LARGO – Almost 100 people settled in a cavernous courtroom on Monday and pushed themselves onto the rows of wooden benches.
They sat opposite a group of lawyers – prosecutors, defense lawyers, a judge. But Michael Drejka wore a gray jacket, a blue button and a silver tie. He faced peers, some of whom may decide to release him in a few weeks, or to go to jail for up to 30 years.
There is no doubt that Drejka, 49, fired the shot of the 28-mark McGlockton in July 2018. The question is, as Pinellas Pasco judge Joseph Bulone told prospective jurors if he pulled the trigger, to defend oneself rightfully, or to commit a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
: Live Blog, Day 1
Drejkas manslaughter process began with the jury's tedious selection. Judge Bulone and lawyers for Drejka and the state overwhelmed the jury with questions about their confidence in the prosecution and possible difficulties that would prevent them from serving. The bulk of the process took place in the afternoon, when the potential jurors came forward to discuss what they knew about the case and whether it would be fair and impartial.
The morning started with about 90 people, from people between the ages of 20 and older. The pool seemed mostly white with a few colored people, a notable observation in a case that aroused racial tensions from the beginning. Drejka is white. McGlockton was black and unarmed.
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At the end of the day the pool was halved. The magic number is six plus up to four alternatives. Florida has only 12-member juries in capital cases.
The court ordered 200 more on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Bulone said he thinks they could get a jury from the group on Monday by the end of Tuesday.
The morning on which potential jurors participated was past opinions on law enforcement. Out of the pool came some who said that their positive or negative feelings were so strong that they could not separate them when judging the testimony of a policeman. Several jurors were excused because they do not speak English well.
Another 20 were cut after sharing personal or professional conflicts that prevented them from focusing on the process, including a woman planning to visit a relative with terminal lung cancer, a primary school teacher who is currently taking care of her School year begins, and a man who moves to Tennessee to work on a hemp farm.
Judge Bulone, who begins teaching at the University of South Florida next week, said, "What's better opportunity for learning than this?"
She was excused.
The pace slowed after lunch when Bulone asked the remaining pool members what they knew about the case. It turned out that only about a dozen of the remaining 60 potential jurors raised their hands.
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it seemed more. The thread between them was a surveillance video that recorded the entire chain of events: Drejka arguing with McGlockton's girlfriend, McGlockton bumping Drejka to the ground, Drejka pulling his .40-caliber Glock and firing once at McGlockton.
"What we want to do" Sure, "said the judge at the beginning," is that you did not choose to watch the video and that you would listen to the other statements and evidence. "
Nonetheless the video Some in the pool had a rare opportunity to put themselves in Drejka's place, like a woman who said she saw it on social media.
she said and fell silent.
She made it clear It could not understand acting in this situation for self-defense, but it is not a firm opinion, she said.
Political views, especially on self-defense and weapons, also came into the mix He said he did not know much about the case but was generally opposed to the Second Amendment.
He would do his best to be a fair and impartial juror, he said, but "it will always come e kind of unconscious bias. "
The judge and lawyers on each side beat 14 people for obvious bias.
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