The Florida “handicap parking spot shooting” trial of Michael Drejka starts this week, and accordingly news coverage of the case—by which, of course, I mean “media lying” about the case—can be expected to spike.

An excellent example of such media lying is found in CNN. In today’s post we step through that “news” report and fisk out the many lies within.

I’ve covered this case of the July 19, 2018 shooting and killing of Markeis McGlockton by Michael Drejka, after McGlockton’s violent attack upon Drejka, in some detail in prior posts, both at Legal Insurrection and at my Law of Self Defense blog:

At Legal Insurrection:

Law of Self Defense VIDEO: Just because it’s lawful to present the gun doesn’t mean it’s lawful to press the trigger (7/20/18)

CNN Mangles “Stand-Your-Ground” Law Yet Again (7/29/18)

Manslaughter Charges Filed in Florida Handicap Parking Spot Shooting (8/13/2018)

Law of Self Defense: Detective in “Handicap Parking Spot Shooting” Case Arrested (1/13/19)

At Law of Self Defense:

Examining the Michael Drejka (Handicap Spot) Interrogation (10/24/18)

New Light on Why Michael Drejka Wasn’t Initially Arrested (12/3/18)

The Risks of Being Judged By Strangers (1/10/19)

Handicap Spot Shooter Declines Immunity Hearing (6/10/19)

For those of you who have never seen the surveillance video of this event, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

The CNN news article linked above starts off lying right in the headline, as one might expect. Of course, the journalist who wrote the story is not the person who writes the headline, but as we’ll see the journalist, one Eric Levenson, incorporates plenty of lies in the story himself.

As always, it’s worth keeping in mind that most consumers of news read only the headline and perhaps the first paragraph, so how those are framed is how the story is going to be most widely perceived. Only a small minority of readers finish the whole news report, and only a fraction of those people possess anything like real critical thinking ability.

So how does the headline frame the story?

‘Stand Your Ground’ manslaughter trial begins today in killing over handicap parking spot

First, it’s worth noting that the headline gratuitously begins with the phrase “Stand Your Ground” at the start of the headline. This is purely for purposes of click-bait, as this case has nothing whatever to do with Stand-Your-Ground as a law or legal doctrine, as we’ll discuss a bit later.

Second, what the headline describes is simply not at all what happened—there is no evidence whatever that Drejka killed McGlockton “over a handicap parking spot.” There was a verbal dispute over a handicap parking spot, but that verbal dispute was between Drejka and McGlockton’s girlfriend, not between Drejka and McGlockton. To all appearances, Drejka was never even aware of McGlockton until McGlockton violent shoved Drejka to the ground.

Further, the only person who escalated that verbal dispute to the level of physical violence was McGlockton, not Drejka, when McGlockton blindsided Drejka and violently shoved Drejka to the ground.

The entire body of evidence is that Drejka killed McGlockton only after McGlockton violently shoved Drejka to the ground and Drejka perceived that McGlockton intended to continue attacking him.

Reasonable people can disagree as to whether Drejka’s perception of a likely ongoing attack was a reasonable one—and if unreasonable Drejka’s conduct was likely unlawful and should be punished accordingly—but one can not factually dispute that it was McGlockton’s violent attack that was Drejka’s motivation for shooting McGlockton, not the parking space.

The news story continues:

The Florida man who fatally shot an unarmed black man last summer outside a grocery store, sparking a nationwide debate on the state’s “stand your ground” law, is set to stand trial on Monday for manslaughter.

Here we have the gratuitous “shot an unarmed black man” trope, intended to suggest both that it can never be lawful to shoot someone who is unarmed as well as to imply that Drejka’s motivations in doing so must be racist.

In fact, thousands of bare-handed murders are committed every year in the United States, and there is nothing about self-defense law that requires that the person attempting to kill or maim you must possess an artificial weapon before you are privileged to use deadly defensive force to protect yourself.

The legal condition is that you were facing an imminent threat of deadly force—meaning force that could kill or cause serious bodily injury—irrespective of whether that force was in the form of a gun or knife or bat or any other kind of weapon on the one hand, or the attacker’s bare hands on the other.

In terms of the insinuation of “racism,” when the news media routinely and falsely characterizes tens of millions of normal American citizens as “white supremacists,” it’s safe to say that there no longer exists substantive racism in the United States—if there was any genuine racism of any real import (e.g., absent a handful of crazy people utterly lacking in social standing or authority), the media would simply point to the real thing, rather than have to continually fabricate it.

As Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) so aptly puts it, the demand for racism in today’s America vastly exceeds the supply.

Despite this reality, of course, we know that the national news media intends to attempt to impose a widespread false narrative of “America is racist” on the nation, as revealed by the recent leak of an internal meeting at the New York Times as they explicitly set forth this strategy:

Leaked Audio: NY Times shifts targeting of Trump from Russia collusion to racism (8/16/19)

(Note that although I’m now over 1,200 words into this blog post, we’re still only into the first paragraph of this lie-filled CNN news story. I guess I’d better step things up.)

The next several paragraphs of the CNN story are almost straight news of the old-school variety:

The case dates to last July when Michael Drejka, then 47, got into an argument with Britany Jacobs, then 24, who was parked in a handicapped-accessible spot outside a grocery store, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.

McGlockton, Jacobs’ 28-year-old boyfriend, and their 5-year-old son Markeis Jr. were inside the Clearwater, Florida, store at the time. McGlockton then went outside, walked over to Drejka and forcibly pushed him, causing him to fall to the ground.

While sitting on the ground, Drejka pulled out his gun and shot McGlockton, who had started to turn away, surveillance video shows. The entire incident lasted just a few seconds.

Even in this almost-straight news reporting, of course, bias is evident, and that bias naturally runs against Drejka.

For example, the story notes that McGlockton’s girlfriend was parked in a handicap spot, but doesn’t note she was doing so unlawfully.

The story also uses a passive voice to describe the consequences of McGlockton’s attack on Drejka: “McGlockton then went outside, walked over to Drejka and forcibly pushed him, causing him to fall to the ground.”

I would suggest that any fair-minded person who watched the video would characterize McGlockton’s conduct as violently shoving Drejka to the ground. As phrased in this news story it’s as if McGlockton gave Drejka a shove that no one would expect to cause Drejka to end up on the ground, but Drejka somehow fell, as if he’d tripped over a curb. The actual events were not so passive.

There’s a difference between someone passively falling to the ground on the one hand and someone being violent shoved to the ground on the other, and this news report chose its description of events in a manner less favorable to Drejka’s self-defense claim.

The third paragraph contains a presumption of fact which is at the very heart of Drejka’s justification claim:

“Drejka pulled out his gun and shot McGlockton, who had started to turn away, surveillance video shows.”

Was McGlockton turning away? He certainly didn’t continue distancing himself from Drejka, but rather merely moved a small distance away and then stopped. Was he preparing to re-initiate his attack upon Drejka? A pretty good sign that someone is going to attack you a second time is that they just attacked you a first time. Might Drejka’s reasonable perception of McGlockton’s movements, from Drejka’s position on the ground after being blindsided by McGlockton’s violent shove that put him there, been substantially different than the video taken from the completely different angle and height of the surveillance camera?

These are precisely the questions of fact that a jury will resolve in determining whether Drejka’s use of deadly defensive force was lawful or a crime. If it were already determined that McGlockton was no longer a threat, in an absolute sense, then Drejka by definition had no justification for shooting him. But that determination is to be made by the jury, not by CNN.

Then the story makes a reference to the ludicrous press conference given immediately after this shooting by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. I won’t rehash that here, as I cover it in a prior post in some detail:

New Light on Why Michael Drejka Wasn’t Initially Arrested (12/3/18)

I’ll merely note here that there’s nothing about Gualtieri’s decision-making or press conference that’s relevant to this trial of Drejka, a point on which this trial judge has already ruled as all evidence of that press conference has been found inadmissible in this case.

Gualtieri does, however, share some of Drejka’s post-arrest explanation for why he believed it was necessary for him to use deadly defensive force against McGlockton:

“He felt, after being slammed to the ground, that the next thing was that he was going to be further attacked by McGlockton,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at the time.

Then:

A month later, though, the State Attorney charged Drejka with manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty and was released from jail on $100,000 bail last September.

As I’ve noted here and elsewhere, this is not a clear cut case of either lawful self-defense or an unlawful killing. Reasonable people can look at the same evidence and come to differing conclusions on guilt or innocence. It’s thus perfectly reasonable for some people to believe Drejka was justified in firing that shot. It is also perfectly reasonable for the State Attorney to believe there exists enough evidence inconsistent with self-defense to bring the matter to trial and have a jury decide the matter. This is the system working, folks.

More on Drejka’s subjective explanation for his use of deadly-defensive force:

The trial is likely to hinge on Drejka’s expected self-defense argument. In a jailhouse interview with WTSP last September, Drejka said he was “very scared” during the incident with McGlockton.

“I’ve never been confronted like that, never been assaulted like that, if you will, ever,” Drejka said

The first paragraph starts with a bit of silliness. To say “the trial is likely to hinge on self-defense” is simply poor writing. The trial is a self-defense trial—that’s literally the sole issue in the case. It’s not likely to hinge on self-defense, it will hinge on self-defense.

We also have further statements by Drejka of his subjective fear of harm from McGlockton. These kinds of statements are not, of course, by themselves sufficient to justify Drejka’s use of deadly force, but they do check one of the required boxes—that Drejka had a genuine, good faith belief that he was still in danger of violent assault by McGlockton when he fired that shot in purported self-defense.

At this point, the CNN piece takes a swan dive into the deep end of the lies and misinformation of the news pool.

McGlockton’s death brought renewed scrutiny to Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which says that a person has no duty to retreat and has the right to use deadly force if he “reasonably believes” that doing so will prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

Almost everything about this paragraph is simply wrong.

The shooting of McGlockton is not a “stand-your-ground” case, because stand-your-ground only applies if the accused who used force had an absolutely safe avenue of retreat at the time they used that force.

Here Drejka fired while still on the ground, having been violently shoved there by McGlockton, and with McGlockton hovering only a few feet away, close enough to attack again. Under these circumstances Drejka did not have an absolutely safe avenue of retreat, and thus would not have been required to attempt retreat in any state, whether that state was a “stand-your-ground” or “duty-to-retreat” jurisdiction.

So, bottom line, this is simply not a “stand-your-ground” case at all, as “stand-your-ground” is irrelevant under the facts of this case.

Further, to say that “Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law … says that a person … has the right to use deadly force if he ‘reasonably believes’ that doing so will prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” is simply to state the normal self-defense law in every one of the 50 states.

That’s not “stand-your-ground” law, that’s simply what the justification of self-defense is—defending yourself against a reasonably perceived imminent threat, and being privileged to use deadly defensive force if that imminent threat is deadly in nature. This is the standard applied not just in Florida, but also in every other state, including every blue state. It’s simply self-defense.

Then we get more lies, with a helpful assist from the badly confused Sheriff Gualtieri again:

In initially not charging Drejka, Sheriff Gualtieri said the law created a very high standard of proof for making an arrest when someone claims they were standing their ground.

“Nowhere else is there anything like this in criminal law where somebody asserts something and the burden then shifts to the other person,” Gualtieri said. “That’s a very heavy standard and it puts the burden on the state.”

The law Gualtieri is referring to is not Florida’s ‘stand-your-ground” law, but rather Florida’s “self-defense immunity” law, §776.032. That statute does, indeed provide that “… the agency may not arrest the person for using or threatening to use force [in apparent self-defense]…” but the statute doesn’t stop there. Rather, it continues: “…unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used or threatened was unlawful.”

So, the standard for making an arrest in a case of claimed self-defense is, explicitly, “…that there is probable cause that the [act] was unlawful.”

Anybody care to guess what the standard for making an arrest for any other purported crime is? That’s right: probable cause that an unlawful act has been committed.

The standard for arrest under Florida’s self-defense immunity law is not something unusual, as this “news” story want to suggest, it’s the normal standard for arresting anybody for any crime: probable cause.

Then we get more lies, unsurprisingly in the context of the trial of George Zimmerman:

The law played a prominent role in George Zimmerman’s killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. In that case, Zimmerman confronted Martin in a neighborhood in Sanford, Florida, and then fatally shot him in what he said was self-defense.

Because the ill-informed and biased news media invariably conflates the distinct legal doctrines of “stand-your-ground” and “self-defense immunity” it’s impossible to know whether the paragraph’s initial reference to “The law” applies to one or the other.

But it doesn’t matter. Why? Because neither “stand-your-ground” nor “self-defense immunity” were relevant in the case of George Zimmerman.

In the context of “stand-your-ground,” at the moment Zimmerman fired the fatal shot into Trayvon Martin, Martin had Zimmerman pinned to the ground (as testified to at trial by eye witnesses), and Zimmerman had no viable means of retreat while being subject to Martin’s sustained “ground-and-pound” beating.

In the context of “self-defense immunity,” Zimmerman never sought self-defense immunity, so it was never on the table, and so was never relevant in this case. Although Zimmerman had the privilege to seek self-defense immunity, his legal counsel (correctly) concluded that the hyper-politicization of the case would make a fair and just hearing impossible, thus making the effort pointless.

Next, we get to as biased a source of information on any of these cases as could be imagined: Attorney Benjamin Crump, a leading member of what I’ve come to refer to as the racial grievance industrial complex that profits enormously from fostering an atmosphere of racial hatred and division in America.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented both Martin and McGlockton, told CNN last year that the two cases had similarities.

Drejka was “the initial aggressor” and was acting as a “self-appointed cop wannabe” in hounding McGlockton’s girlfriend about the parking space, even as she had two young children in the car with her, he told CNN.

“We have to remember this is a strange man who approaches a mother in the car with her two toddlers in the back seat,” Crump said last year.

In fact, the cases of Drejka and Zimmerman have virtually no similarities. Drejka initiated a verbal chastisement of McGlockton’s girlfriend. Even that is not sufficient to justify the physical attack by McGlockton but it is still far more than Zimmerman ever did.

In contrast, Zimmerman’s conduct was limited to what he had been trained to do by the local police who trained him as a Neighborhood Watch participant—“if you see something suspicious, call this number”—and in response to an apparent request for information from the police dispatcher with whom Zimmerman was communicating—“where did [Trayvon Martin] run to?”

Further, at Zimmerman’s trial there was considerable evidence of Martin confronting Zimmerman, but none of Zimmerman confronting Martin. (Note: Mere observation, especially under law enforcement instruction and guidance while on the phone with police, is not “confronting.”)

Then we get more explicit lies from Crump himself:

Crump said the “stand your ground” law was troubling for many people of color.

While it’s true that “stand-your-ground” is “troubling for many people of color,” the only reason this is so is because people like Crump lie about what “stand-your-ground” is. In fact, people of color, by far the most common victims of violent crime on a per capita basis, are frequent beneficiaries of “stand-your-ground,” as they defend themselves against these violent crimes.

What kind of lies is Crump telling to foster this false understanding of “stand-your-ground,” you might ask? Well, ask and you shall receive:

“(The law says) that you can pick a confrontation. You can be the initial aggressor. You kill the unarmed black person. And then you say, ‘Oh, it was self-defense. I was standing my ground.’ And you get to go home and sleep in your bed at night,” he said.

No. “Stand-you-ground” merely relieves an otherwise lawful defender from a legal duty to retreat before they can defend themselves. It explicitly does not allow a person to “pick a confrontation.” It also explicitly does not allow someone to be the “initial aggressor” (meaning, of course, physical aggressor in the context of physical violence) and justify that aggression as self-defense.

It also goes without saying that “stand-your-ground” does not privilege white people to simply go around killing unarmed black people, and then escape accountability. Zimmerman, for example, was prosecuted for second-degree murder (and many other charges) … and acquitted by an unanimous jury. That’s not escaping accountability, it is accountability—that’s the system working. (Except, of course, that a properly working system would never have charged Zimmerman in the first case, but that’s a story I’ve already told many times elsewhere.)

Similarly, Drejka is being tried for manslaughter. That also is not escaping accountability. That’s being held accountable.  It’s the system working.

As for “going home to sleep in your bed at night,” this has become a phrase of which Benjamin Crump is particularly fond. The narrative he’s trying to portray is that white people can unlawfully kill unarmed black people with impunity, put that black person in the ground, and then go home to sleep in their own beds.

Sounds horrible, and it would be horrible if it were true. But of course, it’s not.

The truth is that the only circumstance in which anyone who kills anyone is allowed to go home and sleep in their own bed is where there is an utter lack of probable cause that the person has committed a crime–otherwise they’d be arrested. The fact that they’ve shot and killed someone does not by itself mean they’ve committed a crime—not if they were defending themselves against an imminent, unprovoked deadly attack.

Indeed, why shouldn’t a person who has lawfully defended themselves against an unlawful attack be allowed to go home to their own bed? They’ve literally done nothing unlawful. The world Crump is advocating—that, say, a prospective rape victim who fights off her rapist with deadly outcome for the rapist should then also be subject to a night in a jail cell—is a monstrous world.

In any case, the only reason in a use of force event that the police might conclude there was not probable cause for an arrest is where the person who used force stayed around the scene to explain the lawful justification for that use of force. That means the person has self-identified to the police, provided identification, made himself findable. Should the police later change their minds and decide that an arrest is warranted, they know where to find the person.

Just exactly as they did when they changed their mind and decided to arrest Drejka. Was Drejka hard to find and arrest? No. They knew where he was, and the arrest was made. Easy-peasy.

The rest of the news report goes into matters of Drejka’s character, including allegations that he has previously threatened other people under circumstances similar to this case. It seems likely these prior instances are relevant to this case, and of course these claims will now be subject to challenge and cross-examination in the court room (unlike in the media) and also subject to explanation and context by Drejka, should he choose to take the witness stand (which I expect he ought to do).

As I’ve said from the start, I believe a reasonable jury could go either way on this, as the evidence is now known. Of course, that could change based on how the evidence morphs when subject to the adversarial setting of a courtroom.

We will see what we see. Jury selection begins today for Drejka’s trial. Drejka should pray that his legal team is as effective at identifying and excluding viciously-biased and maliciously-intended prospective jurors as was Zimmerman’s legal team.

Law of Self Defense LIVE ONLINE Class, August 24

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–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
Law of Self Defense CONSULT Program

 
 
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