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The Scapegoating of Brandon McInerney

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Jim Burroway

July 25th, 2008

Brandon McInerneyVentura County Superior Court Judge Douglas Daily ruled yesterday that Brandon McInerney, the 14-year-old who shot and killed Lawrence King at school in February and was charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime, can be tried as an adult.

McInerney’s lawyer, William Quest, along with a large coalition of gay groups, had urged the court to try McInerney as a juvenile. That coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Equality California, Gay Straight Alliance Network, Lambda Legal, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Transgender Law Center.

I know this is a controversial, but I see no purpose this ruling serves. There has already been one tragedy — Larry’s life is over — and there will soon be another. What this court and district attorney is doing setting the stage for a 14-year-old with no prior record to spend the next 50 years in prison. If this path reaches its logical conclusion, two lives will be over.

Do we really think that solves anything?

California only recently passed a comprehensive anti-bullying measure to specifically protect LGBT students in the schools. The ink on that law was barely dry when King was shot, and it’s unclear how much, if any, the curriculum had been revised or programs put into place to comply with that law. And I have yet to have heard any specific steps that the schools in Ventura County may have taken to instruct their students about bullying sexual minority children specifically.

Just a few weeks ago, we saw an anti-bullying law killed in North Carolina because it listed sexual orientation as a reason schoolchildren might be targets of bullying. Notice the clause that started the controversy: sexual orientation. It wasn’t race, religion, or abilities that sparked the controversy. It was because sexual orientation was specified that the bill was killed, and opponents to that bill were vocally proud of having killed it for that very reason.

And that specificity is important. You can tell kids that it’s not okay to beat up Black kids, or kids who speak a different language, or kids who are disabled, or who kids who follow a different religion, and they can understand that. And they can certainly hear it loud and clear when measures to protect LGBT kids are shot down because we don’t want to “approve” of some people. We’ve even seen so-called “experts” extolled the value of teasing and tormenting LGBT kids.

So just saying “don’t bully” isn’t enough. As any parent will tell you, teens and pre-teens are preeminent experts at exploiting loopholes. A huge, gaping loophole of being a sissy – that is all the “permission” some kids need. Especially one whose home environment, like Brandon’s, may have taught him that violence is a way to solve problems. Brandon’s own father had been convicted of shooting his mother in the arm just before he was born.

There’s no information to suggest that Brandon and Larry’s teachers or school administrators did anything to calm this particular situation. And there’s certainly no indication that Brandon received any appropriate guidance from his parents. And all we have to do is look in the newspapers to see plenty of other examples where other “responsible” adults, by their silence as well as their rhetoric, give a signal that kids like Brandon can take as a green light.

We asked last February where the voice of the Church was concerning Lawrence King’s death, but we’ve heard nothing but silence. We’ve searched for Lawrence King’s name on Focus On the Family’s web site and CitizenLink. Guess what? There’s nothing but silence. Look at the Family Research Council’s web site. More silence. Same with American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, the Christian Post, Christianity Today, the Christian Newswire and the Baptist Press. Nobody has raised their voice. Instead, we’ve had months of silence.

We know how easy it is for kids to pick up the idea that if something isn’t prohibited, then it is implicitly permitted. How many other kids are being influenced by the roaring silence coming from the so-called “values” bunch in the wake of Larry’s murder?

In the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, a goat was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The goat was meant to carry the sins of the people out of the city. And being sent off alone into the desert full of wolves and other wild animals without the protection of the herd, the goat’s fate was sealed. That goat was later translated as the “(e)scape goat,” or scapegoat.

We are about to send 14-year-old Brandon McInerney into the wilderness of the California penal system. McInerney committed a horrific crime, one that cannot go unpunished. But that young teen also cannot be expected to carry the sins of those who, by their silence and their rhetoric, have given the tacit green light over and over. He cannot atone for their sins.

Gay kids aren’t the only victims when the adults around them fail to do the right thing. Larry King’s live was already snuffed out far too early. Destroying another one won’t solve the problem, nor will it absolve the guilt of those who allow the bullying to continue.

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Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

I think the thought of this murderer being tried as a juvenile and getting set free when he’s 21 is downright scary. 50 years is a pretty harsh sentence, the U.S. justice system would be well advised to impose a 25 year sentence for murder as we do in Canada – I’ve never heard of a Canadian murderer reoffending after release. After 25 years he would be rightfully punished but still young enough to have learned his lesson and have a life.

Dan
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Of COURSE it’s the right thing to do, Jim. This isn’t some small time, petty crime like stealing gum or spray painting WEINER on the side of a building. This was a very /adult/ crime, motivated by very /adult/ biases.

Why is there this culture in our country today that somehow people aren’t responsible for their own actions anymore?

Ignore our weak-kneed brothers and sisters and let him stand trial.

**Remember, Jim, he didn’t steal gum. No, he took someone else’s life away from them.**

Sportin\' Life
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Do we really think that solves anything?

Well, it puts a known killer somewhere where he’s not able to hurt anyone else. Isn’t that a good thing? Rather than a sin and atonement framework, maybe straightforward consideration of public safety is the way to look at things.

Michelle
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Perhaps the question of Brandon’s incarceration and the question of who else might be responsible are two separate questions.

We live in a society that can’t agree on whether people should get what they need or what they deserve, so neither question is likely to be answered easily or without outrage from some sector.

I appreciate your thoughts, Jim.

Jim Burroway
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Priya Lynnm,

In California, a juvenile can be held until he reaches the age of 25. For Brandon, that would be 40% of his life by then. I don’t know what provisions there are beyond that. In many states, a juvenile can be transfered to an adult prison for longer terms, but still sentenced under juvenile codes.

Dan,

Nowhere did I say that he shouldn’t be punished. In fact, I explicitely said he should be punished for the crime that he was certainly responsible for. Let’s not turn this into an argument that I didn’t make.

But trying juveniles as adults was intended to be used against those who have a long history of prior run-ins with the law, and have shown themselves to be, essentially, unredeemable. McInerney’s crime is absolutely horrendous — murder is the crime that tops all crimes. But this isn’t a gang member or hardened criminal we’re talking about here.

And as for your assertion that he acted on “adult” biases, well I don’t think the case was made in this particular instance. This wasn’t an adult, so his biases were those of a 14-year-old. But he sure picked up some biases from the adults around him. And that is exactly the point I’m getting at.

But if we just put him away for the rest of his life and pretend that justice was served, then we’re really deluding ourselves. There are a lot of people responsible, directly or indirectly, for what happened to Larry. And we must never make the mistake of believing that essentially ending Brandon’s life will in any way make up for that. If we really want these crimes to end, incarcerating Brandon ’til the day he dies won’t make anyone any safer.

dana
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

i cannot understand how sending a fourteen year old boy to prison until he is 65 will do anyone justice. Yes, he should be punished, but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

And i cannot believe that anyone could ever get peace of mind while knowing that a fourteen year old boy is spending 50 years to life in prison for something that so many other people could shoulder part of the blame for. It scares me to think that our justice system thinks that nothing else but ruining another boys life will make everything better.

L. Junius Brutus
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

“If this path reaches its logical conclusion, two lives will be over.

Do we really think that solves anything?”

His life was over the moment he pulled the trigger. No one forced him, he sealed his own fate by shooting another boy in the back of his head.

As for solving anything, it solves what putting criminals behind bars solves. Punishment and deterrence.

First and foremost, what he did must be punished. if I knocked a tooth out of someone’s mouth, I doubt that he would be satisfied if I promised not to do it again. For that reason, the idea that he might not commit a similar act (which is by no means a certainty) is not a sufficient justification for letting him off easy.

Second, deterrence. Already, many people know that you can terrorize and kill gay people and get away with it. I was looking at a New York Times article just recently (from the late 80s), where a few teenage boys who killed two gay men were given 10 or 20 years in prison. Another good example is the killing of Harvey Milk. Your argument is that because the ‘pro-family’ crowd has been hating on us for generations, his sentence should be lessened. However, is that not a de facto argument for treating anti-gay crimes (at least, when they are committed by young people) differently than others, by punishing the offenders less severely?

I sympathize with your idea that the hatemongers are ultimately responsible for this crime. However, this does not absolve Brandon from responsibility. If they loaded the gun, he fired it. He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and I hope that he never inhales a free breath again.

L. Junius Brutus
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

“i cannot understand how sending a fourteen year old boy to prison until he is 65 will do anyone justice. ”

How about the victim? He’s *dead*. Almost certainly, this murderous punk will live longer than the victim did, that is more than he deserves.

This excessive concern for murderers and other criminals is one of the things that bothers me. Let your heart bleed for those who deserve it, not those who have worked diligently to earn a decent man’s scorn.

Patrick ONeill
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

I agree that trying a 14 year old as an adult is a disgrace – one that the Scalia court has approved and the rest of the civilized world regards with horror.

I’m a little uncomfortable with singling out this case and letting all of the other 14 year olds pass by though – i’m not sure what kind if message that sends, if you know what I mean.

As for where the churches are – if you check private conversations or comment threads on christian sites, you will find a strong narrative that Brandon was just “defending himself from an aggressive homosexual predator, as well as some more extreme claims that he is a hero or a martyr.

Patrick ONeill
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

One more thing about where the churches are – we always think of the fundies but opposition to the anti-discrimination law also came from the Catholic church and they hold more sway, as I’m afraid we are going to find out here in November

“One of the problems with SB 777 is that it would actually promote another kind of discrimination – -against people who understand marriage to be the foundation of family, the first and foremost unit of society. It would subject children to discrimination if they held differing views based on rational arguments, sometimes informed by faith. Similarly, parents holding those views could be subjected to ridicule, discrimination, and social ostracism. Finally, inculcating children with beliefs contrary to their parents’ beliefs on the nature and value of marriage and stigmatizing those beliefs as discriminatory may result in actually turning children against their own parents.”

Catholics for the common good

http://www.ccgaction.org/index.php?q=family/education/ca/sb777

“What Did The Catholic Church Do To Stop SB 777?

The California Catholic Conference (CCC), plus many other groups in support of traditional family values, lobbied against SB 777 pointing out that it was an unnecessary revision because discrimination against individuals on the basis of sex, gender, and sexual orientation is already illegal. In addition, we cautioned that the vague language of the bill and the expansion of the list would introduce confusion and chaos into law. In addition, the CCC distributed a statewide alert urging Catholics to call the Governor’s office and ask for his veto on SB 777.”

California Catholic Conference

http://www.cacatholic.org/legislature/major–significant-legislation/information-sheet-on-sb-777.html

Tavdy
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

In addition to punishment and public protection, criminal sentences should act as a deterrent against crime. So one important question to consider is whether or not a juvenile court can pass a sentence severe enough to deter others from committing murder. If juvenile courts cannot, the killer must be tried as an adult – otherwise teenagers will see murder as something they can commit without suffering any serious consequences.

woulfe
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Thanks for your principled and (dare i say?) christian stand on this, Jim. I agree with you entirely, and would even go so far as to say that trying a fourteen-year-old as an adult is a greater act of barbarism than the crime he is accused of.

We become less than human when we allow ourselves to been driven by a base need for vengeance.

cany
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Jim, I think your message is right and important.

Regan DuCasse
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Hi Jim,
There have been several good points made here. The overiding purpose this ruling (and conviction) would serve is that a dangerous person IS off the streets for a long, long time (he’s not being executed) and the value of Larry King’s life would be intact. McInerney DID have a record of bullying and specifically targeting Larry over several months.

McInerny’s parents will have to look THEIR son in the face and understand THEIR culpability in this as well. And least they STILL can talk to him, help him with support in and out, MUCH more than Lawrence’s family has.
And juveniles DON’T have any sense of risk to themselves when committing such crimes. They are well aware that a juvenile court and conviction won’t carry nearly the consequences they deserve.

Young gang members are conscripted with this very thing in mind by adults.
I’m sick of organizations that allow the stumps in society to do their dirty work for them.

They know the trash, the marginal people commit the crimes, then say they don’t condone it after the fact.
And all the while fighting hate crimes laws, knowing full well that justice is rarely served properly when gay people are assaulted.

No, the ruling is proper…and necessary. Many fourteen year olds AREN’T as innocent or incapable as we’d LIKE to think.
McInerny had stoked a long held hostility towards Lawrence King. He wasn’t expelled for his bullying. His parents did nothing.
McInerny had the skill to load the gun, sneak it into school and shoot someone in full view of many witnesses. This kid clearly didn’t care, and he wasn’t compelled to care.
We should never let juveniles get away with what is completely criminal in the adult world.
Especially not murder. McInerny is lucky enough that his youth keeps him from a death sentence. So what if he serves fifty years?
If you’re concerned about redemption, he can make himself and exemplary and contributing PRISONER.
There is no reason whatsoever to release him.

L. Junius Brutus
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

“I agree with you entirely, and would even go so far as to say that trying a fourteen-year-old as an adult is a greater act of barbarism than the crime he is accused of.”

That is sheer insanity. Good people trying to lock up a vicious, evil teenager who had no qualms about shooting another person in the back of the head are WORSE than the vicious, evil murderer? This is the apex of faux sophistication.

Timothy Kincaid
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

I was not calling for an adult trial. But I’m not overly upset that McInerney will be tried as an adult.

I am disturbed at the idea of sentencing a 14 year old as though he were 34. At 14 he’s still a little boy.

But I am also disturbed that the one thing I’ve been waiting to hear in this case has yet to make it to my ears. I’ve not heard remorse.

What I have heard is a defense attorney relentlessly blaming the victim. And I’ve heard the defense attorney blaming the school. And a Newsweek article (that read like a defense plea) blaming a lesbian assistant principal. I’ve heard, in essence, “blame everyone else, I’m entitled to shoot boys who wear high heel shoes and who ask me to be their Valentine”.

I guess I expected McInerney to respond like a child over his actions. I thought that crying or breaking down was more natural than calmly walking out of the classroom and showing no emotional response.

I’m guessing that perhaps the lack of remorse and the lack of responsibility may be playing into the prosecution’s decision to go for an adult trial. But of course, I don’t really know their reasons.

I am not replying here out of some sense of vengeance. Nor am I hoping that McInerney lives the rest of his life in prison.

But just because he’s tried as an adult does not at all suggest that he will be sentenced for 50 years. That is, I think, a bit of hyperbole. The jury and judge can give a sentence that is appropriate for the crime.

And I share Jim’s hope that McInerney’s trial will not result in a sense of completion for those who smugly are ignoring their own participation in this tragedy. This issue isn’t over. More children will die and more children will kill and it’s beyond time that the adults start accepting the fact that this situation is the result of the society in which they are raising both the Larrys and the Brandons of this world.

Mombian » Blog Archive » Weekly Political Update
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

[...] Brandon McInerney, the 14-year-old who shot and killed fellow student Lawrence King in Oxnard, CA, will be tried as an adult, a judge ruled, despite the fact that even LGBT activists say he should be tried as a juvenile. Jim at Box Turtle Bulletin has a good post on this, too. [...]

gordo
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Only recently in western culture is 14 considered a little boy.

L. C. Burgundy
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

14 years old is very much old enough to know that to murder another person is pretty much the worst thing you could possibly do, ever, period. If he does not realize that at age 14, he is sociopathic and an even graver danger to society.

I’m sorry Jim, but trying him as a juvenile and him getting out at age 25 would be the grossest injustice of them all. Sure, it’s sad that a 14-year old will spend almost all of his life in jail, but then again most 14-year olds manage not to murder classmates, too.

Jen
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

There are so many reasonable arguments for and against here. Can this child be rehabilitated? I suspect he will come out hating more than when he went in.

P Alfonso
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

There is no question that this was a very sad incident in which one life was lost and another was ruined.
There is no justification for the shooting of a human being but let’s be fair:
Brandon is not an adult but far from it. He is four years away from being one. He should not be tried as an adult, he is still a kid.
Only a heterosexual male loaded with testosterone could understand how offensive it is to be presented with a sexual advance from a homosexual, especially in front of his teenage buddies. His buddies would make him the laughing stock of the school and the girls will join them.
Brandon did not have to hate homosexuals or Larry to do what he did. Only he knows how embarrassed he was and how disturbing he became by Larry’s advance and the repercussions from it. Just like homosexuals seek from protections against bulling so should heterosexuals from homosexual sexual harassment.
If there is a lesson to be learned let it be that there is a line which cannot be crossed while exposing abnormal sexual preferences.

L. C. Burgundy
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

P Alfonso, what you posted is truly offensive. Go peddle your gay panic “testosterone made me do it” defense, and gays-should-keep-it-in-the-closet philosophy elsewhere.

Johno
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Exactly Tim; no remorse. The Newsweek article proved it. Regan spoke of his parents having to look in his face and know their role in it…I don’t think they do know their role in it. I’ve seen nothing that indicates that they do. They may feel just as King’s own adoptive father does; that King was helped to bring this on himself by gay adults with an “agenda”. (The agenda of keeping Larry safe.) And their son is paying the price for it.
P Alfonso’s comment shows me something else: that Newsweek has just helped a whole lot of disturbed gay-bashers justify killing us. The wrong look, the wrong inflection in your voice, the wrong harsh words of defense, and BLAM. You just sexually harassed a straight man and that is grounds for murder. Thanks Newsweek.

Sportin' Life
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

“That is sheer insanity.” (Re: woulfe’s claim that trying McInerney in the adult legal system is “a greater act of barbarism” than killing someone.)

It most certainly is. It’s mind-boggling that someone would dare to assert such a thing. While insinuating that such a morally absurd view is a sign of his greater enlightenment, no less!

tristram
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Jim – Thanks for making an important point and doing it well. I have read a lot of articles about this incident, and it seems evident that there was a massive breakdown of guidance and support for both boys by all the adults involved. Having taught 12 to 15 year olds for many years, I know the confusion, susceptibility to peer pressure and to adult influence, emotional volatility and lack of judgment (which cognitive development research now indicates is characteristic of this age – the part of the brain that regulates emotions develop later) that characterizes many of these kids.

Of course McInerney should be severely punished. But the fact that he is a child must absolutely inform the proceedings or justice cannot be done. The cries for vengeance (with all the lip service to deterence and prevention)from a large segment of the gay community – including many of the posts above – sound like something straight from the mouth of a Laura Ingraham or a Michael Savage.

As for remorse, I do want to see it, and I think it (or it’s absence) should and will influence the sentencing. But this is not the stage of the trial a which one would expect to hear expressions of remorse from the defendant.

Emily K
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

As a Jew, I cannot condone putting a 14 year-old behind bars for his first offense, even if it IS pre-meditated murder. Because his sentencing smacks of vengeance – explicitly forbidden by the Torah.

“eye for eye, tooth for tooth” actually WELL APPLIES in this situation, because this biblical verse tells us that the punishment must fit the crime.

In this case, the crime of a fourteen year-old in his immature, psychologically disturbed, morally stunted state must fit the punishment of that same person: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Handing him the punishment of someone greater than he only serves as revenge for murder. And THAT is when the whole world becomes blind.

This is not to advocate giving him a slap on the wrist. He should be punished and face Justice. But as a boy his age would be punished under any other circumstance.

Jim is right to place responsibility on those who know to be responsible. McInerney is not off the hook. But with “saints” like those of Focus on the Family and the Baptist Convention, who needs “demons?”

Placing someone behind bars does NOT make them safe or keep them from harm. Prison life is unrelenting. It does no benefit to the broken soul. It breaks those souls who might have repented and teaches them to live life as a prisoner – not try to rise above it.

Johno
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

“The cries for vengeance sound like something straight from the mouth of a Laura Ingraham or a Michael Savage.”

Oh please. I only see 3 out of 23 that even suggest it. And zero over on PHB. And surely you are aware that a huge cabal of gay groups got together and petitioned for him to be tried as a juvenile. Would the other side do the same if King killed McInerney? Hell no. The reaction of our community, as usual, has been far more civil than what we might expect in return. Given the 5-times higher incidence of bullying that gay people endure, and hence the very high emotions we are all likely to have on the subject, I think that’s nothing short of amazing.

L. C. Burgundy
July 25th, 2008 | LINK

Emily:

“As a Jew, I cannot condone putting a 14 year-old behind bars for his first offense, even if it IS pre-meditated murder. Because his sentencing smacks of vengeance – explicitly forbidden by the Torah.”

I assume you mean prison “for life” and are not suggesting he receive no prison time at all.

“But as a boy his age would be punished under any other circumstance.”

Um, I don’t know about you, but I’m failing to find a lot of extenuating circumstances and comparable situations for a teenager committing pre-meditated murder because he was embarrassed that the flamboyant gay boy hit on him.

“Placing someone behind bars does NOT make them safe or keep them from harm.”

Somehow, the safety of Brandon McInerney is not the primary reason I’m thinking for keeping him in prison. Any hopes that he could be rehabilitated by age 25 or 65 are pretty well misplaced. There are no happy endings here. Sorry.

C. C.
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

When first heard about the murder of Lawrence King, I was more sad than angry over the loss of child to the hatred pervasive within our society, but as this case has progressed and as I have seen the reaction of both Brandon McInerney and the media, my emotions have shifted. I’ve watched Brandon McInerney show no remorse for murdering another human being for the sole reason that he felt threatened by that other human being’s sexuality. I’ve watched his lawyers try and pin the blame on Lawrence King and say that he was provocative. I’ve watched the media agree with this assessment and support it. And so now I’m angry.

While I’m usually against prosecuting minors as adults, I can’t stand the idea of Brandon McInerny being released at the age of 25. No, I want him to remain in jail for as long as possible. Indeed, I would prefer it that he never be released. I agree that if “this path reaches its logical conclusion, two lives will be over” and wholeheartedly agree. I just have no care for the life of Brandon McInerny after what he has done.

That is not to say, however, that I place the blame solely on his shoulders, or even place the majority of the blame on his shoulders. No, I also blame his parents who instilled this hatred in his mind. I blame the religion which helped fuel this hatred. I blame those who stood by and let the hatred grow. I blame all of them and wish that they all could be prosecuted for being conspirators in the murder of Lawrence King, but, of course, that won’t happen, so I suppose we’ll just have to do with the scapegoat for now.

woulfe
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

“This is sheer insanity.”

Guys, I respect your right to disagree with me, but questioning my sanity because I’m not with you on this is a little extreme.

I’m not alone in thinking that children are not as criminally culpable as adults:

As the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, the blameworthiness of children cannot be equated with that of adults, even when they commit the same crime. Most recently, in Roper v. Simmons in 2005, the Court ruled that the execution of child offenders was unconstitutional, finding that juveniles are “categorically less culpable” than adult criminals.

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/us1005/2.htm

… or that trying children as adults is wrong:

Trying children in adult courts squarely contradicts the most basic premise behind the establishment of juvenile justice systems: ensuring the well-being of youth offenders. The harsh sentences dispensed in adult courts do not take into account the lessened culpability of juvenile offenders, their ineptness at navigating the criminal justice system, or their potential for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

http://www.humanrightsadvocates.org/images/Juvenile%20Sentences.doc

Furthermore, it seems very obvious to me that the murder of Larry King involves not one but two derelictions of a duty of care to children. The first is a failure to protect Larry King. The second is a failure to teach Brandon McInerney that homophobia is wrong, and when acted upon has dire consequences for all concerned. To me, this point of view is quite the opposite of insanity.

The practice of restorative justice is becoming common in New Zealand and here in Australia. Last year Cherie Booth, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, spoke very eloquently about the power of restoration rather than punishment. This power can even extend to cases of murder.

Jason D
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

I think if Brandon is going to be tried as an adult, then I think his parents and his teachers should be tried as accessories.

It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a really neglectful village to raise a murderer.

Sportin' Life
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

woulfe, you changed the subject. Your claim was that trying McInerney in adult courts is “more barbarous” than shooting someone in the head. That is the statement that I objected to–and it is a shockingly stupid thing to say, whether you meant it as throwaway hyperbole or not.

I haven’t even offered an opinion one way or the other on the underlying issue, and I certainly never said I consider those who believe juvenile courts are appropriate in this case to be insane. I don’t.

I do find the self-righteousness of some of them (and their dishonest attribution of spite and malice to those who disagree) quite off-putting, however.

kelli Busey
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

Brandon McInerney deserves a fair trial under law. Trial as an adult and the corresponding severe punishment would be appropriate due to the nature of the crime.
Everyone is talking about fairness and percentages of Brandon’s life that could be punished verse what is left over. What about the 0% of life that Lawrence King was allowed by his judge and executioner?

tony
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

Sad, sad story–for all involved. This kind of murderous hatred doesn’t come out of nowhere. I, for one, am curious as to Brandon’s religion. Anyone know?

oaland753
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

As a gay teen, I was often teased and made fun of by kids at school and in our neighborhood. Adults saw these actions and did nothing most of the time. They would say things like, ´let the kids work it out themselves.´ I understand the ignorance, hatred, and sometimes just total unconcern of people who should be role models and teachers of the right path.
Unfortunately, the world is not perfect nor will it ever be such. So, I believe many of us had reasons why we could have planned out the kind of murder that this 14 year old planned and carried out. And it would have been just as wrong had we followed through with murder.
I am tired of the far left of our community always trying to defend the actions of others because they did not have the right upbringing or example. Neither did I, but I have not murdered anyone in my 57 years of life and do not plan on it anytime in the future.
We are all dealt the cards we are dealt in life and in spite of my childhood, I have enjoyed a good life…the difference between me and this 14 year old is very simple….we both made a personal choice and at the very core only each of us is responsible for our choices….excuses, excuses, excuses….most of us are getting tired of hearing about them from the bleeding hearts of our community!

Timothy Kincaid
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

tony,

I believe that Brandon was raised without religion

Jason D
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

oaland753,
I believe you, like a lot of people, when you hear anything other than “hang ‘em” make a lot of assumptions that simply aren’t true:

“I am tired of the far left of our community always trying to defend the actions of others because they did not have the right upbringing or example.”

I have not seen one person defend Brandon. Not One. No one here has said that he does not deserve punishment. Please pull the quote from whoever said that Brandon deserves to walk away without consequences.
The central disagreement is whether or not a 14-year old should be tried as an adult. There is no disagreement as to whether he committed the crime or whether he deserves to tried and punished for this crime. Everyone seems to agree he should be tried, and everyone agrees he should be punished — the disagreement is what rules for punishment apply to his situation.

“Neither did I, but I have not murdered anyone in my 57 years of life and do not plan on it anytime in the future.
We are all dealt the cards we are dealt in life and in spite of my childhood, I have enjoyed a good life…the difference between me and this 14 year old is very simple….we both made a personal choice and at the very core only each of us is responsible for our choices”

Again, no one is saying that Brandon is not responsible. What some are saying is that his parents, his teachers, his school district should also be held accountable. I personally believe their negligence rises to the level of reckless endangerment. I think the only way to get parents and schools to stop looking the other way is for them to start being put on trial, too.

I think Jim’s point, and mine as well is, how many more children have to die, how many more kids have to “work it out themselves” before the ADULTS in this situation do the right thing?

“….excuses, excuses, excuses….most of us are getting tired of hearing about them from the bleeding hearts of our community!”

These are not excuses, these are valid concerns. We do not let children make their own decisions, we don’t let them enter contracts, we don’t let them go on field trips without parental consent. When a child succeeds, we congratulate, mom, dad, teacher, tutor, everyone who contributed to this positive outcome. People fall over themselves to get credit, to take responsibility. Everyone is willing to share in the glory. But when some kid pulls a gun and kills someone, all of a sudden nobody else wants any part of the responsibility. Everyone absolves themselves of their contribution to this tragedy, and only one person is held accountable.

oaland753
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

Many of your points are well taken, Jason D…my only additional comment would be that thousands of children have the same teachers, types of parents, etc etc as this kid did and they do not murder because they CHOOSE not to murder. Can we agree on that?

Having said that, I do believe public school teachers who are mostly members of the liberal teacher´s unions and have great protection of their jobs no matter what their quality of teaching skills, etc. is, are to blame for much of the unruly behaviors of students these days.

With all their talk of acceptance of all beliefs that is not taught in many classrooms today. While there are many good teachers who struggle with low budgets and little support from parents, there are also those who seem to care less.

Maybe those of us who vote for their liberal school boards need to hold them more accountable. Just because they are quote unquote liberals does not mean they cannot and should not be held accountable. I would love to see Jim take on the National Education Association. That would be a start in correcting the problems you so eloquently share.

Timothy Kincaid
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

oaland753,

You have good points about the accountability of school boards and teacher policies that do not take performance into consideration.

However, you weaken your argument by the overuse of “liberal”. It leaves your comment appearing to be inflamatory rather than rational. You give the impression that you want to fight “liberals” rather than discuss who is accountable for this child’s death.

This is not the site for such a fight. Please see the comments policy and note the tenor of other comments.

Disagreement is welcomed. But picking fights is not.

dana
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

L. Junius Brutus, this is a child we are talking about. Barely 14 years old when this occured. You are making him out to be some savage wild man who has killed numerous people.

I would never call him ‘vicious’. The world he was brought up in and born to is ‘vicious’. By the sound of it in newsweek, he had just began a rough patch in his life while making new friends and his grades dropping. But this also means he was once a good student and boy. I think the chance for him to be rehabilitated is great. Being tried as an adult and sending him to prison for 50 years would end this hope.

As for C.C. you have no idea if he feels remorse or not. By the sound of it right after the shooting, he felt no remorse by just calmy walking out the door. But he’s had 6 months to let it all sink in, and for all we know he could be feeling greater remorse then we can imagine. Or, like you said, he could feel it wasn’t his fault and be happy he shot him. But i don’t think we should just assume these things.

Timothy Kincaid
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

The prosecutor may be using her right to try McInerney as an adult as a tool in the negotiation for a plea.

Fox suggested that the district attorney’s office might be willing to strike a plea bargain with Quest to avoid the expense and emotional trauma of a trial.

“We have told him point-blank that his case is unusual and that our minds are open,” Fox said. “There is a wide range of sentencing alternatives that can be negotiated at any time until the jury comes back with a first-degree verdict.”

I hope Quest keeps McInerney’s best interests at heart. But as this is Quest’s ticket to fame – and probably a book deal – it will be very tempting for him to go forward with a trial even if a plea is better for his client.

L. Junius Brutus
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

‘Guys, I respect your right to disagree with me, but questioning my sanity because I’m not with you on this is a little extreme. ‘

I did not question your sanity. I questioned the sanity of what you said, only that particular statement, which is perfectly legitimate. Sane people occasionally say crazy things. Myself included.

‘I’m not alone in thinking that children are not as criminally culpable as adults:’

What you said wasn’t that children aren’t as criminally culpable as adults. That would be perfectly legitimate and respectable, a position I would agree with, actually. You said that charging this little murdere as an adult is worse than shooting a 15-year old classmate in the back of the head, in cold blood. That is unacceptable.

‘Furthermore, it seems very obvious to me that the murder of Larry King involves not one but two derelictions of a duty of care to children. The first is a failure to protect Larry King. The second is a failure to teach Brandon McInerney that homophobia is wrong, and when acted upon has dire consequences for all concerned. To me, this point of view is quite the opposite of insanity.’

And it is. That is not what you said previously, though, and that was not what I was responding to. Moreover, growing up without being taught that homophobia is wrong, is not an excuse. Many people grow up with homophobia, but very few of them do what this boy did.

L. Junius Brutus
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

‘L. Junius Brutus, this is a child we are talking about. ‘

Is it? When I think of a ‘child’, I don’t think of someone who shoots other children in the back of the head. When you murder someone, even when you’re younger than 18, you waive whatever special considerations we make for children, in my opinion. And the majority seems to agree with me, that we shouldn’t let murderous children get off easy.

‘I would never call him ‘vicious’. The world he was brought up in and born to is ‘vicious’.’

No. If the world is vicious, then we were all brought up in a vicious world. Why was it this boy who, out of the millions who go to school, shot a fellow classmate? I don’t think you can blame this guy’s turpitude on ‘the world’.

‘I think the chance for him to be rehabilitated is great.’

What are the chances that Larry King will be rehabilitated/resurrected? Let him raise King from the dead, and I’ll agree to his early release.

woulfe
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

Forcing children into the adult legal system is inhumane, because it dismisses the attributes that make them less able to navigate the legal system, and more able to be rehabilitated. Treating children inhumanely, regardless of what they have done, is in my view barbaric.

If you accept that children have diminished culpability, then the barbarism of capable adults will always be worse than any barbaric acts committed by incapable children.

L. Junius Brutus
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

‘Forcing children into the adult legal system is inhumane, because it dismisses the attributes that make them less able to navigate the legal system, and more able to be rehabilitated.’

I disagree. What’s inhumane is to let a vicious little murderer go within 7 years, sending a clear signal that younger people can get away with crimes easily.

And as I have earlier stated, I don’t particularly care about rehabilitation. The victim is dead. I don’t have any particular concern for the one who viciously murdered him. Let him rot.

‘Treating children inhumanely, regardless of what they have done, is in my view barbaric. ‘

That is not what you said. You said that the ones who want to make sure that this murderous teen can never hurt anyone again are worse than someone who, for no reason whatsoever, murders another in cold blood.

I note that you haven’t tried to defend that assertion. Perhaps you’re backing off?

‘If you accept that children have diminished culpability, then the barbarism of capable adults will always be worse than any barbaric acts committed by incapable children.’

Sure. They should be put to death. Teenagers should get life in prison without the possibility of parole.

woulfe
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

You said that the ones who want to make sure that this murderous teen can never hurt anyone again are worse than someone who, for no reason whatsoever, murders another in cold blood. I note that you haven’t tried to defend that assertion.

Then you haven’t been reading very closely, Lucius. I’ve made no assertions about people who want to stop McInerney from re-offending, and your implication that I don’t is, frankly, quite offensive. You’re now doing precisely what you accused me of, putting words into my mouth.

To re-state: in my view, tossing a child into the legal system as an adult is inhumane and, yes, barbarous. I think children accused of crimes should be tried and punished as children. Basta.

gkruz
July 26th, 2008 | LINK

“Do we really think that solves anything?”
Yeah, it takes a homophobic killer off the streets, hopefully forever. Juvenile or not, this punk made the decision to take the life of another boy only because of his sexuality and gender orientation. If he’s tried and convicted and punished as an adult, it might make other little anti-gay thugs think twice before they try anything similar. And if it doesn’t, then at least they can be taken off the streets permanently as well. Take a life, lose yours.
Let’s give up all this bleeding heart hand-wringing about the death penalty and juvenile vs. adult sentences. That’s victim mentality, and only encourages more victimizers to think they can get away with murdering us at whim and with impunity.

Jason D
July 27th, 2008 | LINK

Oaland753,
“Many of your points are well taken, Jason D…my only additional comment would be that thousands of children have the same teachers, types of parents, etc etc as this kid did and they do not murder because they CHOOSE not to murder. Can we agree on that?”

Absolutely. I never meant to imply Brandon’s choice was inevitable. Certainly people rise above their circumstance, which makes their achievments that much more profound and heroic.

“Having said that, I do believe public school teachers who are mostly members of the liberal teacher´s unions and have great protection of their jobs no matter what their quality of teaching skills, etc. is, are to blame for much of the unruly behaviors of students these days.”

Absolutely. I’m there with ya. I also believe that there’s a lot of poor parenting going on. I think it’s a combination of valid forms of coporal punishment becoming taboo, basic ignorance of what children actually need, and the inability of many parents to grow up and become authority figures — deciding to try to be a peer, a friend to their child instead.

“With all their talk of acceptance of all beliefs that is not taught in many classrooms today. While there are many good teachers who struggle with low budgets and little support from parents, there are also those who seem to care less.”

I had plenty of those. The ones who go through their little routine, and almost get offended when you break up their auto-piloting and ask them to actually teach. Their answer to most questions is to “look in the book”, even when the question concerns confusion on what exactly the book is saying. I had more than one math teacher who would explain how to do certain math problems but wouldn’t show their work on the chalkboard.

dana
July 27th, 2008 | LINK

“I disagree. What’s inhumane is to let a vicious little murderer go within 7 years, sending a clear signal that younger people can get away with crimes easily.”

Seriously what ‘younger people’ are going to be reading about this case? Children really aren’t often knowing about the news. And its not like all of a sudden we are going to have children killing other children left and right. Honestly, this case isn’t going to have that big of an impact on the younger world.

dana
July 27th, 2008 | LINK

Also, GKruz, this has nothing to do with what the child DID. If he gets out before he’s 25, people aren’t going to think it’s because he killed a homosexual. People are going to think it is because he is little.

It’s just annoying me how everyone thinks that if this boy doesn’t get a life sentence or is in jail till he is 65, killing sprees upon gays are all of a sudden going to shot up. and Kids? yeah they will start bringing guns to school too!

This was a tragic, bizarre event. Obviously, the child does have some inner problems. He should be punished, i agree. But the truth is this CHILD is 14 YEARS OLD. Obviously, you can’t remember back at fourteen years old if you think you were just as competent and knowing as you are now. The reality of death and suffering really hasn’t hit yet. 14 years old is extremely young.

Garrett O\'Neal
July 28th, 2008 | LINK

McInerny pulled the trigger! King’s family can’t see their child anymore. McInerny’s family will still be able to see their child, who deserves to be incarcerated for what he did (period). It is sad but no cushion should be given to McInerny. If the system subsides in any way, that could pave the road for future instances and eventually disregard any law for gay rights and gay people as a whole. It is a sad thing to see a kid incarcerated, but it is even more saddening to wonder where he was influenced to follow through with such a degree as murder. Who is out there to blame as the source of his motivation to do this? His parents or moreso the right-wing Christian orgs that JUSTIFY McInerny KILLING King. They need to own up!
It is easy to become infuriated over this subject. Sometimes it is those who are helpless that can only help. The Christan orgs have to understand for themselves what they are influencing. Perhaps King’s voice will live on to deliver the truth to them. Jim, thank you for allowing the opinions to be submitted. This is a subject that needs to be heard more.

L.C. Burgundy
July 28th, 2008 | LINK

“14 years old is extremely young.”

I hesitate to call any premeditating murderer “extremely young” as an exculpatory term. His was an adult action, and will face adult consequences.

shey
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

*SMH* if he can pick up a gun, KILL someone with the gun, because he didn’t like the fact that his classmate was gay, then he can be sent to prison!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

matthias
November 14th, 2008 | LINK

well people i dont understand you at all he killed one kid
and that is good or what
so let him out of jail and others will lern it is okay to kill for stupid thinks good job people i think we cant judge him now but wait the real judge will and thats god
you all sould be asamed for thosecomments he needs a punishment
he took a son brother friend and who kows what he could b if he had grown

p.s hey girls next time a guy asks you to be his valentine shoot him if you dont like him is this message you want to b spread ahah wow really

i am so mad of all of you who is bor this killer he deservs to go to deathrow

brendon i hope you have his face every time you close oure eyes i hope you will understand what you did i hope that be somones bitch in jail
so now b my valentines

Tim Baker
November 22nd, 2008 | LINK

Hmm he shot Larry King twice, not once, TWICE. And stood up to do it. This is not a manslaughter, he brought the gun into school, and it was obvious by Larry’s reported demeanour and dress he was either scared or had been threatened and was toning it down.

And as others point out, walks out, blankly showing no remorse.

Sorry, 14 year old pre-meditating murder like that says adult to me. Kid grabs gun in the home and shoots once – could be stupid game, or pranking around. This does not say that at all. This all says cool calculated murder to me.

Try him as an adult.

Tim Baker
November 22nd, 2008 | LINK

And another thing – how is it right for him to do it or even extenuated that he was being harrassed or teased by Larry?

Kids do mentally harmful things to each other, they tease, mess around, bully. A lot of the time in response to same.

They don’t pull .45s and shoot each other cos of it. They deal with it, or respond in kind.

This kid was seriously screwed up, IMO. Larry wasn’t, turning his lifestyle into a weapon or defense to others. That’s how you cope…you give as good as you get. But verbally, not bullets. All kids know this…

denisestafford
December 15th, 2008 | LINK

The murder of any 14 year old is unjustifiable. But similar tragic events have happened since time immemorial. Schools share some blame for lack of educational programs directed at the issue. But programs advocated by the GBLT deny natural realities and exacerbate the situation.

Assaults of lesbians by female straights resulting from sexual advances are rare. Female straights view advances by lesbians as either amusing or flattering and conflict in this area is minimal. Gay-‘straight male’ contact is something quite different.

Throughout the animal kingdom aggression and competition defines male sexual behavior. It is a deadly serious area of natural behavior. The sexual identity of heterosexual males is ultimately the most important aspect of their existence. Threatening or compromising this identity is the single cause of violence against lesbians and gays by male heterosexuals.
.

Nature dictates gays will remain a minority and educational programs should be structured thusly. The programs should not target heterosexuals but gay survival in a straight world. If Brandon would have hit Larry a good non fatal lick up beside the head with a club this case would have immeasurable educational value. It would serve exemplary to gay males the seriousness of approaching potential lovers. Teen lesbians would benefit in learning the consequences of intruding on straight relationships without the physical trauma of experience; having their teeth shoved down their throats or their female arms being snapped like twigs by enraging the awesome physical power of the human heterosexual male who, by natural design, will continue to dominate the species.

TJ McFisty
December 15th, 2008 | LINK

You’d make a wonderful rape counselor, Denise.

Dennis
December 15th, 2008 | LINK

@TJ: No she wouldn’t. Denise, stay off my side, thanks.

As for the kid, I agree with L. Junius Brutus: let him rot.

jbishop
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

There are rules at most workplaces in respect of dress codes and sexual harassment that reflect accepted standards in the community today. I wonder if similar rules had applied here whether these sad events may have been avoidable.

jbishop
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

I also wonder if adults who allow minors access to handguns were properly charged in such situations whether access to deadly weapons by minors would see a significant decline.

Timothy Kincaid
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

jbishop,

The school had a standard dress code. Lawrence King was in compliance with it.

jbishop
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

Yes, I am aware of the laws in California for dress code in regard to trans gender issues and you are correct that they were following it. In my opinion it is an interpretation of constitutional law which more appropriately should appy to adults but has been interpreted here to apply to minors. Just an opinion. Who decides what rules and rights apply to adults and which ones to minors? When is a child an adult? Be that as it may I suspect that most of the inflammatory issues that exacerbated the situation here could have been avoided if standard policies in regard to sexual harassment as they apply to adults in the workplace applied and were enforced in public schools. Additionally, I advocate stricter CAP laws as they pertain to gun control and children.

jbishop
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

Comment in violation of Comments Policy: Reposting of entire posts or articles by another author is strictly forbidden.

Jason D
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

“If Brandon would have hit Larry a good non fatal lick up beside the head with a club this case would have immeasurable educational value. It would serve exemplary to gay males the seriousness of approaching potential lovers.”

This would only be fair and realistic if the same rules applied in all situations. If you’re not attracted to whoever approaches you, then you have every right to slug them (nonfatally, of course). I can’t wait to see Ladies Night at a straight bar after this rule gets put into place. Fellas, bring your money, your best clothes, and a helmet!

Or we could just teach boys the same lesson we teach girls — If someone is interested in you and you’re not interested in them “SAY NO”. If they persist, leave, if they touch you, then you have the right to defend yourself.

Quite frankly Denise, straight men who are secure in their masculinity are not threatened by flirting by gay men: they’re flattered and have no problem saying “thanks, but no thanks”.

Gay men, like any other person, should not have to live in fear of flirting with the wrong person. Doesn’t matter if it’s fatal or not. Flirting is not assault or a threatening gesture. “A nonfatal lick upside the head” is a grossly disproportionate response. It’s symptomatic of major issues on Brandon’s part, which are not the fault or responsibility of Larry. The rules are not different for gay people, nor is there any reason they should be. If straight men cannot control their aggressive natures, then they shouldn’t be loose in society.

Politicalguineapig
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

I’m puzzled, why does everyone think murder is the ultimate crime? It’s not. Secondly, what if the kid got released at 25 BUT he had to pay reparations for Larry? It wouldn’t bring him back, but it would bring home the seriousness of the crime.

Timothy Kincaid
December 28th, 2008 | LINK

jbishop,

You are misinformed. Lawrence followed the dress code for boys. He accessorized with a few articles of women’s clothing, but not regularly. He was not wearing any gender-nonconforming accessories when he was shot twice in the head.

DomanikS
January 16th, 2009 | LINK

Has this case gone to trial yet? I’m extremely disturbed that the first I heard of this was while researching details surrounding the Matthew Shepherd case, which also was given very little air time in Australia.

Ignorance is a form of intolerance, love is never wrong.

Steve T
February 12th, 2009 | LINK

Scapegoat??? Please! Your “article” makes it sound like the police are trying to make a murderer a scapegoat (dumb ass term) for actually committing the CRIME he is accused of? Do you understand the term ‘Scapegoat’? Obviously NOT! I don’t care if this McInerney ‘person’ was 14 when he committed this premeditated murder!!! He should be, by all means be tried in court as an adult murderer and he should rest his dumb ass in prison not just for 20 or 30 years, but for the rest of his pathetic life!!

To all of you whining, bleeding hearts that say he should just get counseling I say, get some education!! He needs to be put in a hole and forgotten!! He did it to his “classmate”, he knew what he was doing and he needs to suffer the consequences!

gabie
February 12th, 2009 | LINK

I do not care what his age is!
He should have the same restrictions and punishment as any adult should.
Its disgusting how someone kills a kid because he/she is gay.

Brittany
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

HE MURDERED SOMEONE. HE KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING… You make it sound like he’s the victim here…

Enness
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

Brandon McInerney took a life; justice requires that he gives one back. It’s a concept as old as recorded history — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. While I appreciate all of the social and educational failings that might have led to Brandon’s horrific choice to pick up that gun and kill, BRANDON made that choice. Not the legal system; not the school board; not even the parents who somehow allowed a 14 year old boy to have access to firearms and ammunition. Now do we condone his action by watering down the punishment for his crime? That would be a greater societal mistake. We would be green-lighting any criminal activity by those under the legal age by saying, “It’s society’s fault”. With all due respect, that’s nonsense. Children need to be shown that there are consequences for their actions — and when their actions are particularly heinous, so too must the consequences.

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