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KATHRYN (4:14 p.m.)
Court’s adjourned. It’ll start again at 8:45 a.m. tomorrow with opening statements. Check back with us for more updates.
KATHRYN (4:11 p.m.)
The jurors and alternates were sworn in.
The jury is indeed five men and one woman. The alternates are two women and one man.
None on the panel are black. They appear to range in age from their 20s to their 50s or 60s.
The judge excuses them for the day. They will return at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday for the trial to begin with opening arguments.
“Avoid hearing or saying anything about this like the plague,” Judge Bulone tells them before they go.
KATHRYN (3:42 p.m.)
We have a jury. Based on names, it appears to be five men and one woman.
The other two black jurors did not make the cut.
They also picked three alternates. By name, it appears to be one man and two women.
KATHRYN (3:38 p.m.)
Lawyers are now using what’s called peremptory challenges to strike jurors. That means they don’t need a reason to strike them — unless the strike is based solely on race or gender.
The defense tried to strike an African American female juror, one of three black jurors remaining in the jury pool. Prosecutor Fred Schaub objected, asking for a reason other than race.
Defense attorney John Trevena says it had to do with her job in the medical field working in a trauma unit. He also says the defense team’s jury consultant found a few prior arrests for the woman.
The prospective juror indicated on her written juror form she had never been accused of a crime.
Judge Bulone called her back to discuss those arrests, which she explained further. She seemed to have some confusion over whether she was arrested or charged for the crimes. She left the room again.
Bulone asked whether the defense ran sheets on every prospective juror.
“The issue isn’t that she has a prior record,” defense attorney Coy said. “The issue is she failed to tell about it on the juror form.”
The judge asks again whether they ran rap sheets on every prospective juror.
“If you were genuine about this you would have done it with everyone, not just the African-American,” he said.
It got tense after some pushback from attorney John Trevena resenting the implication.
“I have to do a genuine analysis,” Bulone said. “That’s part of my job.”
They did run rap sheets, Trevena and attorney Bryant Camareno said, and they began reading out priors of other prospective jurors to prove it.
Bulone, appeased, asked about their job concerns
“Someone who works in trauma on a daily basis may have certain feelings about… someone who is shot,” Trevena said.
Bulone ended up allowing the strike, reluctantly.
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“Let’s just say I’m not 100 percent convinced, but I guess based upon the preponderance of evidence here I’ll grant it,” he said.
Only two black jurors remain in the pool.
KATHRYN (2:40 p.m.)
Coy is finished questioning. The jurors are now filing out of the room so the lawyers can pick a jury.
DAN AND KATHRYN (2:38 p.m.)
Coy asks if everyone understands that Drejka has a constitutional right to choose not to testify. Everyone does.
She asks if everyone understands that the state has the burden of proof. All understand.
She asks if anybody thinks they might be swayed if they came to the courthouse tomorrow and saw protesters? No one says they would.
Coy asks a specific juror if he thinks he could be fair and impartial. Before lunch, the juror said he had strong feelings about traffic signs. He pauses before answering.
“It’s too personal for me right now,” he says. “Eighty to 90 percent of the stress throughout my day is having to call out people for parking where they shouldn’t be parking.”
He ultimately says he doesn’t think he’d be a good juror for this case.
Coy directs the question to another prospective juror, one who said he was pro-gun before lunch.
“I believe in self-defense, but I don’t believe in gun violence,” he says.
He may be too biased to be a fair and impartial juror, he says.
KATHRYN (2:26 p.m.)
Coy zeroes in on a potential juror who said he got in a fight with a guy at a party. The man used the phrase “instinctively reacted” after the guy threw a punch.
The juror elaborates that the guy was drunkenly arguing with his girlfriend and saw the juror watching. The guy walked up the stairs to him, and the juror held up his hands: “I don’t want any trouble.” The guy punched him, and the juror punched back, knocking him down the stairs.
He tells Coy that he blacked out and doesn’t remember hitting the guy.
Coy focused in on what the juror was thinking in much the same way the jury will have to do for Drejka.
DAN AND KATHRYN (2:16 p.m.)
Coy asks about other self-defense items jurors possess besides firearms.
A woman who is married to a corrections officer says her husband collects knives, along with owning guns. Coy follows up with a question about why she doesn’t own guns herself.
“I was just kind of raised never to need them,” she says.
An older woman says she has a black belt in karate.
“So you are the self defense,” Coy says.
A man says he practices mixed martial arts. He also owns a pocket knife.
“I have a Taser,” says one woman. “I called the St. Pete Police Department before I bought it and I learned you can’t get the one that reaches out and grabs people. … I work 2 to 5 a.m. That’s when the freaks come out.”
Another woman: “In the house, I have knives. We have golf clubs ... You hear about intruders.”
DAN (2:08 p.m.)
Back from lunch. The judge and the lawyers discussed challenges to two potential jurors. One is a man who said he has a concealed weapons permit and leans toward the defense without having any of the case facts. The other says he gets frustrated when people don’t obey traffic laws, including those having to do with handicapped parking.
After discussion, the jury pool is brought back in. Defense attorney Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy begins questions for the defense. She starts by asking more about weapons jurors own.
KATHRYN (12:53 p.m.)
The jurors are breaking for lunch until 1:55 p.m. We’ll be back then.
KATHRYN (12:47 p.m.)
Regarding an earlier post, a story commenter pointed out that stand your ground language is in the justifiable use of force law. He’s right. The phrase "stand his or her ground” is in statute 776.012, as well the original stand your ground bill language.
Thanks, commenter. Keep the information and questions coming.
KATHRYN (12:26 p.m.)
We’re getting to know the prospective jurors a little better after Rosenwasser asked them to stand up and say a little about themselves. Very first-day-of-school vibes.
We’ve got quite the mix: single people, married people, engaged people, divorced people. People with children, and grandchildren.
People who work in healthcare, finance, education, insurance. Native Floridians, and not.
A woman with a pug and a golden retriever who loves Disney World. A man who really really loves America. A woman whose been with her partner for 31 years but only able to marry them four years ago.
Rosenwasser ends each peppering of questions by asking jurors if there’s anything that would keep them from being fair and impartial jurors in this case. All of them have said no so far. Makes me think about something a jury consultant told me about implicit, or unconscious, bias. From this story:
While some potential jurors think they can set aside their emotions, a growing body of implicit bias research says that’s easier said than done, Satin said.
“You can really believe you can remove your entire life experiences and your attitudes from your analysis,” she said, “but frankly you won’t have much to say if you do that.”
Noon update: Race, guns and self defense
Those three topics dominated the conversation Tuesday during jury selection in the trial of Michael Drejka.
Drejka is charged with manslaughter in the July 2018 shooting of Markeis McGlockton, who was shot outside a Clearwater convenience store. Drejka has claimed self-defense.
The same themes are sure to loom over the trial, which is expected to last about two weeks.
With the initial pool of 90 jurors narrowed to 42, Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser tried to gauge whether those who remained had strong feelings about any of those subjects.
On race, they were asked if they could still be a fair and impartial juror knowing that the defendant is white and the shooting victim was black.
“I would acknowledge that I am aware that there is a race issue,” said one woman, among three black people remaining in the pool. When pressed, she reiterated that she’d be able to impartially evaluate the facts.
“I believe God created us all equal,” said a white woman. “So, I don’t see color as being an issue.”
It’s not surprising race came up in the questioning. It’s been an undercurrent in community discussions and protests from the start, though there is no evidence that the shooting was racially motivated.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone struck from evidence an allegation that Drejka used a racial slur during a prior incident in which a black man confronted him.
About 20 people raised their hands when asked if they own guns. Some said they own many guns. A few said they were members of the National Rifle Association.
“I do a lot of hunting,” said one man, who reported that he owns 20 firearms.
Another man says he has “somewhere around 30” weapons.
“Are you a member of the NRA?” Rosewasser asked.
Asked whether anyone would lean toward or against the state because of firearm ownership, the same man shook his head.
Two female prospective jurors also say they own guns, including one who recently got her concealed carry permit.
Two other women said their boyfriends have guns. Both said they do not use them.
Another said she has a rifle and handgun for “mostly sentimental” reasons. They belonged to her father. Another says she and her husband have four guns — “one handgun, one shotgun and two others” — mainly for home security purposes.
Several people spoke of experiences in which they had to defend themselves. Their stories ranged from a woman who said she had a stalker to men who had fought off drunk people.
“My dad raised me to … not take any s---,” said one man who said he’d fought with his hands several times.
None said they used weapons in self-defense.
Questioning is expected to last through the rest of Tuesday. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will select a final panel of six, plus as many as four alternate jurors. The group will be asked to determine whether Drejka is guilty of manslaughter or if the shooting was a justifiable use of force.
— Dan Sullivan
KATHRYN (11:57 p.m.)
Now we’re onto questions about handicap placards. That’s important because Markeis McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, parked in a handicap-reserved spot, which is why is why Drejka approached the family.
Many people have relatives that have placards. A couple had their own. But asked whether that would impact their ability to impartially weigh the facts, almost all of them said no.
One elderly woman said that honoring handicap spots is really important to her.
“I could see the relevancy of it being a trigger factor for someone in an altercation,” she said, but added that she would consider it within the framework of the rest of the facts of the case.
A young man who didn’t have a personal connection to handicap placards said he had strong feelings about obeying all traffic signs, to the point where he didn’t think he could be fair and impartial.
“As much as I want to, I don’t think I could separate it,” he said.
KATHRYN (11:41 a.m.)
The next questions are about self-defense.
About 10 people spoke of experiences ranging from a woman who said she had a stalker to men who had fought off drunk people looking for a fight to two women who fought with other women over men.
“My dad raised me to … not take any s--t,” said one man who said he’d fought with his hands several times.
None said they used weapons to defend themselves.
The above quote reminded me of something Michael McGlockton said in a BET documentary discussing his son’s case.
“Markeis comes out the store and did exactly what I taught him to do: Stand up for your family. Protect your family at all costs,” Michael McGlockton said.
KATHRYN AND DAN (10:52 a.m.)
And we’re onto questions on gun ownership. About 20 people raise their hands when prosecutor Rosenwasser asks if any prospective jurors own guns.
“I do a lot of hunting,” says a man who owns 20 guns. He explains that he has 175 acres “up north.”
Another man says he has “somewhere around 30.”
“Are you a member of the NRA?”
Asked whether anyone would lean for or against the state because of firearm ownership, the same man shakes his head.
Two female prospective jurors also say they own guns, including one who recently got her concealed carry license.
Another guy says he owns eight guns.
“Pistols and shotguns,” he says. He says he is a former member of the NRA.
Another man says he owns three pistols and one shotgun. He says he has formal training with guns. He’s not an NRA member.
Two women say their boyfriends have guns. Both say they do not use them. Next to them, the woman who said “God created us equal” says she just got her concealed carry permit.
One woman says she has a rifle and handgun for “mostly sentimental” reasons. They belonged to her father.
Another says she and her husband have four guns — “one handgun, one shotgun and two others” — mainly for home security purposes. She shakes her head when Rosenwasser asks if they’re NRA members.
DAN AND KATHRYN (10:30 a.m.)
The next question is about race. Can you still be a fair and impartial juror being that the defendant is white and the shooting victim was black? No hands go up, so Rosenwasser started addressing prospective jurors directly.
“I have my own personal struggles being an Asian living in this country,” said a man in the third row.
“The facts are the facts,” says a white man soon after. He says the racial components of the case would not weigh on his assessment of the case.
Another white man a few rows behind him compares it to yesterday’s questions on law enforcement.
“I don’t think race is any different than uniform,” he said. “Facts are facts.”
One of the few remaining black jurors speaks up next.
“I would acknowledge that I am aware that there is a race issue,” she said, but when pressed further by Rosenwasser, reiterates that she’d be able to impartially evaluate the facts.
Next, a white woman: “I believe God created us all equal. So I don’t see color as being an issue.”
It’s not surprising race came up in the questioning. It’s been an undercurrent in community discussions and protests from the start.
There is no direct evidence to show that Drejka was racially motivated when he shot McGlockton. And Judge Bulone struck from evidence a detail of a prior incident that jurors will hear about in which a black man Drejka confronted said Drejka used a racial slur when addressing him.
But, as an expert told the Times in another story, it’s hard to separate race from a criminal justice system that’s biased against people of color.
Looks like gun questions will be coming up shortly.
KATHRYN (10:13 a.m.)
The first question from prosecutor Rosenwasser: Do you watch law and crime shows? Law & Order, CSI, some throwbacks like Ally McBeal and LA Law.
Rosenwasser is ensuring the prospective jurors don’t think this is how the criminal justice system actually works.
DAN (9:57 p.m.)
Court is back in session. The jurors have entered. As the judge asks a standard question about whether jurors have been exposed to media coverage of the case, one man raises his hand. The judge asks him to approach the bench.
After a short conversation, the man returns to his seat.
Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser begins the next round of jury selection. He talks about how this is the only time the state and defense get to chat with the jurors. He also talks about how there may be moments of humor in the process, but that everyone still takes this case very seriously.
Today, he says, he will ask about their views on firearms, the Second Amendment, whether the jurors have concealed weapons permits.
Some people may not like firearms, but they can put those feelings aside to be a fair and impartial juror.
He also asks prospective jurors for definitive answers. We heard a lot of answers yesterday such as, “I’ll do my best,” and, “I think I can.”
“We want people that can decide this case,” he said. “Not might be able to, but can.”
KATHRYN (9:28 a.m.)
Good morning. We are back in court for Day 2 of jury selection. Forty-three jurors are remaining from yesterday’s pool.
We are starting off with a prospective juror who told bailiffs yesterday that he knew more about the case than he initially indicated.
The juror, an older white man who said he works as a civil lawyer, said that he is personally opposed to Florida’s stand your ground law. It made for an interesting discussion.
“It doesn’t mean that I think someone’s guilty or innocent,” the man said, but, he went on, “I think it’s an unnecessary hurdle” for law enforcement.
He elaborated that if a citizen kills another citizen, it should go to the criminal justice system without the added step of assessing someone’s stand your ground claim.
Ultimately, though, he said he could follow the law and that he didn’t have a fixed opinion on the case.
After he walked out of Courtroom 1, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone piped up.
“People have really strong feelings about the quote stand your ground law, and they don’t even know what it is,” he said.
It’s a refrain we’ve heard from Bulone before. He’s mentioned at past hearings THAT the words “stand your ground” don’t appear in the justifiable use of force statute.
That’s true, but I have a hunch about where that language came from. The original 2005 Senate Bill uses the language “stand his or her ground.”
There’s certainly a lot of confusion around the law, though. We wrote about it last year.
And remember: Despite the shooting’s initial entanglement with the law, Drejka was charged, and he skipped the stand your ground immunity hearing in which he can ask a judge to drop his charge, so this is really more of a broader self-defense case.
The manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka was set to resume Tuesday 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.