Hot Topics in Business Law

Sep 3, 2019 |

Article 1: “Michael Drejka, Who Invoked ‘Stand Your Ground’ Defense in Shooting of Unarmed Man, Guilty of Manslaughter”

According to the article, a Florida jury deliberated for just six hours before finding a man guilty of manslaughter in the 2018 killing of an unarmed father he shot in front of his family in a dispute over a handicap parking space.
Michael Drejka had argued he acted in self-defense, and initially invoked the controversial “stand your ground” law that earned widespread attention during the trial of Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2013 killing of African American teenager Trayvon Martin.

The jury in the Drejka trial came to its guilty decision recently after less than a full day of deliberation.

Drejka showed no emotion in court as the verdict was read. He will return to court for sentencing on October 10.

Just hours after gunning down Markeis McGlockton, Drejka told detectives he opened fire on July 19, 2018, when the unarmed man shoved him to the ground outside a Circle A store in Clearwater and took one step toward him, a scenario the jury apparently rejected after viewing security video multiple times that showed the victim step back when he saw Drejka pull a firearm.

“We are incredibly grateful and thankful to the prosecution,” McGlockton family attorney Michelle Rayner said following the verdict. “We are grateful to the jurors of this case that they saw what we saw and I’m so proud and honored to stand here with Markeis’ family. It has been the honor of my life.”

Benjamin Crump, another attorney representing the McGlockton family, alleged that race played a role in the fatal shooting of the a 28-year-old African American. “Markeis McGlockton was needlessly and wrongfully killed by this parking lot vigilante,” Crump said in a statement. “The jury in this case sent a crystal-clear message – violent racism has no place in American society. Today’s verdict marks a victory over stand your ground.”

Bryant Camareno, an attorney for Drejka, who is white, told the jury during his opening statement that the case was “not about race” and prosecutors did not present evidence to the contrary.

Drejka, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon when he shot McGlockton, initially invoked Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” self-defense law, which went into effect in 2005. It allowed people to use lethal force if they consider their lives to be in imminent jeopardy.

But Drejka and his attorneys scrapped that argument in favor of a plain self-defense case.

The verdict came a day after prosecutors played the jury a video of the lengthy interrogation of Drejka by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office detectives.

“What’s going through my mind is he’s coming after me again. I was thinking he’s going to finish what he started,” Drejka told detectives just hours after the shooting, according to the interrogation video.

McGlockton’s father, Michael, said the guilty verdict provided relief to his family and gave them a measure of justice and closure on the tragedy, which prompted several community protests before Bernie McCabe, the state attorney for Pinellas County, announced his decision on Aug. 14 to charge Drejka with manslaughter.

“It’s been well over a year since we’ve been dealing with this matter and I can safely say my family can rest now,” Michael McGlockton said Friday. “Now we can start putting the pieces back together and move on.”

Drejka told detectives that after the victim “blindsided me out of nowhere” and “tackled” him to the ground outside the Circle A store, he drew his Glock pistol from his holster as McGlockton took a step toward him.

“He barely took the second step before I pulled the trigger,” Drejka told detectives George Moffett and Richard Redman, according to the video.

He said that from his position on the ground, he never saw McGlockton’s face or hands before he fired.

“I could see his legs. I know he was a black guy, that’s all,” he told the detectives, according to the video.

He said McGlockton never said a word to him and he didn’t say anything to him before he shot him. “If he hadn’t twitched, I would have never pulled the trigger,” Drejka had said. “The feet said he was coming toward me and so did the hips.”

Video footage from a security camera in front of the Circle A that captured the July 19, 2018, fatal shooting appears to contradict what Drejka told the detectives.

The security video played multiple times for the six-member jury showed Drejka apparently arguing with McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, over why she was parked in a handicap space when McGlockton came out of the store and shoved Drejka to the ground. In a split second, Drejka pulled his gun and fired as McGlockton seemed to be stepping away from McGlockton, according to the security video.

During the interrogation, which Drejka submitted to after waiving his Miranda rights to remain silent, Det. Moffett challenged Drejka’s recollection of how the shooting transpired.

“What if I tell you I looked at the video and he took a step back?” Moffett asked Drejka. Drejka responded, “I’d disagree.”

During the interrogation, which occurred almost six hours after the shooting, Drejka explained that he has a “pet peeve” about people parking in handicap spaces despite not being disabled himself. He said that when he saw Jacobs sitting in a car in the handicap space, he examined the front and rear of her car to see if it had a disabled person parking permit.

“I said, ‘It’s not very polite to park there when there’s other people that need to use this,'” Drejka said he told Jacobs, according to the interrogation video. ”She says, ‘Is it affecting you directly?’ I said, ‘If my mother-in-law rolls in, yes it will.'”

Jacobs testified that Drejka was yelling and cursing at her for parking in the handicapped spot. She said she was inside the car with her two younger children, an infant and a 3-year-old, and that Drejka “scared” her.

“He was more angry and aggressive. He was yelling and pointing and telling me where I should park,” Jacobs testified. “I just wanted this man to leave me alone, just leave me and my babies alone.”

During the interrogation, Moffett asked Drejka why he didn’t call law enforcement when he saw Jacobs in the handicap spot.

“Wouldn’t you think it would be better instead of putting yourself in that type of circumstance that could escalate?” he asked.

Drejka responded, “Why bother you with stupid things like that?” He said by the time law enforcement arrived, the person he complained about would have already left the scene, adding, “They always do.”

“When I just say something to a person about being parked there, I don’t expect it to go where it went,” Drejka told the detectives.

Moffett pressed him, asking if he was concerned about prompting a violent confrontation when he previously complained about people parking in handicap spaces.

Drejka answered, “That’s why I take precautions. I’m a very careful person. I have a (concealed weapon) permit.”

Near the end of the interrogation, Moffett informed Drejka that McGlockton had died.

“Thanks for telling me,” Drejka said.

Note: In addition to the article, please see the video included at the above-referenced internet address.

Discussion Questions

1. Describe Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

As the article indicates, Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which went into effect in 2005, is a law that recognizes the right of self-defense. It allows people to use lethal force if they consider their lives to be in imminent jeopardy.

2. How, if at all, is Florida’s “stand your ground” law distinguishable from self-defense?

Although self-defense allows an individual to counter the aggression of others, even if such defense requires the use of lethal force, the traditional interpretation of self-defense includes an obligation of retreat if it is feasible. Florida’s “stand your ground” law does not include an obligation of retreat, even if retreat is possible.

3. In your reasoned opinion, properly exercise his “stand your ground” right? Did he properly exercise self-defense? Explain your response.

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. As indicated in the article, video footage from a security camera in front of the convenience store that captured the fatal shooting appears to contradict what the defendant, Michael Drejka, told detectives.

Article 2: “Ex-VA Doctor Who Was Fired for Being Drunk on Job Charged with Manslaughter in 3 Veterans’ Deaths”

According to the article, a former Veterans Affairs pathologist fired for being intoxicated on the job was charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with “incorrect and misleading diagnoses” he made, federal prosecutors in Arkansas said recently.

Robert Morris Levy was indicted by a federal grand jury and faces additional charges of fraud and making false statements. Prosecutors said he was in custody.

Levy not only lied about his alcohol use and manipulated mandatory alcohol and drug tests, but he also falsified patient records that ultimately caused the veterans’ deaths, a federal investigation found.

“These charges send a clear signal that anyone entrusted with the care of veterans will be held accountable for placing them at risk by working while impaired or through other misconduct,” VA inspector general Michael Missal said in statement.

For three patients, Levy entered “incorrect and misleading diagnoses,” and in two of those cases, he falsely stated that a second pathologist confirmed a diagnosis he had made, investigators said.Levy worked as the chief of pathology at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, a VA hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from 2005 until he was fired in 2018.

Levy pleaded not guilty at a hearing recently and had not obtained counsel to represent him, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said an administrative review began in 2015 after Levy was accused of being drunk on the job, which he denied. In 2016, a drug test found that Levy was at work with alcohol in his system, which he acknowledged.

Levy was removed from work and entered a rehab program. When the program ended, he agreed to abstain from alcohol and take random drug screenings in order to return to the VA hospital, prosecutors said.

However, investigators found that in June 2017, Levy began using 2-methyl-2-butanol (2M-2B), which “enables a person to achieve a state of intoxication but is not detectable in routine drug and alcohol testing methodology,” prosecutors said.
He used the chemical 12 times and hid it from the VA hospital, prosecutors said. He faces up to 524 years in prison and $7.75 million in fines.

Discussion Questions

1. Define involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is usually defined as the unlawful killing of another human being without malice aforethought. It does not involve intent; instead, it involves criminal negligence or recklessness resulting in the death of another human being.

2. What is a grand jury indictment?

A grand jury is typically convened to consider evidence to determine whether the prosecution should pursue charges against a criminal suspect. If the grand jury supports indictment, that is an indication that the prosecution’s evidence supports the belief that the defendant committed a crime. 

3. Is the VA potentially liable for the deaths that resulted in this case? Why or why not?

Negligence in hiring and negligent retention are tort theories that support a defendant employer’s liability for the wrongful action(s) of the defendant employee. The ultimate question in terms of employer liability in such a case is whether the defendant employer: a) failed to satisfy a duty of care owed to patients when it hired the defendant employee; and/or 2) failed to satisfy a duty of care owed to patients by allowing the defendant employee to remain employed. These are fact-specific questions that are within the province of the jury to answer.

Article 3: “Florida Bosses Told Puerto Rican Medical Staffers: Speak English or Be Fired, Workers Say”Article 3: “Florida Bosses Told Puerto Rican Medical Staffers: Speak English or Be Fired, Workers Say”

According to the article, seven Puerto Rican health care workers say supervisors at a Florida government-run clinic warned them to stop speaking Spanish among themselves or they would get fired.

The women work at the Florida Health Department clinic in Haines City.

A recent statement from the community group La Mesa Boricua de Florida says the group filed a human resources complaint and wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Health.

The workers say the job required they be bilingual because of the Hispanic patients.

Nurse Mairyli Miranda says she and her coworkers speak in English with non-Spanish-speaking patients and staff but choose their native language to talk to one another.

The health department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states English-only rules may violate federal laws unless they are “justified by business necessity.”

Discussion Questions

1. Explain how, if at all, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to this case.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is landmark federal legislation prohibiting workplace discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, culture, or religion. In the subject case, the question is whether the defendant employer discriminated based on race, national origin or culture if it threatened to fire workers should they continue to speak Spanish among themselves.

2. Are there any circumstances that would legally justify an “English-only” workplace communication rule?

Obviously, an employer can require its employees to communicate in English with co-workers, customers, suppliers, etc. if such communication is necessary. A blanket “English-only” workplace rule, however, does not recognize the fact that in some instances, communication in English might not be necessary for the normal performance of a particular job, or the success of the organization as a whole. For example, if two workers who speak Spanish as their primary language choose to speak Spanish while on break, how would that in any way detract from the performance of their jobs, or the overall success of the organization?

3. In the context of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, define “business necessity.”

Business necessity is a potential defense to a Civil Rights Act discrimination claim. It is an act or a requirement reasonably necessary for the performance of a particular job, or the success of the organization as a whole. For example, hiring a female actress to perform a female lead role in a major motion picture would be an example of business necessity; hiring a female-only flight attendant staff, however, would not be a business necessity.