The shooting of an unarmed man, Markeis McGlockton, at a Clearwater convenience story is inflaming controversy over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law even though some legal experts believe it might not even apply in this case.
“I understand you have the right to stand your ground but not to fire out of anger,” said Clearwater defense attorney Roger Futerman.
“It [the video] shows him [the victim] moving in a different direction, which I think is a really critical issue,” said another prominent Clearwater attorney, Jay Hebert.
Both attorneys say the Stand Your Ground defense only applies when someone is in imminent fear of death or great bodily harm. Hebert says the law originated after a spate of Florida hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 when fearful homeowners complained of looters and Governor Bush pushed through legislation that tilted the law toward their right to defend themselves.
But a video recording of Thursday’s shooting in Clearwater shows McGlockton taking four or five steps backward and turning in another direction in the seconds before Michael Drejka fired the fatal bullet after being pushed to the ground by McGlockton in a dispute over a handicap parking space.
“His [McGlockton’s] hands are out, he’s moving backwards, he’s turned away from the shooter [Drejka]—where’s the threat at this point,” Futerman said.
Hebert points out the confrontation unfolded in just a matter of seconds and it’s hard to get inside Drejka’s mind to determine exactly what he was thinking.
As defense lawyers, both men agree the Stand Your Ground statute is a good law and have used it to defend clients. Hebert says he was the first to use it in the Tampa Bay area in a fatal shooting involving a tow truck operator and insists it reinforces constitutional protections when properly applied.
“In our society there’s a presumption of innocence and in addition to that the burden of proof has always been with the government to prove their case,” Hebert said.
In this case, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has declined to immediately arrest Drejka because of the Stand Your Ground law. But the decision whether to file criminal charges in the fatal shooting rests with the Pinellas State Attorney’s Office.
Futerman believes Gualtieri’s initial decision puts more pressure on the state attorney to not file charges, but ultimately it comes down to whether prosecutors or a grand jury believe Drejka was in fear of his life when he pulled the trigger.
“If I were a juror objectively looking at this I would think that the shot was fired not out of fear but out of anger,” Futerman said