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Stand your ground shooter has three-lawyer team

John Trevena, Bryant Camareno and Lysa Clifton are attorneys for Michael Drejka, 48, who is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, 28, following an argument over a parking space.
Published Aug. 16, 2018

LARGO — Three lawyers have signed on to represent Michael Drejka, the man who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton in what authorities initially deemed a stand your ground shooting.

Whether Lysa Clifton, John Trevena and Bryant Camareno will use that defense against Drejka's manslaughter charge is unclear.

"Whether or not we use stand your ground as a defense will be a surprise," Clifton said Wednesday.

Clifton, a member of the Florida Bar since 2012, has never tried manslaughter or stand your ground cases before, she said, speaking in front of the Pinellas County Jail, where Drejka has been held since he was arrested Monday. Trevena, based in Largo, and Camareno, based in Tampa, joined the case. Both have extensive criminal defense experience in the Tampa Bay area. The group met with Drejka on Wednesday morning.

"Bryant and I definitely have the background to be able to help Lysa with this case," Trevena said.

It's too early to determine what defense they're going to pursue, Trevena said. They first must decide whether the facts fit with a stand your ground defense. And, even if they do, there's other strategy to consider, he said.

"This is going to be a very complex case as we already know, legally and factually," he said. "Please be patient with us while we develop the defenses in the case."

During his first appearance Tuesday, Drejka was appointed a public defender. Judge Joseph Bulone also kept Drejka's bail at $100,000, which Clifton said Drejka can't afford. She said she's planning to ask for a bond reduction hearing.

Pinellas Public Defender Bob Dillinger could not be reached for comment.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: After Michael Drejka's first court appearance, stand your ground case is expected to crawl.

In an interview Wednesday morning, the criminal defense and personal injury lawyer said she visited Drejka at the jail Tuesday, and the two spoke for an hour to an hour and a half. She didn't introduce herself as a lawyer. Drejka at one point asked if she was one, and she answered yes. He then asked why she visited him, to which she said "because everybody deserves a chance at a good defense." He asked if she would represent him, Clifton said, and she agreed to take on the case pro bono.

However, hours later during a news conference in front of the jail, the lawyers declined to discuss how they were being paid, other than Clifton saying, "We do expect to get paid." Camareno said they were not going to accept money from outside organizations or people.

"It's not political. We're not advocating a position," he said.

Clifton said Drejka was doing well when she spoke with him Tuesday, other than saying he was cold and concerned about his wife and family.

Prosecutors charged Drejka, 48, with manslaughter about three weeks after he shot and killed McGlockton, 28, in the parking lot of a convenience store near Clearwater. The encounter started when Drejka confronted McGlockton's girlfriend about why she had parked in a handicap-reserved parking space while McGlockton was in the store.

A witness told the father of three about the heated argument outside. Surveillance video shows McGlockton leaving the store, walking up to Drejka and shoving him the ground. Drejka then pulls a Glock .40-caliber handgun and shoots him. He told deputies he was in fear of further attack.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially didn't arrest Drejka, saying his agency was precluded by Florida's controversial stand your ground law. The decision reignited a debate around the controversial law and sparked accusations of racial injustice. Drejka is white. McGlockton was black.

Camareno said Wednesday that they're aware of the case's ties to the polarizing debate over the law but emphasized they're not representing Drejka for political reasons.

"We're not here to change the law or maintain the law," he said. "We're here to represent someone."

TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: STAND YOUR GROUND CASE

Records show road rage, gun threats in stand your ground shooter's past

Family to Pinellas prosecutor: File charges in death of Markeis McGlockton

Attorney calls Markeis McGlockton's death 'cold-blooded murder' by 'wannabe cop'

Nelson, Crist call for Department of Justice investigation into death of Markeis McGlockton

In latest 'stand your ground' case, a question: Who started it?

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.

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