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Lawrence King Trial Set to Begin Today

Jim Burroway

July 5th, 2011

Brandon McInerney (left), Lawrence King (right)

It’s been three years since Brandon McInerney walked into an Oxnard classroom, pulled a .22-caliber handgun out of his backpack and shot Lawrence King point blank in the head. From the very beginning, McInerney’s lawyer has trotted out the “gay panic” defense, saying that McInerney was furious that King was flirting with him. Today, McInerney’s trial is set to begin finally, and the defense will make “gay panic” the centerpiece of their case:

McInerney’s lawyers, Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson, say their client doesn’t deny the killing. But they argue it was voluntary manslaughter because the adolescent was provoked by King’s repeated sexual advances.

Fellow students say the two had clashed for days over King’s expressing his attraction to McInerney. King, who was living in a children’s shelter because of problems at home, had recently gone to school wearing eye makeup and women’s accessories.

McInerney was humiliated by King’s advances, his attorneys said. He came from a violent home and decided to end his misery in a way that made sense to him — with a gun. He shot King “in the heat of passion caused by the intense emotional state between these two boys at school,” Bramson said last week outside the courthouse, where jury selection was underway.

McInerney is being tried for murder with a hate crime enhancement. His defense team argue that McInerney’s age (he was fourteen at the time of the murder) should be a factor:

The defense will stress McInerney’s age at the time of the crime, and may summon a psychologist to talk about the maturity and critical-thinking abilities of a 14-year-old. In essence, they will argue that McInerney didn’t have the maturity to deal with King’s schoolyard taunts.

“Age will explain his behavior and his response,” Wippert said. “How a 14-year-old reacts is different than how an older person would react.”

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MattNYC
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

“flirting” by a kid should not be met by deadly violence. Gay kids kill themselves because of peer pressure or humiliation. Straight kids kill gay kids because they feel embarrassed. He would have killed King if they had been playing Grand Theft Auto and King taunted him after winning (“I can’t let a ‘fag’ show me up”).

I don’t want to see a minor face life or worse in an adult prison, but to let him off with anything short of second-degree murder (I am not sure what the options are in CA) sends an awful message.

andrew
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

Need to see a conviction here, but I have to agree with the contention of the defense team – 14 year olds simply do not have the decision making abilities (the frontal lobe is just not fully developed). Fourteen is a socially brutal time for any adolescent, and matters of sexuality can be overwhelmingly humiliating. None of that warrants the behavior, but there’s absolutely no point in prosecuting this as you would an adult.

Incidentally, that’s why we don’t leave our kids to themselves. I want to know why we aren’t also prosecuting adults here.
How did things get so bad in this school system?
Where were the adults at the time?
What are we doing to prosecute McInerney’s caregivers?
What are we doing about Kings caregivers?
Where the f**k did this kid get a gun (failure to secure a firearm is a criminal violation).

To dump all of this onto a an unstable 14 year old is basically the community screwing up and then wiping its hands clean. No one should let them get away with it.

Kevin
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

@ andrew
Totally agree. We Americans HATE to look at problems systemically. Focus on individuals. The gay panic defense must not stand, but there should be a thorough analysis of this town, this school…and what about this kid’s parents? Geez.

Priya Lynn
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

I disagree with andrew and Kevin. I remember very well what it was like to be 14 and my mental faculties and decision making ability was fully developed by that time. He did the crime, now he must do the time.

Stephen
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t understand the barbarism of the US legal system. How can it even be contemplated to try a boy of 14 as an adult? How could such a discussion even be on the table. This is the kind of tax we pay for our insane gun laws. The question should be Where did he get the weapon? Not What’s the maximum time we can manage to send a child to jail.

Timothy Kincaid
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

I find the coverage of this story fascinating. Horrifying, but fascinating.

Take this paragraph from the article:

Fellow students say the two had clashed for days over King’s expressing his attraction to McInerney. King, who was living in a children’s shelter because of problems at home, had recently gone to school wearing eye makeup and women’s accessories.

The first sentence is a false presentation of the issue. “Fellow students” may have said just about anything, but based on the fuller coverage we know that King had been picked on by McInerny for a long time, long before the “flirting” began, and this was his way of fighting back. But Saillant presents this as though it was out of the blue. She sets up King as the unprovoked aggressor.

In the next sentence Saillant introduces an irrelevant comment to tie two separate ideas together. She’s reporting (not repeating what “fellow students” say) that King went to school in makeup. And – without any reason to mention it – she also says he was “living in a children’s shelter because of problems at home.”

Tying the two unrelated comments into a single sentence, Saillant has achieved the presentation of King who was so out of control with his crazy drag that he couldn’t even get along with his parents.

But she’s not through yet:

…provoked by King’s repeated sexual advances.

Screech… slam on the brakes.

Ask yourself – outside of this case, just in conversation – when you hear the term “repeated sexual advances”, what do you think of? Is is, oh say, “Will you be my valentine?”

Or is it perhaps an advance that is sexual in nature and repeated?

If Salliant is going to repeat the claims of the defense, she has a duty to note that the “repeated sexual advances” consisted of flirting, at most and did not consist of adult sexual advances. On the other hand, the “murder” consisted of murder.

And look at how McInerney is discussed:

The defense could face a challenge in portraying McInerney as a naive youth. At the time of the shooting, he looked young and sweet-faced. In court recently, the defendant was a tall, lanky young man dressed in crisp Oxford shirts and khaki pants.

Salliant doesn’t talk about the difficulty of his defense having to deal with Nazi materials, racist symbols, or McInerney’s long history of terrorizing King. No, no, it’s his age that is a problem.

I suspect that Salliant is among those who think 14 is too young to be tried for murder. She wants to look at “all the circumstances” and see McInerney as “a victim too”. She wants to “present both sides”.

And the easiest way to do that – as he is a pretty nasty neo-Nazi who ran in a pack of bullies – is to paint King as some sort of monster, a horrifying gay drag queen monster – worse even than McInerney.

Generally character assassination of the victim is left to the defense team. But it seems to me that much of the press, including Saillant, has joined the cause.

There is a legitimate case to be made that McInerney was too young and immature to be fully cognizant of the consequences of his actions. But it is unethical and immoral to take the shortcut of bashing King to exonerate McInerney.

Regan DuCasse
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

McInerney learned the gay panic defense. He knew how to load a gun, sneak it into school and use it point blank, in cold blood on a kid he’d already been harassing and bullying for a long time.

People, let me make something very clear. Sociopaths are evident in early age. We know that a gay kid doesn’t have to provoke or do anything to enrage someone or be the target of assault.

McInerney knew early who to target, who to pick on and decided how he’d handle it in such a way that he knew going to jail would be the option.
He. Just. Didn’t. Care.

It’s true that teens have less impulse control than someone a bit older, but the difference isn’t that great.
McInerny DID try to run away and conceal the weapon after the crime.
Be careful here. Because gangs use juvenile soldiers specifically assuming that age is a defense unto itself. Creating a system of parole in which regardless of the cruelty, and calculus of a crime committed by someone under age, they can be paroled by the age of 21 or 25.
A situation in which THEY KNOW that their crime DOESN’T carry the consequences IT DESERVES and so therefore the impact of such a crime is lost on them.

The death penalty, or ANY penalty is so abstract to young people, that they have NO SENSE of the consequences of such crimes. Not really.
And THAT is the real problem.
The Scared Straight program is one way of addressing this abstraction. And putting ALL juveniles in the same category based on age, won’t do. There are some vicious and hard 14 year olds out there.
Whether you want to think so or not. McInerney’s LOSER parents are culpable. But his loser father is dead anyway.

Being soft on juveniles won’t help. It’s being harder on neglectful parents, committing to the death penalty and other penalties that will work better and showing young people at risk where they will end up and how they will be treated if they don’t abide by the law.

Rob in San Diego
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

Maybe Brandon’s parents should go on trial for living in a violent home. If Brandon felt threatened by Lawrence, maybe Brandon should of transferred to another school. I wonder if the whole prop 8 and gay marriage had something to do with Brandon living in a violent home.

Or how about this, Brandon is a closeted homophobe who should be given life in prison for murder.

Stephen
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

Being soft on juveniles? He was 14. Of course he didn’t have a sense of what his actions meant. He was a child! There is no other country in the west that behaves in such a manner towards children. If we don’t teach them properly that’s not their fault. Nor should we be arming them. The gay panic defense is his lawyer’s work. He has been made as much a victim as the boy he killed.

Life in prison? Dear God. Some very harsh people around. I hope I never have to rely on your mercy. And I hope you’re never in some unaccountable position where you need the mercy of others.

Children should not be exposed to adult prisoners or adult prisons. This kid should be helped not further harmed. What he did was bad enough. We shouldn’t be in the revenge business.

Priya Lynn
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

Stephen said “Being soft on juveniles? He was 14. Of course he didn’t have a sense of what his actions meant. He was a child!”.

I don’t buy that at all. When I was 14 I often fantasized about killing the people that bullied me but I was well aware of what such actions would mean.

Stephen said “Life in prison? Dear God. Some very harsh people around.”.

In Canada life in prison is 25 years – that would be an apropriate sentence in this case.

Stephen said “Children should not be exposed to adult prisoners or adult prisons.”.

And he won’t be until he’s an adult, he’ll spend any time under 18 in a juvenile facility

iDavid
July 5th, 2011 | LINK

I’d have to pull the trigger on this one if I were on jury. 14 yr olds are old enough to know right from wrong, and this was a bullying little schmuck who committed pre meditated murder.

I’m not interested in seeing a repeat show of this kid’s psychossiss hence best set a strong precident now as things are far from over in general concerning hate crimes.

Bullying is too much already, but point blank murder? Guilty as charged.

Donny D.
July 8th, 2011 | LINK

I’d like to hear more about this Nazi milieu that he was at very least on the edges of. It’s nice to fantasize that this is just something kids can pick up by themselves but the Nazi movement is run by adults. Their connection to this would be interesting to know.

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