Trial in the Clearwater parking lot shooting: Day 5, Michael Drejka guilty

We’re doing live updates in the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka, accused in the July 2018 shooting death of Markeis McGlockton.
Defense attorney John Trevena addresses members of the jury during closing arguments Friday in the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka.
Defense attorney John Trevena addresses members of the jury during closing arguments Friday in the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Aug. 23, 2019|Updated Aug. 24, 2019

THE VERDICT: Michael Drejka convicted of manslaughter in Markeis McGlockton’s death

THE DELIBERATIONS: Jury asks question in Michael Drejka case as deliberations continue

CATCH UP HERE: Who’s who, timeline and links to complete coverage

DAN (10:46 p.m.)

Judge Bulone has set a sentencing date for Oct. 10.

“Obviously the defendant was out on bond. He had a presumption of innocence at that time. He doesn’t have that now.”

Drejka is taken into custody.

DAN (10:41 p.m.)

The verdict: GUILTY of manslaughter.

DAN (10:37 p.m.)

There is a verdict.

KATHRYN (9:57 p.m.)

Drejka arrives in the courtroom, followed by Judge Bulone.

The jury’s question is a clarification about this section of the jury questions: If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt that the use of deadly force was justified, you should find him not guilty.”

“I have no idea what that means," Bulone says.

Bulone calls the jury in. He addresses the juror directly. “What exactly would you like from the court?” Bulone asks.

“We had trouble understanding that statement ... It doesn’t make sense to us,” the juror says.

Bulone is now re-reading the jury instruction. Bulone says he can’t expound further.

“They are what they are," he says.

He sends the jury back to deliberations. Drejka attorney John Trevena requests a bench conference as the gallery, including McGlockton’s family and friends, head out of the courtroom.

KATHRYN (9:30 p.m.)

We’re back in the courtroom. The jury has a question.

KATHRYN (9:16 p.m.)

Dinner just arrived for jurors. It’s from Joto’s, a pizzeria.

KATHRYN (8:44 p.m.)

Good evening. We’re still on verdict watch here at the courthouse, heading into hour five. Keep checking back with us for updates.

DAN (4:42 p.m.)

Alternate juror Keith Booe spoke briefly with reporters outside the courthouse.

“I think he had the opportunity not to kill him,” he said. “You can certainly argue about whether that shove was justified (from McGlockton). I think it was. It might have been excessive. He had a chance to not kill him.”

Booe said he doesn’t think the jury will have a hard time deciding the case. We shall see.

KATHRYN (4:13 p.m.)

The jury has gone back for deliberations. Stay tuned for updates.

KATHRYN (4:09 p.m.)

Schaub continues his impassioned plea to jurors.

“I hope you follow the law,” he says.

“What’s more reasonable? Going out to protect your loved one? Being a man? Or going up to a car that you don’t know anybody’s in and walking around taking photos?” he said. “How reasonable is that? Is that reasonable? Or is it more reasonable to go protect your loved one?”

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Trevena got up and moved Schaub’s chair back behind the state’s table.

“That chair that he moved should still be over here,” Schaub says.

The reasonable man should still be here, he says.

“It’s through his (Drejka’s) eyes, but it has to be the reasonable man. It’s got to be reasonable,” he says. “That reasonable man is always here. Don’t get confused.”

Drejka made a huge mistake, Schaub says. He goes back to the part of Drejka’s interview where he tells detectives that if McGlockton had been backing up, or staying still, he wouldn’t have shot him.

“To the reasonable man … it’s obvious that he was backing up.”

The other prosecutor, Scott Rosenwasser, gets up and holds a large white posterboard in front of Schaub, so the jury could only see Schaub’s legs — what Drejka says he saw of McGlockton before pulling the trigger.

“This is what he saw, and those witnesses (the defense expert witnesses) tried to tell you with a straight face that that was an aggressive stance.”

Schaub says he’s onto his last point. He stands directly in front of jurors.

“We don’t have to show that he intended to kill. All we have to show is he intended to shoot his gun,” Schaub says.

He’s speaking softly now. It’s hard to hear from the gallery.

“It’s been 13 months. 13 months that this happened and today in this courtroom we’ve completed our case … He’s had this presumption of innocence for 13 months. Now we’re going to ask you… to take that presumption of innocence away.”

“Consider the evidence. Follow the law. Apply that law to the evidence, and then come back in this courtroom and speak the truth with a verdict that says we the members of this jury, each and every one of us … we find you guilty of the crime of manslaughter. So say we all. Each and every one of us.”

Schaub takes his seat.

KATHRYN AND DAN (3:43 p.m.)

We’re back.

Prosecutor Fred Schaub delivers the state’s rebuttal closing. He is passionate, animated. He is using the whole courtroom, walking from the witness stand to the jury box to the door into the gallery, pointing, throwing his hands up. He raps his knuckles on the courtroom’s wood panels to emphasize certain points.

“The sanctity of life,” he says. “That’s kind of what he started with.”

He holds up poster board with pictures of McGlockton’s body.

“This isn’t Markeis McGlockton,” he says. “It’s a body on an autopsy table.”

He was a father, a son. He had children, Schaub says.

“He was a human being in our world. And is the taking of his life worth that? That? That is the injury that he lost his life over.”

“Think about it: What have we come to in this country?”

The Second Amendment? Fine. The NRA? Fine. Carrying a concealed weapon? Fine.

“That fella right there had no business ever having a gun. No business. That’s what this is all about.

“And they want you to say he may not have received proper training, and didn’t know what the 21-foot rule meant.

“Well, you killed somebody because of the 21-foot rule,” Schaub says, moving closer to Drejka. So he should know what it means, Schaube says.

“You don’t put yourself in the position he puts himself in with a firearm. You just don’t do it.”

That’s why the testimony from the confrontation five months before the shooting was important, Schaub says. He thought a verbal altercation with another human being meant he could have blown his head off.

“What have we come in this world?” Schaub says.

He thought it was okay to monitor that parking lot. No, it’s not, Schaub says. He was told by the store owner knock it off. And Drejka said, “I know. I can’t help myself. It always gets me in trouble.”

“Mr. McGlockton didn’t start this confrontation. He (Drejka) did. No one else.”

Given the same set of circumstances, Schaub says, a law enforcement officer would be in this courtroom, too. Police officers are held to the same standard.

Schaub pounces on a point the defense has raised several times as a slight to McGlockton’s character that McGlockton left his 5-year-old son in the convenience store when he went outside to see what was going on.

“Are you kidding me?” Schaub says.

He also attacks the defense’s expert witness in toxicology, the one who went through fiery cross-examination yesterday.

“Mr. Buffington needs to put his coat back on and go back to CVS working behind the counter.”

This line draws an objection from the defense.

Moments later, Schaub yanks his chair from behind the state’s table and puts it beside the defense table. He counts off Drejka and his four attorneys: one, two, three, four, five.

“There’s a sixth person sitting right here … it’s called the reasonable man,” he says.

That’s the lens jurors have to look through.

Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub points to defendant Michael Drejka during closing arguments Friday in Drejka's manslaughter trial.
Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub points to defendant Michael Drejka during closing arguments Friday in Drejka's manslaughter trial. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

KATHRYN (3:13 p.m.)

Ask yourself, if Mr. Drejka hadn’t fired, what would have happened to Mr. Drejka?

“How could you possibly not have any reasonable doubt?” Trevena asks.

“Stand your ground, and do the right thing.”

He closes with what Trevena said are quotes from the website of the state’s use-of-force expert.

The quotes start with, “Your right to stay alive is the most fundamental natural right a person has.”

Trevena goes on to say: “Mr. Drejka was the victim here. That’s the sad part. The victim, the true victim, has become the defendant.”

Trevena concludes. The judge is giving the jury a 10-minute break before the state gets a chance for rebuttal.

KATHRYN (3:05 p.m.)

Trevena implores jurors to listen to the jury instructions and the law. The state has the burden of proving Drejka didn’t act in self-defense. The defense, he says, doesn’t have to prove anything.

“This is the law. What I say isn’t the law. What Mr. Rosenwasser says isn’t the law.”

And remember: This happened in a matter of seconds, Trevena says.

This case has been characterized as a shooting over a parking space, Trevena says. But it wasn’t about that. McGlockton didn’t know Drejka and Jacobs were arguing about a parking space when he left the store and shoved Drejka.

“It’s about the reaction of a man who was violently attacked by Mr. McGlockton.”

Trevena brings up again the section of the interview with detectives in which Drjeka finds out McGlockton had died. He was shocked, sad.

“He did what he thought he had to do, in the moment, in the split-second time, given that he was attacked.”

The state wants to cherry-pick parts of Drejka’s statement to police, Trevena says. He urges the jurors to look at the totality of his statements.

Trevena goes through Drejka’s actions, saying he didn’t commit any crimes.

“The first criminal act that occurred was by Mr. McGlockton when he came out of the store, high on MDMA, viciously attacking Mr. Drejka.”

Trevena once again implores jurors to apply the law to the case.

“You may not agree with the law. But you took an oath as a juror to uphold the law … You might not like it. You might think it needs it to be changed. But that’s for the Legislature … The law that we have today says what he did is justifiable.”

This reminds me of something Pinellas County Sheriff Gualtieri said when he declined to arrest Drejka last year, citing Florida’s stand your ground law. From that story:

The shooting “is within the bookends of ‘stand your ground’ and within the bookends of force being justified,” the sheriff said, later adding, “I’m not saying I agree with it, but I don’t make that call.”

KATHRYN AND DAN (2:36 p.m.)

Trevena revisits a point from the defense team’s opening statement.

“The danger may not have been actual. It’s what his perception of the danger was.”

Trevena says Rosenwasser made it sound like a bad thing that Drejka was assuming McGlockton was going to beat him.

“That’s exactly what the two of them were going to do,” Trevena says. “They were going to beat Mr. Drejka to a pulp.”

McGlockton started it, Trevena says, and he and Jacobs were going to finish it.

In the gallery, McGlockton’s father, Michael McGlockton, shakes his head.

“What would have happened if he hadn’t pulled the gun? He would have been beaten to a pulp. He may have been killed.”

McGlockton’s father gets up and leaves the courtroom.

Trevena alludes to a state expert who called the shove a “schoolyard push.” He calls that characterization ridiculous.

He comes back to the drugs found in McGlockton’s system, how that could explain McGlockton’s aggressive behavior. Trevena has pushed that point hard.

“Should Mr. Drejka have to suffer now because Mr. McGlockton decided to get high on MDMA?”

Trevena brings up the concept of stand your ground.

“In Florida, the defendant has a right to stand his ground. But in reality where was he going to go? He was already on the ground.”

KATHRYN (2:25 p.m.)

Trevena is continuing his closing argument. Use your common sense, Trevena says. There’s no evidence Drejka was sitting at the store, waiting for someone to pull into the parking space.

Trevena goes on to point out that Drejka has carried a weapon for 25 years. The state requests a bench conference. That only takes a minute. Trevena is back up.

"We talked about Ms. Jacobs, Trevena says — “'My man’s gonna handle you.'”

"Then we had Vicki Conrad. She says inside the store, you could not hear what was going on outside, that there was no argument that was carrying into the store.

"She didn’t know what was going on until Mr. Castelli came in. He said that, because his testimony changed, obviously, but he said he saw something in the parking lot. He never used the word altercation before.

“Very non-descript, whatever version you want to believe,” Trevena says.

Then McGlockton’s response is to leave his 5-year-old in the store — the defense has harped on that point a lot — and go out and shove Drejka to the ground.

After the shooting, Drejka didn’t call a lawyer, flee the scene.

“He was inviting the detectives, inviting everyone — ‘Make sure you look at the video. You’ll see it was self defense,’” Trevena says. “He didn’t try to run away. He gave a full detailed statement.”

“Would a guilty person do that?”

Trevena turns to some testimony from several forensic technicians and other Sheriff’s Office personnel. He said he calls that the “prosecutorial dog and pony show.”

“Why do we need all these witnesses to come in and talk about the video and how it was secured?” Trevena asks. “Are you being manipulated? What’s really relevant here?”

Another interesting point, Trevena says: The FDLE analyst didn’t have a conclusive match that the shell casing found at the scene matched Drejka’s gun. To be clear, no one is disputing that Drejka shot McGlockton.

What’s more, Trevena says, “There was only one shot fired. If someone was so gun-happy that they wanted to shoot someone,” wouldn’t have they fired more shots?

And, when police told Drejka that McGlockton had died, Drejka was “sullen," Trevena says.

Drejka “did what was necessary under the circumstances,” Trevena says. “There was a threat posed by two or three people.”

He points out that Drejka’s father is a retired 20-year veteran of law enforcement. He suggests that the reason Drejka used military and police terms in his interview with cops is because it was the way he’d heard his father talk in the past.

“You have to look at it through the lens of the defendant.”

Look at the disparity between the physical make-up of the two men, Trevena tells jurors. He points out a section in the jury instructions that tells them to do so.

McGlockton was in his 20s, with an athletic build. Drejka is in his 40s. He complained of health problems to detectives. He told detectives he had never fought before.

“He did not have the physical capacity to defend himself against such an aggressor,” Trevena says.

“Mr. McGlockton was the weapon in this case.”

DAN AND KATHRYN (2:08 p.m.)

As attorney John Trevena begins the defense closing, he reads a quote about self-defense that he attributes to the website of one of the state’s expert witnesses. It includes:

“A person’s sovereignty and their ability to protect themselves is the most important thing.”

“Those are the words of the state’s own expert,” Trevena says. “And we couldn’t more wholeheartedly agree.”

Trevena says handicapped parking is extremely important to some people, including Drejka. Parking without a placard is extremely offensive, he says.

“He just engaged in his basic, fundamental constitutional right to speak with that individual,” Trevena says of Drejka’s conversation with Britany Jacobs.

“I have a very serious concern in this case that you will be able to reach a unanimous decision,” Trevena says. He says everyone who sees the video comes away with different opinions.

The state objects. They say his argument is improper. The judge sustains the objection. This goes back to the issue of anyone but the jury analyzing what’s on the video. Judge Bulone ruled several times that no experts or other witnesses can give their opinions on the video.

Trevena emphasizes testimony that, during the argument over the parking space, Jacobs says McGlockton is going to come out. Drejka took that as a threat, Trevena says.

The state, Trevena says, is trying to separate everything Drejka did into individual acts, when it really happened in one fluid movement.

“It’s all one event,” Trevena says. “He pulls the gun, he steadies his hand, he aims and he fires. All one event, not separated in time.”

“Why is that important?”

Because, Trevena says, Drejka is absolutely correct that he’s justified pulling the gun after McGlockton “viciously” attacked him.

The state is going to argue that McGlockton was retreating, Trevena says, that Jacobs testified he was retreating. But, on cross-examination, Drejka attorney Theresa Jean Pierre-Coy pointed out that Jacobs had never used that word before.

Trevena turns to the surveillance video, pointing to a moment after the shove in which McGlockton pulls his shorts up.

“That is an aggressive move,” he says. “‘I’m hiking my shorts up. I’m getting ready to engage in combat.’ That is not a retreat.”

Trevena plays the video at normal speed.

“That is one event. That is not to be broken down frame-by-frame.”

As soon as the threat is over, he puts the firearm down, Trevena notes.

He moves on to the state’s characterization of Drejka as a vigilante.

“Does he look like Charles Bronson in Death Wish? C’mon. This is not a vigilante. This is a person who was viciously attacked.”

Aggravated battery and felony battery are the two crimes that could describe what McGlockton did.

“The state wants you to think he was a kind man,” Trevena says. “High on a love drug. … What was he going to do, hug him? Come on. Use your common sense.”

Trevena mentions the MDMA that the medical examiner detected in McGlockton’s system. He notes that McGlockton was found with a high level of the drug in his body.

He goes back over Jacobs’ words about her man coming out of the store to say Drejka was threatened. He also pointed to Robert Castelli, a witness in the parking lot, as a possible threat. He was walking around the parking lot, too. Drejka didn’t know what he was going to do.

Defense attorney John Trevena addresses members of the jury during closing arguments Friday in the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka.
Defense attorney John Trevena addresses members of the jury during closing arguments Friday in the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

KATHRYN (1:45 p.m.)

Before court reconvenes, a juror is called into the courtroom. It’s hard to hear, but over the lunch break, it appears the juror talked to someone who had been watching the Drejka case. The judge is trying to ascertain whether he talked about the case with her. He says he didn’t, but they’re going to bring the woman in and ask.

That didn’t end up happening. They’re bringing in the jury now. Drejka attorney John Trevena will deliver the defense’s closing arguments.

KATHRYN (12:40 p.m.)

We’re breaking for lunch. Be back in an hour.

KATHRYN (12:35 p.m.)

Rosenwasser is now re-showing video of the shooting and of Drejka’s interview with detectives. He’s characterizing Drejka as a parking lot vigilante.

He plays a clip in which a detective asked if he had ever spoken with the store owner about enforcing the handicap-reserved parking space. Drejka answered no.

He plays another section where Drejka says he didn’t call law enforcement because he’s worried Jacobs would have left before police got there.

“What’s really going on here?” Rosenwasser asks.

Another section of the interview video: The detective asks, “Wouldn’t it be best instead of putting yourself in those circumstances to contact law enforcement and have a deputy come out there, or Clearwater police?”

“But what does this have to do with — being on my back and …?” Drejka says.

The detective presses him: Do you think it would be best to call law enforcement?

“You’ll never make it,” Drejka says.

So, asks Rosenwasser, if Drejka thinks calling law enforcement is pointless, “What’s his goal? Why does he want a confrontation so much?”

Now Rosenwasser plays a section in which a detective asks if he would approach people like this if he didn’t have a gun on him.

“I would have to say yeah,” Drejka says, but he isn’t totally sure because he’s carried a gun most of his adult life.

Rosenwasser is picking apart parts of testimony, saying Drejka is being untruthful. One lie, Rosenwasser says, is that Drejka says he was already going to the store and just happened upon Jacobs’ car. The way he pulled into the parking lot — into a non-parking space — says otherwise.

The other, Rosenwasser says, is saying that Jacobs initiated contact. Drejka approached her car.

He highlights another part of the interview in which Drejka says he was “slightly dazed” when he fell on the ground. Then, he shows the section in which Drejka gets on the ground and demonstrates where he was when he shot. A detective asks him if McGlockton charged at him.

“Two steps running,” Drejka says.

Rosenwasser says that’s not truthful, either.

“You can’t just say I saw him running towards me, and now it’s okay to kill somebody,” Rosenwasser says. “Markeis is retreating. It doesn’t matter what he (Drejka) says. The moment he was pushed, he decided to kill Markeis. That’s it. Never saw his hands, only saw his feet, and makes an assumption. You can’t kill people for that. You can’t.”

Rosenwasser moves on to a section in which the detective says he had watched the video and saw McGlockton retreating. Drejka says he disagrees with that.

“Just because he sees it differently doesn’t mean he was justified in killing,” Rosenwasser says.

The state is using two screens to conduct their closings. On one is the interview between Drejka and detectives. On the other is the surveillance video showing the shooting.

He plays a section of the interview tape in which Drejka says that if McGlockton hadn’t moved, or had moved back, he wouldn’t have had to use his firearm. Then Rosenwasser turns to the surveillance video.

“Here comes the push. His hat and glasses don’t even come off,” Rosenwasser says, narrating the surveillance video.

Then, referencing the interview video, “The defendant himself tells you it’s manslaughter.”

“You know what Markeis McGlockton is guilty of?” Rosenwasser asked. “He’s guilty of loving and trying to protect his family, and he died because of it.”

In closing arguments, the prosecution is challenging the notion that Michael McGlockton charged at the man who fatally shot him. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
In closing arguments, the prosecution is challenging the notion that Michael McGlockton charged at the man who fatally shot him. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

Noon update: Jury getting case today

The case against Michael Drejka, accused in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton in an argument over a handicap parking space, will be in the jury’s hands this afternoon.

After a weeklong trial, with testimony from experts on use-of-force and self-defense and a detailed retelling of the shooting outside a Clearwater convenience store, Drejka’s defense concluded its case this morning.

Closing arguments began shortly before noon.

Drejka, 49, chose not to testify. His defense is arguing that he was defending himself when he shot McGlockton.

It happened July 19, 2018, in the lot outside the Circle A Food Store. That afternoon, Drejka stood and argued with Britany Jacobs, McGlockton’s girlfriend. She sat in a car parked in a handicap-reserved space. McGlockton came out of the store and shoved Drejka to the ground.

A surveillance camera captured images of Dreka drawing a handgun and shooting McGlockton once in the chest.

The defense’s last witnesses included Valerie McClain, a forensic psychologist, who explained how a person’s perception changes when attacked or faced with stress. She also spoke about how witnesses to the same event can perceive things differently.

Jurors also heard from Sean Brown, a former Marine who owns a security company and testified about firearms and use of force. Brown spoke about what he saw on the surveillance video, saying McGlockton was standing in what he considered to be an aggressive stance.

At the conclusion of testimony, Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone read preliminary instructions to the jury. This included details about what the state must do to prove a charge of manslaughter. The instructions also touched on excusable homicide and the justifiable use of deadly force.

The jury must decide if Drejka reasonably believed that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

“The appearance of danger,” the judge read, “must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force.”

The instructions explain that if Drejka was not doing anything illegal and was in a place where he had a right to be, he had “no duty to retreat” and a “right to stand his ground.”

Michael McGlockton, father of the late Markeis McGlockton, listens to closing arguments Friday during the trial of the man accused in his son's slaying.
Michael McGlockton, father of the late Markeis McGlockton, listens to closing arguments Friday during the trial of the man accused in his son's slaying. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

KATHRYN AND DAN (12:06 p.m.)

After a short break, the state begins its closing arguments. Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser delivers them.

Rosenwasser starts off focusing on the definition of “reasonable doubt.” He tells a story to demonstrate: Let’s say you’re walking your dog one night. It’s thundering, lightning and smells of rain. You wake up the next morning and it’s wet outside.

Based on the evidence, you could say that, beyond a reasonable doubt, it rained overnight.

“One of the most important things you do not leave when you come in the courtroom is common sense,” Rosenwasser says.

As jurors, you have to look at all the evidence and decide which evidence is credible, Rosenwasser says. How? Use your common sense. See if the evidence is corroborated elsewhere. Don’t rely on arguments from lawyers. Rely on the evidence.

“Here’s the million dollar question you need to ask yourself: Was the defendant justified in shooting a man that came out to protect his family while he was retreating, while he was unarmed?” Rosenwasser says.

Drejka intentionally shot McGlockton, Rosenwasser says, and intended to kill McGlockton because it was “the most perfect shot he could take.”

Next, Rosenwasser combs through the jury instructions, zeroing in on the section in which the shooting of McGlockton would be justifiable if he reasonably believes he was about to die or face imminent bodily harm.

“Was he about to be beaten to a pulp as Michael McGlockton went backwards?” Rosenwasser asked.

McGlockton was stepping back, he says. His feet are pointed back to the convenience store, where he wanted to go.

“The only reason his eyes are on the defendant is because he’s looking at the firearm. ... The video tells you the whole story,” he says.

Rosenwasser keeps using the wrong name for McGlockton. He calls him “Michael McGlockton” instead of “Markeis McGlockton.”

Going over the facts of the case, he uses the right name and apologizes to jurors.

Rosenwasser returns to the testimony of Daniel Buffington, the toxicology expert we heard from yesterday who said McGlockton’s behavior may indicate he was having an adverse reaction to the MDMA in his system. Rosenwasser once again raises questions about Buffington’s credibility.

On the day of the shooting, Drejka didn’t go up to McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, and politely ask her to move, Rosenwasser says.

“He went there with the intent to confront Britany Jacobs,” Rosenwasser says.

When McGlockton comes out, he doesn’t knuckle punch him or beat him to a pulp, Rosenwasser says. He shoved him.

“Think of all the things he could have done. He shoved him. He was protecting his girlfriend of 10 years. That’s all he did.”

Even if you think the shove wasn’t right, Rosenwasser tells jurors, “You still, no matter what, cannot shoot an unarmed retreating man.”

This whole thing started, Rosenwasser says, because Drejka took it upon himself to enforce parking rules.

“You don’t put yourself in a position like he did when you’re armed,” Rosenwasser says.

What does he say to justify that behavior? Rosenwasser asks, drawing on the video of Drejka’s interview with police, which jurors watched yesterday.

“'I’m always cautious. I have a permit.'”

Rosenwasser turns to the military-police language Drejka uses throughout his interview with police.

“How many civilians walk around saying the word ‘neutralize’? How many civilians walk around saying the word ‘negative’?”

Those are law enforcement and “vigilante” terms, Rosenwasser says.

He continues going over parts of Drejka’s statement to police, zeroing in on a section where Drejka said he assumed McGlockton was going to beat him after the shove.

“In his interview, you know what he says? ‘I assumed something,’” Drejka says. “The definition of assumption is without proof.

“Does a reasonable person kill another human being because they assume something? No."

"He didn’t have to kill him, but he did.”

DAN (11:34 a.m.)

Bedard is excused. There are no more witnesses.

Judge Bulone is now give preliminary instructions on the law.

He explains that Michael Drejka is accused of manslaughter. They must decide if the shooting was excusable or a justifiable use of deadly force.

The circumstances that the state must prove to convict of manslaughter:

  1. Markeis McGlockton is dead.
  2. Michael Drejka intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Markeis McGlockton.

The defendant cannot be guilty by committing a negligent act or if the killing was justifiable or excusable homicide.

It’s not necessary for the state to prove the defendant has the intent to cause death, but only the intent to commit an act that was not justified or excusable and caused death.

The judge reads instructions about the justifiable use of deadly force.

The jury must decide if Drejka reasonably believed that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

“The appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force,” the judge reads.

The instructions explain that if Drejka was not doing anything illegal and was in a place where he had a right to be, he had “no duty to retreat” and a “right to stand his ground.”

Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser shows the jury a video Friday of defendant Michael Drejka as he is interviewed by detectives.
Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser shows the jury a video Friday of defendant Michael Drejka as he is interviewed by detectives. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

DAN (11:06 a.m.)

We’re back from break. As the jury enters, the defense enters two items into evidence. They are the shirt and sunglasses Drejka was wearing at the time of the shooting.

The jurors each have a chance to examine the items.

After that, the defense rests.

The state has one rebuttal witness. He is Roy Bedard, the use of force expert who testified earlier in the case.

Rosenwasser shows Bedard a blue gun. He asks him to step off the witness stand and demonstrate how the gun works.

Trevena objects. There is a bench conference.

The blue gun looks like one that is typically used in law enforcement training.

After the bench conference, Rosenwasser asks if Bedard would be comfortable using the actual firearm that Drejka used, instead of the blue gun. Bedard says yes.

He stands before the jury, holding the .40-caliber Glock.

He points to the front sight and rear sight, explaining how they help the shooter aim. He shows them how to grip the weapon.

The state finishes.

On cross examination, defense attorney John Trevena asks Bedard whether he shot a woman as a police officer in 1995. The state objects. They move to a bench conference.

Afterward, Trevena says he has no further questions.

Roy Bedard, police trainer and consultant, testifies Friday during the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka.
Roy Bedard, police trainer and consultant, testifies Friday during the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

DAN (10:30 a.m.)

Brown is excused. The court takes a 15-minute break.

After the jury leaves, the defense indicates they will introduce two items of evidence then rest their case.

Judge Bulone tells Drejka he has the right to testify. He says it’s important to talk with his lawyers about whether he should testify. The decision is ultimately up to him.

Have you reached a decision?” the judge asks.

“I would prefer not to testify,” Drejka says.

DAN (10:25 a.m.)

On redirect, Coy asks about Drejka’s actions.

During the argument, he never threatened or showed a firearm?

Correct, says Brown.

It wasn’t until he was violently shoved that he pulled the weapon?

Correct, says Brown.

Coy: Is it true that a civilian person is not held to the same standard as a police officer?

Brown: In black and white, deadly force is absolutely the same. … But with the level of training, there are things that will be different. So we can’t necessarily hold a civilian to the same standard.

Coy: Would you agree that common sense would dictate that a person shouldn’t come out and charge another person without assessing the situation?

I would agree with that, Brown says.

Michael Drejka stands at the defense table during a break Friday in his manslaughter trial.
Michael Drejka stands at the defense table during a break Friday in his manslaughter trial. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

DAN (10:17 a.m.)

The witnesses are moving fast this morning. We could get to closing arguments much sooner than expected

On cross examination, Schaub asks Brown about the 21-foot rule, whether that applies to someone who has a sharp-edged object.

“Not necessarily,” says Brown. The weapon could be a club, or something else.

The rule essentially says there has to be enough distance between the shooter and an aggressive person to facilitate the drawing of a weapon.

“You have to constantly practice for speed,” Brown says.

Brown talks about how you wouldn’t let someone drive a car without a lot of training and practice first. Same concept applies to guns.

“Isn’t it fair to say it’s a person’s responsibility not to put themselves in a situation where they might have to use that firearm?” Schaub asks.

Yes, says Brown.

So in firearms courses they teach you to only use the gun as a last resort?

Correct, Brown says.

Schaub asks about reaction time. He asks Brown if he ever tested Drejka’s reaction time or met with him. He did not.

Schaub stands in different positions. Asks if those are fighting stances.

“Do you realize the whole time I’ve been standing here talking to you, I’ve been standing like this?” Schaub says facing forward. “Is this a fighting stance?”

Brown says it is.

Schaub peppers Brown with questions about “force multipliers,” when it’s okay to shoot someone.

If you’re going to shoot someone to kill, you want to shoot them in the heart? Schaub asks.

“Center mass,” says Brown.

DAN (9:52 a.m.)

Next witness is Sean Brown, owner of Trademark Security Services.

Brown tells the jury that he and attorney Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy know each other. She previously represented him in a case that had to do with an auto accident.

She contacted him a few weeks ago. She asked him if he had ever heard the term blading. He told her he did not.

When she explained it, he told her he understood what she was talking about.

Brown is a former Marine. Knows a lot about guns, carries them.

Coy asks if he knows about the 21-foot rule. He explains it’s about reaction time and distance. It has to do with an aggressive person advancing toward someone and when the other person can draw a weapon.

He does firearms training.

Coy asks about threat assessment in relation to firearms. It has to do with a person’s ability to evaluate the danger in a particular situation. Brown explains that threat assessment is not something that’s taught in concealed weapons classes. Law enforcement and military people are taught about it.

Brown says he reviewed video interviews with Drejka and other materials related to his case.

Coy asks if he’s familiar with aggressive stances. He says he is. Brown mentioned earlier that he practices martial arts.

He talks about the “weaver stance.” Coy asks him to demonstrate what that is. He stands with one foot in front of the other, body turned to the side. In martial arts, it’s called an orthodox stance. It’s a stance similar to blading.

“Is that a form of retreat?” Coy asks.

“No, it is not,” Brown says.

Coy asks about retreat, what that would look like. Brown says most of the time, you’d see a person’s toe turn in the other direction.

Coy then asks about escalation and de-escalation. Are those concepts typically taught in concealed weapons courses? No, Brown says.

“Those would be considered add-ons,” he says.

Coy asks what Brown saw in the shooting video.

“I observed … two bumps with the firearm.”

The first “bump,” Brown says, could have been Drejka establishing his grip on the gun. The second could have been the gun going off.

Schaub begins cross examination of Brown. It’s Brown’s first time testifying.

“Congratulations, there is always a first time,” Schaub says.

Sean Brown, a use-of-force expert, testifies for the defense Friday at the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka.
Sean Brown, a use-of-force expert, testifies for the defense Friday at the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

DAN (9:32 a.m.)

Schaub asks McClain if she has a social relationship with defense attorney Trevena.

She says she’s attended functions with him, like fundraisers.

He asks if he attended her birthday party at Bern’s Steakhouse. This draws an objection from the defense.

Shortly thereafter, Schaub concludes his cross examination.

Trevena asks a few questions on redirect. The takeaway is that sometimes people perceive time as speeding up when engaged in a stressful situation.

McClain is excused.

DAN (9:28 a.m.)

Schaub asks McClain about research that shows how during a stressful situation, perception of time slows down. She says sometimes it speeds up. But yes, the norm is that time slows down.

“You’ve interviewed sexual battery victims?”

Yes, McClain says.

And they will tell you that during the traumatic experience, time slows down?

McClain says that’s not always true. Sometimes they say it’s just a blur.

“The perception definitely varies per person,” she says.

“Exactly," says Schaub. “So you can’t say what Mr. Drejka’s perception is.”

I was never asked that question, McClain says.

“You’ve never interviewed Mr. Drejka?” Schaub asks.

McClain says she was not asked to.

DAN (9:10 a.m.)

We’re back in court. The defense continues its case. Their first witness today is Valerie McClain, a forensic psychologist.

McClain wears a bright blue suit. On the stand, she briefly summarizes her background as a psychologist before detailing the materials she reviewed in the Michael Drejka case. They include the surveillance video of the shooting.

Defense attorney John Trevena asks her about the words “blading” and “fighting stance.”

Fighting stance, she says, is a general posture of being prepared to engage in aggression.

“It’s my understanding that there are varying opinions about what occurred,” McClain says about the fatal confrontation between Michael Drejka and Markeis McGlockton.

Trevena asks what happens to an individual when attacked.

McClain says when you anticipate that you’re going to experience something bad, like a car accident, psychological and physiological changes occur. Chemicals in the body, adrenaline, cause stress. There is a reaction, an effort to return to a normal state.

“Basically, the body has already been kicked into an alarm system,” she says. “It’s what we call fight or flight. … That may override the problem-solving mode.”

Trevena asks if it’s possible a person might not accurately remember what happened. She says that’s correct.

He asks specifically about Drejka’s statement to the cops that McGlockton came toward him.

McClain talks about how eyewitnesses to the same event can perceive different things.

“Each person varies,” she says. “Obviously, individuals come with their own experiences. The way a law enforcement officer sees something is not going to be the same as the way I see something.”

Trevena concludes direct examination.

On cross examination, prosecutor Fred Schaub asks more about the term “blading.” He asks if it can refer to a person standing to the side, so a gunman wouldn’t have as big a target. Yes, she says, it can refer to that.

The only person who would know if that’s what McGlockton had in mind is McGlockton himself.

Schaub asks McClain to show him an aggressive fighting stance.

She gets up and lowers herself to demonstrate Drejka’s position relative to McGlockton during the confrontation. She says it’s important to understand what Drejka’s perception was.

Forensic psychologist Valerie McClain testifies Friday for the defense during the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka.
Forensic psychologist Valerie McClain testifies Friday for the defense during the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Morning update: Jury may get case today

A second day of testimony wrapped up with conflicting views on how the drug MDMA might have affected shooting victim Markeis McGlockton. Signs of MDMA were found in McGlockton’s system.

Judge Joseph Bulone said it’s possible the trial could wrap up today.

The defense has two expert witnesses to present. After that, the jury will hear closing arguments, then begin deliberations.

— Dennis Joyce


Michael Drejka, 49, is accused of manslaughter 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.

Michael McGlockton, the father of Markeis McGlockton, holds a photograph of his son Markeis McGlockton Sr. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Michael McGlockton, the father of Markeis McGlockton, holds a photograph of his son Markeis McGlockton Sr. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

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.