By Frederick H. Lowe
Florida’s stand your ground law was seriously wounded on Friday, but only time will tell if its mortally wounded.
A Florida jury found Michael Drejka, a white man, guilty of the manslaughter in the July 18, 2018, shooting death of Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed black man, during a fight over a Clearwater convenience store handicapped parking spot. The jury deliberated six hours before reaching its verdict.
The 28-year-old McGlockton was backing away from Drejka when he pulled a gun and shot McGlockton to death.
Drejka initially cited Florida’s stand your ground law to justify shooting to death McGlockton who had pushed him to the ground during a fist fight. Police initially backed Drejka’s justification for the deadly shooting.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s initially refused to arrest Dreijka.
On August 1, 2018, Sheriff Gualtieri announced that the investigation into the deadly shooting had been turned over to State Attorney Bernie McCabe for review. The following day, McCabe said there was no time frame for how long it would take to complete the investigation.
On August 10, Detective George Moffett sent a request to State Attorney McCabe recommending charges of manslaughter with a firearm against Drejka.
Moffett cited three other black drivers who alleged that Drejka, 47, threatened them with a gun in past parking lot incidents.
Drejka was formally charged with a single count of manslaughter on August 13. He pled not guilty.
Although a jury found Drejka guilty of manslaughter, many people posted on various websites that he should been charged with murder because he acted like vigilante patrolling parking lots threatening people parked in handicapped zones.
“Markeis McGlockton was needlessly and wrongfully killed by this parking lot vigilante,” said Benjamin Crump, one of McGlockton’s attorneys.
Dreijka got into an argument with McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, who was parked with two of the couple’s children in a handicapped parking spot at Circle A, a food store.
Hearing Jacobs’ screams, McGlockton ran to her defense and got into an argument and fist fight with Dreijka, knocking him to the ground. Dreijka pulled a gun and McGlockton backed away but his retreat did not prevent Dreijka from firing his pistol.
In 2005, Florida enacted its Stand Your Ground Law. Twenty states, including Florida, have enacted Stand Your Ground laws.
Florida’s stand you ground law came under intense scrutiny in 2012 when George Zimmerman shot to death an unarmed Trayvon Martin. A jury of white women found Zimmerman not guilty of manslaughter in the killing of the teenager. Drejka later changed his plea to self defense.
The shooting of a black person by a white person is found justifiable 17 percent of the time, while the shooting of a white person by a black person is deemed justifiable just over 1 percent of the time, according to an Urban Institute study.
Such findings “show that it’s just harder for black defendants to assert a stand-your-ground defense if the victim is white, and easier for whites to raise a stand-your-ground defense if the victims are black,” says Darren Hutchinson, a law professor and civil rights law expert at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The bottom line is that it’s really easy for juries to accept that whites had to defend themselves against persons of color as in the case of George Zimmerman.