he saw the video in passing and brings up something about a lawyer losing her license. He was probably talking about Lysa Clifton, Drejka’s first lawyer who voluntarily gave up her law license last month after a Florida Bar investigation into how she approached Drejka to represent him.

“I don’t watch the news,” he said. “I’ve got other things to do with my life.”

A silver-haired prospective juror came in soon after and said she had heard about the shooting on the news.

“I was very upset when it first happened,” she tells Judge Bulone.

“Why were you upset?” he asks.

“It could have gone differently,” she says.

Judge Bulone prods her with a few more questions, and she ultimately says she felt like Drejka shouldn’t have shot McGlockton, and that she wouldn’t be able to put those feelings aside.

Attorneys from either side said they don’t have any more questions. Judge Bulone excused her back into the hallway.

Answering a question from Drejka attorney Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, a man in a plaid shirt said that he’s generally supportive of Florida’s stand your ground law, but “it really comes down to the evidence and what actually occurred.”

Drejka attorneys John Trevena and Bryant Camareno glance at each other and smile.

On the other end, a man who looked to be in his late teens or early 20s said he’d heard about the case from his dad, a journalist.

He said he’s not in favor of the Second Amendment. He’d do his best to be a fair and impartial juror anyway, he said, but “there’s always going to be some kind of unconscious bias.”

DAN AND KATHRYN (1:57 p.m.)

Jurors file back in. It’s worth noting the pool has only a handful of people of color. Racial tensions have swirled around the case from the start. Drejka is white. McGlockton was black and unarmed.

Judge Bulone reads a basic factual statement of the case. He tells the jurors they may have seen the video of the confrontation between McGlockton and Drejka. He says if they have seen it, that’s okay. They just can’t look at it again. He also emphasizes that the video is not the only piece of evidence.

“What we want to make sure of,” the judge says, “is that you haven’t made up your mind after seeing the video and that you’re going to listen to the other testimony and evidence.”

Bulone asks how many people already know something about the case. Surprisingly, only about a dozen, or one-fifth of the remaining jurors, raise their hands. The judge asks those people to approach the bench to chat privately.

KATHRYN (1:28 p.m.)

We heard y’all have some questions. We have some answers.

Q: Why six jurors instead of 12?

A: Six jurors is the default in Florida. Juries are only 12 members when it’s a capital case, as in one with a penalty of death or life in prison.

Q: Did Britany Jacobs, Markeis McGlockton’s girlfriend, get a ticket for parking in the handicap-reserved space?

A: No.

Have more questions? Leave them in the comments, and Dan and I will get to them when we can. Thanks for following.

KATHRYN (12:39 p.m.)

Twenty more jurors were struck. That brings us to a total of 31 gone. (We miscounted in the first round — sorry.)

And now the rest of us are breaking for lunch.

KATHRYN (12:34 p.m.)

We’re back in session. Ten jurors were excused over the break.

The judge is now going over hardships that might prevent a juror from sticking around, including physical disabilities and pressing professional or personal circumstances.

One juror said she just started taking seizure medication. A few others have family matters, transportation difficulties and work conflicts.

Your guide to watching the trial of Michael Drejka

Who’s who, timeline and links to complete coverage

Some specifics: A woman with a vitamin deficiency worried she can’t focus, a woman who was planning to visit a relative who has terminal lung cancer, an elementary school teacher (today is the fourth day of school), a woman who has a vacation starting Thursday who, when Judge Bulone asks if she would be able to focus on the case, answers, “Oh no. I’d be pissed.” Bulone asks her to use the word “disappointed” instead.

To a University of South Florida student studying criminology, Bulone asks, “What better learning opportunity than this?”

Another prospective juror says he’s moving to Tennessee at the end of next week to work on a hemp farm. But he said he could stick around until the end of the trial and would do his best to concentrate while he was here.

That brought a little more clarity on the trial length.

“It’s not going to go beyond next week,” Judge Bulone says. “I’ll tell you that right now.”


Noon update: Potential jurors undergo questioning

Six people will decide whether Michael Drejka is guilty of manslaughter in the death of Markeis McGlockton.

On Monday morning, lawyers began the tedious task of determining whom those six should be.

They started with a pool of close to 100 Pinellas County residents, who crammed into the wooden benches inside the largest courtroom in the county’s criminal justice building.

They were introduced to the prosecutors and the four defense attorneys. They also met the defendant, who wore a gray jacket and tie and smiled politely as he stood before them.

Drejka, 49, will argue that he killed McGlockton, 28, in self-defense.

It happened the afternoon of July 19, 2018, outside the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road, near Clearwater. Drejka got into an argument with McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, over her parking in a handicap-reserved space.

In court Monday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone explained that the case has received “some media attention,” and that the jurors cannot watch or read any news about the case while they’re fulfilling their service.

He asked if anyone had opinions, positive or negative regarding law enforcement, whether they would automatically believe or disbelieve a witness simply because he or she was a law enforcement officer.

A few hands went up.

“What strong feelings do you have?” the judge asked one man.

“Negative,” the man replied.

He says his opinion is based on personal experience and “things that have appeared in media.”

Another man said he has positive feelings about law enforcement, having worked for 38 years as a corrections officer, but that if a police officer takes the witness stand, he won’t automatically believe or disbelieve the testimony

The jurors were asked whether they had difficulty understanding English, whether they would be uncomfortable sitting for long periods of time.

One man told the judge that serving as a juror would “go against my personal conscience.”

Before noon, lawyers for both sides agreed to excuse the handful of jurors who voiced concerns or biases.

If convicted, Drejka could get 30 years in prison.

- Kathryn Varn

KATHRYN (11:38 a.m.)

Judge Bulone is giving jurors a 15-minute break, after one juror said they needed to use the restroom. The last half-hour consisted of questions about language barriers, hardships and feelings toward law enforcement.

He reminds them not to talk about or seek out information on the case. They shuffle out of the room. The judge and lawyers for each side begin striking jurors while they’re gone.

Strikes went mainly to prospective jurors who didn’t speak English well and those who had strong feelings about law enforcement they couldn’t overcome.

DAN AND KATHRYN (11:05 a.m.)

The prosecutors and defense attorneys introduce themselves.

The defense introduces their client, Michael Drejka. He stands and smiles.

The judge asks if any of the jurors know any of the attorneys or the defendant. No one does.

The prosecutor, Fred Schaub, then reads the list of witnesses in the case. It is long. The jurors are asked if they know anyone on the list.

Schaub is starting with law enforcement witnesses. Notably, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is not on that list. The sheriff made headlines after the shooting when he announced that he wouldn’t arrest Drejka because he acted within Florida’s stand your ground law. Prosecutors charged him with manslaughter a few weeks later.

The defense tried to list the sheriff as an expert witness, but the judge struck it down.

Judge Bulone asks if any of the jurors would automatically believe or disbelieve what a police officer says just because he or she is a police officer. One woman raises a hand and says she would not believe a police officer.

A man also raises his hand when the judge asks if the jurors have strong feelings about law enforcement.

“What strong feelings do you have?” the judge asks.

“Negative,” the man says.

He says his opinion is based on personal experience and things that have appeared in media.

In the back row, a man says he has positive feelings about law enforcement, having worked for 38 years as a corrections officer. But he says if a police officer takes the witness stand, he won’t automatically believe or disbelieve the testimony.

A few more jurors express strong feelings, both positive and negative, toward law enforcement. The judge talks with each witness about whether they can remove those feelings in assessing testimony from cops.

Three say they wouldn’t be able to, two who feel negatively and one who feels positively.

DAN (10:41 a.m.)

The judge tells the jurors they can’t watch or read any news about the case while they’re fulfilling their jury duty.

He asks which of the prospective jurors subscribes to the Tampa Bay Times. Six hands go up.

Tells them not to read it during the trial. Other things he tells the jurors not to do: tweeting, emailing, discussing the case with other people.

KATHRYN (10:34 a.m.)

After some lessons in civic responsibility, Bulone reads the charging document to jurors. Read it, and Drejka’s arrest warrant, here.

DAN (10:30 a.m.)

The initial pool of 90 prospective jurors has crammed the benches in Courtroom 1. Judge Bulone has sworn them in.

The judge explains their duty. It is “an extraordinarily high duty,” he says. The judge explains that this is a manslaughter trial and that it has gotten “some media attention.”

“It’s very important that if you have any knowledge about the case … that you not blurt anything out in front of the other jurors,” he says.

The lawyers will choose six jurors, plus up to four alternates for the panel.

DAN AND KATHRYN (10:10 a.m.)

We’re back in session. Family members of Drejka and McGlockton will not be here today, say lawyers for each side. McGlockton’s family will attend later in the week when the trial starts.

Members of the jury pool begin to file in, some carrying bags, umbrellas, water bottles. A bailiff guides them to reserved rows in the gallery.

Lawyers switch their seats to face the gallery, where the prospective jurors are sitting.

Defendant Michael Drejka, right, steps out during a recess in the morning's proceedings. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

KATHRYN (9:44 a.m.)

Bulone calls for a 15-minute break. Jury selection will begin after.

DAN (9:40 a.m.)

The judge asks Drejka if he agrees to his lawyers arguing that this was a case of self-defense. He speaks with one of his lawyers briefly, then says, “Yes.”

In a discussion about whether the jury will have the option of convicting Drejka of something less than manslaughter, the prosecutor says it will be ask for third-degree felony murder to be included as a lesser-included offense. The judge seems unsure that such a lesser-included offense might apply.

Pinellas Pasco Circuit Court Judge Joseph Bulone answers lawyers' questions during the first day of the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

KATHRYN (9:30 a.m.)

Bulone is going over several housekeeping points. One is that the defense listed an expert witness this morning. Schaub says he and Rosenwasser will need a chance to depose the expert, a toxicologist, and will likely need a hearing to discuss the limitations of the expert.

The defense didn’t list the expert earlier, Coy says, because it took three tries to get the cost of the expert approved in court, as is standard in cases with low-income defendants. She texted Rosenwasser on Sunday night to let him know.

“My response when Mr. Rosenwasser called me at midnight last night is, ‘Not surprised. This is par for the course,’” said Schaub, already throwing barbs.

Bulone gave the state the go-ahead to depose the witness and make time for a hearing.

KATHRYN (9:23 a.m.)

After a five-minute recess, Bulone takes the bench and turns his attention to the Drejka case. He is sitting at the defense table with his four lawyers: Coy, Flores, John Trevena and Bryant Camareno. Prosecutors Fred Schaub and Scott Rosenwasser are across the aisle.

A few people have taken seats in the gallery, but no sign of family members of Drejka or shooting victim, Markeis McGlockton.

Jury selection is in Courtroom 1. Schaub expresses concern that the courtroom in which the trial will take place, No. 7, is no longer big enough after the trial coverage media outlet Court TV set up equipment. Trevena seconds and asks if the trial can stay in No. 1 the whole time.

Bulone says they will stick to the plan for now and Courtroom 1 will be available for overflow seating with a video.

KATHRYN (8:30 a.m.)

Michael Drejka arrived in Courtroom 1, wearing a gray suit. He greeted two of his attorneys, William Flores and Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone convened court just after 8:30 a.m. He has a few other docket items to take care of before hearing Drejka’s case.

Background

The manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka is set to begin Monday morning with jury selection.

Drejka, 49, is accused in the fatal shooting July 19, 2018, of 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton.

McGlockton stopped by the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road near Clearwater at about 3:30 p.m. His girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, parked in a handicap-reserved spot outside the convenience store and waited in the car with two of the couple’s children — 4 months and 3 at the time. McGlockton, 28, went into the store with their third child, Markeis Jr., who was 5.

Drejka pulled into the parking lot and approached Jacobs. He asked Jacobs why she had parked in the spot if she didn’t have a handicap-designated plate or placard. The two started arguing. It escalated to the point that others in the parking lot started paying attention.

One of the witnesses entered the store and reported what was going on. McGlockton stepped back outside, walked up to Drejka and shoved him to the ground. Drejka pulled out a .40-caliber Glock handgun and shot McGlockton once in the chest. McGlockton was taken to Morton Plant Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after. The entire incident was caught on the store’s surveillance video.

Each day, our trial coverage team will live blog events straight from the courtroom.

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