A mistrial has been officially declared in the shooting hate crime murder trial of Lawrence “Larry” King, who was killed by his classmate, now 17-year old Brandon McInerney at the E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California in 2008. Judge Charles Campbell declared the mistrial after jurors, who had been deliberating since Friday, said jurors were unable to reach a verdict.
McInerney was on trial as an adult for hate crime charges of first-degree murder but were given the option of ruling the murder voluntary manslaughter. Murder charges could have put McInerney behind bars for the rest of his life, and voluntary manslaughter conviction would put him in jail for up to 21 years. Prosecutors have yet to announce whether or not they will re-try the case. The case had lasted nine weeks, including eight weeks of testimony.
McInerney’s defense team attempted a “gay panic” defense, despite a 2006 California law, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act, that “amend[ed] jury instructions to state that the use of societal bias, including so-called “panic strategies,” to influence the proceedings of a criminal trial is not permitted.”
“The mistrial declared today is hardly a surprise,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said in a statement. “This was always destined to be a case with little resolution and no winners, whatever the verdict. The central facts remain the same: homophobia killed Larry King and destroyed Brandon McInerney’s life, and adults failed both young men because of their own inability to deal forthrightly and compassionately with the multiple challenges they each faced. The jury’s indecision is a sad reflection of our collective inability to find common ground and invest in a better future for all youth and a culture of respect for all.” (Emphasis mine.)
“Score another victory for blame-the-victim gay-panic defense strategy,” wrote Teddy Partridge at Firedoglake tonight, adding, “Because, you know, wearing makeup and girl’s boots means you deserve two bullets in the back of your head, point-blank range,” and concluding, “If every parentally abused child killed a gay kid, we wouldn’t have any gay kids left on the planet. Plenty of people overcome parental abuse; their struggle shouldn’t be degraded by allowing a murder defendant use it to justify what he did to Larry King.”
A 2008 Newsweek article described the tragedy:
At 15, Lawrence King was small—5 feet 1 inch—but very hard to miss. In January, he started to show up for class at Oxnard, Calif.’s E. O. Green Junior High School decked out in women’s accessories. On some days, he would slick up his curly hair in a Prince-like bouffant. Sometimes he’d paint his fingernails hot pink and dab glitter or white foundation on his cheeks. “He wore makeup better than I did,” says Marissa Moreno, 13, one of his classmates. He bought a pair of stilettos at Target, and he couldn’t have been prouder if he had on a varsity football jersey. He thought nothing of chasing the boys around the school in them, teetering as he ran.
But on the morning of Feb. 12, Larry left his glitter and his heels at home. He came to school dressed like any other boy: tennis shoes, baggy pants, a loose sweater over a collared shirt. He seemed unhappy about something. He hadn’t slept much the night before, and he told one school employee that he threw up his breakfast that morning, which he sometimes did because he obsessed over his weight. But this was different. One student noticed that as Larry walked across the quad, he kept looking back nervously over his shoulder before he slipped into his first-period English class. The teacher, Dawn Boldrin, told the students to collect their belongings, and then marched them to a nearby computer lab, so they could type out their papers on World War II. Larry found a seat in the middle of the room. Behind him, Brandon McInerney pulled up a chair.
Brandon, 14, wasn’t working on his paper, because he told Mrs. Boldrin he’d finished it. Instead, he opened a history book and started to read. Or at least he pretended to. “He kept looking over at Larry,” says a student who was in the class that morning. “He’d look at the book and look at Larry, and look at the book and look at Larry.” At 8:30 a.m., a half hour into class, Brandon quietly stood up. Then, without anyone’s noticing, he removed a handgun that he had somehow sneaked to school, aimed it at Larry’s head, and fired a single shot. Boldrin, who was across the room looking at another student’s work, spun around. “Brandon, what the hell are you doing!” she screamed. Brandon fired at Larry a second time, tossed the gun on the ground and calmly walked through the classroom door. Police arrested him within seven minutes, a few blocks from school. Larry was rushed to the hospital, where he died two days later of brain injuries.
The Larry King shooting became the most prominent gay-bias crime since the murder of Matthew Shepard 10 years ago. But despite all the attention and outrage, the reason Larry died isn’t as clear-cut as many people think. California’s Supreme Court has just legalized gay marriage. There are gay characters on popular TV shows such as “Gossip Girl” and “Ugly Betty,” and no one seems to notice. Kids like Larry are so comfortable with the concept of being openly gay that they are coming out younger and younger. One study found that the average age when kids self-identify as gay has tumbled to 13.4; their parents usually find out a year later.
Many thanks to Dave Evans of SuchIsLifeVideos for this clip.
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