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Gay Panic Law on trial

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2011

Brandon McInerney and defense attorney Scott Wippert (Los Angeles Times; Nick Ut, AP Photo)

The witnesses have spoken and the evidence has been heard in the murder trial of Brandon McInerney. And there is no dispute over most of the facts.

Everyone agrees that McInerney shot Lawrence King during computer class three years ago. And it is well established that they had long feuded, starting when McInerney and his friends tormented King and continuing through Kings eventual taunting of McInerney by flirting with him. And both were aware that their behavior was unwelcomed by the other.

And it has also been shown that Lawrence King had recently announced that he was gay and had began experimenting with gender roles and expression. Lawrence had on some occasions worn makeup and boots designed and marketed to women. And the prosecution and the defense both agree – though in different ways and with different purpose – that when Brandon McInernery killed Lawrence King it was due to a large degree because King was gay.

The only dispute in this case is over what that means.

The prosecution argued that McInerney was a white supremest who shot King because he hated gay people. Her argument rests on evidence such as hundreds of white supremacy and Nazi images scrawled in McInerney’s books, on his shoes and his backpacks, 154 pages of Hitler speeches and books on the Nazi youth, his involvement in a street gang, and his mentoring by a local white supremest with whom he stayed the night before the murder. And because his motivation for actually killing King was based in hatred for homosexuals, she argues that hate crime provisions justify an increased sentence.

The defense attorney has a different take on the matter. His effort has been dedicated to painting King as a dirty nasty fag who couldn’t keep off of a strong young straight man and who provoked McInerney until he reacted in the heat of the moment. I mean, who wouldn’t be disgusted and horrified to have some mincing make-up wearing little queen flirt with you and embarrass you and, well, okay maybe it was a rash decision to shoot him, but who wouldn’t do the same?

This is called the Gay Panic defense. And while it is immoral, vile, and harmful to society, defense attorneys continue to use it whenever they can. For one reason. (LATimes)

Gay panic defenses are used because they often work, said Cynthia Lee, a law professor who wrote a 2008 UC Berkeley Law School Review article on the topic. In February 2006, a Kentucky man successfully won a lighter sentence after using a gay panic argument, according to a report by Equality California.

In the same year, a Fresno man who stabbed a transgender person 20 times agreed and was permitted to plead guilty to a reduced crime that brought a four-year sentence. The Fresno district attorney reportedly cited the difficulty of overcoming a panic strategy as a reason for offering the plea deal.

“There is no question that when murder defendants argue gay panic, they seek to tap into deep-seated biases against and stereotypes about gay men as deviant sexual predators who pose a threat to innocent young heterosexual males,” Lee wrote in the law review article.

But there is one change to the equation. In September 2006, the California State Legislature passed, and Governor Schwarzenegger signed, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act. This legislation does not ban or in any other way infringe on the defense’s right to say whatever he liked. But it does allow a prosecutor to have the judge read a statement reminding the jury that everyone deserves the same promise of justice and that they should resist the temptation to base their decision on prejudice:

Do not let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence your decision. Bias includes bias against the victim or victims based upon his or her disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

The prosecutor is invoking her Gay Panic clause and this will be the first case in which a judge cautions a jury not to use anti-gay bias.

And so it is not really McInerney that is on trial here. His guilt was evident from the beginning. Rather, this trial is about gay panic and whether a blatant appeal to anti-gay bigotry will influence a jury, even after they have been instructed by the judge not to not let it do so.

Comments

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Hyhybt
July 22nd, 2011 | LINK

How is “he was gay and made a pass at me” a better defense to murder than “I was drunk” is to vehicular homicide?

Roa
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

“There is no question that when murder defendants argue gay panic, they seek to tap into deep-seated biases against and stereotypes about gay men as deviant sexual predators who pose a threat to innocent young heterosexual males,”

This is the pivotal idea to me. What if I had a deep-seated bias against christian missionaries (read mormon) coming to my door… should I be able to blow them away?

anon
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

I want to know more about this “spending the night with a white supremacist the night before killing Larry” business. The whole thing is starting to sound a little . . . Columbine, a little Apt Pupil, if you follow me.

Lucrece
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

I’m not too knowledgeable about legal proceedings, but aren’t judges able to set aside jury sentences if they feel bias was at hand?

To those people who let off murderers with greatly reduced sentences, why didn’t the judges intervene when it was clear that bias was a problem?

Stephen
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

I’d just like to remind us all that we are talking about the actions of a 14 year old boy, as he was at the time of the murder – the same age as the boy he killed.

How he can be tried as if he were a fully-functioning adult is entirely beyond my powers of comprehension. It seems cynical in the extreme on the part of the legal system to allow this to go on.

Whatever defense he may or may not have has been devised by his lawyers. If he were being tried in a juvenile court then perhaps a different plea would have been entered and a different, and less offensive, defense mounted.

iDavid
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

This defense is no different in content than if a gay kid killed a str8 bully out of str8 panic. I doubt much extra mercy would be given to the gay kid but w the suicide rate among gay teens, it might fly w a reduced sentence particularly due to physical harm, which I don’t here presence of in Brandon’s case. W/o threat of death, I can’t see how he could be considered rational for shooting someone. Gay panic is Brandon’s weapon, powerful enough to grab a gun.
Interesting story.

Priya Lynn
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Hyhybt said “How is “he was gay and made a pass at me” a better defense to murder than “I was drunk” is to vehicular homicide?”.

Its a worse defense from the perspective that in the vehicular homicide the defendant can truthfully claim “I didn’t do it intentionally.”.

Embarcadero
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

“gay panic” is akin to “spurned lover” as a defense – their primary intent is to show that the crime was one of passion rather than a premeditated act.

These are devices that defense lawyers use to try to lessen the charge (in pre-trial hearings) – or to show that the prosecution hasn’t met the threshold for proving first degree murder.

It’s important to point out that there is no “gay panic law”, the efficacy of the argument lies in the presumption that any reasonable person would be so incensed at the advances of a pervert that violence would be a reasonable next step. I hope that the jury in this case would not see that as reasonable.

Even if they do, the prosecution has so much evidence of premeditation that I can’t see how they would get the “gay panic” thing to explain complex actions carried out over time.

Ben In Oakland
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Here’s something i wrote to the Chronicle back at the time of the Araujo verdict. Thje “gay panic” defense is a sham from beginning to end, intended to play on biases. While some poeople would defend McInerny as being only 14 years old, so was Larry King. If we are going to argue immaturity as a defense for the one, then surely it paplies to the other.

The verdicts in the Araujo murder buy into the idea that Eddie “Gwen” Araujo was practicing deception, and that this ultimately led to her brutal murder. There is a strong likelihood that the murderers have been engaged in deception since they met young Gwen–first to fool themselves, then to fool their friends and families, and finally, to fool the Court.

The play, “M. Butterfly”, was about a French diplomat, allegedly heterosexual, who was involved for YEARS with a woman, who later turned out to be both a man and a spy. They even had a child together. The Frenchman claimed that he never knew she was not a woman. Curiously– but no surprise– some years later, the man came out as gay, no longer heterosexual.

That the Frenchman’s relationship went on without the truth being apparent at some point strains credibility, as do the claims of complete and gullible heterosexuality of Gwen’s murderers. It is possible that if she only performed oral sex on them, they were not aware that she was biologically male, though she had a life and a community of which these men were also a part. However, if she had anal sex with them, it is incredibly unlikely that they failed to suspect her biological gender. Most people do not have sex fully dressed with no touching or looking.

Gwen’s murderers were attracted to her precisely because of tendencies which they would not like to acknowledge, especially to themselves. She was “safe” because she at least appeared female. These tendencies are possibly homosexual, or possibly directed towards pre-op transsexuals; there is a plethora of pornographic websites devoted to just that interest. However, when others found out about Gwen’s true gender, histrionic outrage and brutal murder were the perpetrators’ only protection against public knowledge and scorn of their personal shame. For many people, a sin is a sin only if it is found out.

The real issue is our society’s absolute obsession with “correct” gender and sexual roles, and the fear and shame that obsession engenders. It causes violence against people whose only fault is that they cannot conform to the myth. Poor Gwen was a victim of our society’s servitude to it, as were the young men, whose lives and families have been ruined. How many more victims will we have?

John
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

With forethought the kid brought a gun to school with the explicit purpose of shooting somebody. That does not sound like heat of the moment to me. The kid was embarrassed in front of his friends. So, it is okay if he embarrasses the other in front of his friends? Also, a 14-year old is not a 4-year old. How did he get access to a gun, in the first place? Nevermind casually walking into school with it. This article should have delved into this a bit more.

Désirée
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

@Ben in Oakland,
Why must some form of closeted homosexuality be involved in the Gwen Araujo case? Gwen was a woman, was attracted to men and men were attracted to her as a woman. By all accounts, that’s heterosexuality. Only by denying Gwen’s gender can you claim her murders were secretly gay.

The idea of “deception” as it relates to transsexuals is rather offensive. TS people are not deceiving anyone by presenting as the gender they are and the men attracted to a TS woman are not deceiving themselves into thinking they are straight when they are not. They *are* straight. Trans panic as a defense is similar to gay panic but not the same and none of it has anything to do with being gay, deceptively or otherwise

Mark F.
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Desiree,

Well, it seems to me that a transgendered person ought to put that on the table before dating someone, as a lot of people would not want to date a transgendered person if they knew. In my case, I want a man to have a real working penis. I’d be happy to have a transman as a friend, but not as a lover.

Ben In Oakland
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Desiree– please read my comment again. this was in no way any kind of an attack on trans people. Unless my memory is fialing me– always a possibility– Gwen had not had surgery.

My point was, especially if Gwen still has her penis, was that these men were using the panic defense.

And that I didn’t buy it, and the court should not have bought it.

WMDKitty
July 23rd, 2011 | LINK

So this killer was “immature”? Okay, sure, teenagers are known to be kinda dumb. But 14 is more than old enough to know that murder is wrong.

Plus, uh, dudes, it’s pretty clear that this “child” planned the murder in advance, at least far enough to obtain a gun and carry it with him to school.

That’s two strikes against his so-called “defense” right there.

Throw in his long history of bullying the victim, and I do believe he will be convicted and, I hope, put away for life.

andrew
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

I want to remind everyone here that we are talking about a minor who lacks the ability to make reasoned decisions. Literally… that part of the brain hasn’t finished forming when you’re that young. Obviously, there needs to be punishment, and it may well be true that the boy may become a man who is not suitable to be let onto public streets. But this needs to be addressed differently than would the same actions committed by a mature adult, even if the crimes are no less offensive to us. That means time. It means intervention. It means close observation to see if there’s anything salvageable as this boy grows to become a man. We treat children in our society differently where it comes to both rights and responsibilities — and rightly so. We should not let our passions condemn the man for life (as so many call for before the trial has even taken place) while he is yet a boy. Let’s get him incarcerated, ensure that some justice is met, but still see what can be made of him.

Priya Lynn
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

Andrew said “I want to remind everyone here that we are talking about a minor who lacks the ability to make reasoned decisions.”.

I don’t buy that at all. At 14 I had a fully developed ability to reason.

Stephen
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

At 14 one is not legally a person. One cannot buy or sell anything. One cannot enter into a contract. Now, for no good reason, all our ideas of what does and does not constitute an adult are put aside for what reason? To exact revenge?

This boy should not be treated like an adult.

Reading of the terrible events in Norway I am reminded that in that country no crime can carry a sentence longer than 21 years. How appalled they must be to read of the savagery with which we are treating this accused juvenile.

Priya Lynn
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

Stephen said “At 14 one is not legally a person. One cannot buy or sell anything. One cannot enter into a contract.”.

I’m partially with you there, but I have bought and sold many things at 14 and younger.

Stephen said “Now, for no good reason, all our ideas of what does and does not constitute an adult are put aside for what reason?”.

Not putting them aside, just saying a 14 year old knows enough right and wrong to know murder is wrong and carries serious consequenses.

Stephen said “To exact revenge?”.

Yes and to act as a deterant.

I don’t believe he should be locked away for life, 25 years would be sufficient.

Soren456
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

@Desiree:

I learned some things from your post; yours is a point of view that I should already have known. Thank you.

Regan DuCasse
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

Folks, I suppose perhaps in some ways criminals and their ability to engage other people to do their crimes might be an abstraction. But just as the lobby to abolish the death penalty has created morass that makes it and the appeals process more expensive, they are using that situation to justify the abolition.

In an age of far more sophisticated investigative techniques, science and information databases, there is less and less need to be so reticent or fearful about the guilt or innocence of perpetrators. The way our system works, there is hardly a rush to execute.

However, the slog creates another set of abstractions for the young in which the gravity of their crimes or the penalty for it is abstract as well.

25 years will NEVER be sufficient for B. McInerny to serve. And gangs recruit young people precisely because they can escape serious penalty and they also know they can as well. White supremacist gangs in prison have been able to exact other crimes from behind bars.
The mauling death of a young lesbian in San Francisco was the indirect result of such a gang member and his attorney’s keeping his dangerous dogs in their care and their own dislike of the lesbian couple in their building.

McInerny will eligible for parole while in his 30′s or 40′s. And in part, his killing of LK was because of white supremacist teachings. Especially about weapons.

This kid is extremely dangerous now. You think he’s going to have a sea change after 25 years?
Not gonna happen.

Committing to the death penalty will only have meaning to society and the value of the victim if we return to the swift jury process and even swifter justice after the fact. With those on death row taking up all the lawyer time, and without any limits on the appeals process, that leaves little resources for fresh crimes. It’s taken three years to get McI to trial as it is.
If you want to know the truth, young people will be deterred if they knew that a crime they committed under 18, could be punishable by the death penalty at age 21, it WOULD make a difference.

But the way it is now, it doesn’t and can’t.
The fear is misdirected, as is the information and education for the public to understand the realities of the penal system.
Most really DON’T know. Or their information is as outdated and outmoded as the information you hear the anti gay try to pass off as accurate about gay people at large.

Priya Lynn
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

Regan said “This kid is extremely dangerous now. You think he’s going to have a sea change after 25 years?”.

Well, I know there are some cultural differences between Canada and the U.S. but in Canada a murder conviction is 25 years and I’ve never heard of any released convicted killer killing again or committing any other sort of serious crime.

Stephen
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

The death penalty is an obscenity only embraced by the US among developed nations.

It has been proved repeatedly that it does not ever act as a deterrent.

You don’t know this boy is dangerous, Regan. You assume that. I’m surprised to see you espousing such teabaggerish opinions. I’ve always read your comments here and at the ridiculous Throckmorton site with interest and have learned from them. In this instance I think you’re blaming the victim for the crime. Not the poor boy who was killed but the poor boy who didn’t stand a chance.

Unfortunately, Priya, here in the US the prison industry has given up its earlier commitment to reform and now seems to be only interested in transforming the lost into the lethal.

Ben In Oakland
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

That earlier commitment to reform was gone 30 years ago, at least in california. The law used to, and may still, say that the purpose of prison is punishment, not rehabilitation.

Soren456
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

@Stephen: I surely agree.

In my view, no one who kills (especially a kid who kills) is thinking of the penalty as he does so. And in the off chance that he is, he simply doesn’t expect to be caught.

No doubt “thoughtful criminals” do exist, and abstain from crime because they fear the penalties. That would include me, at least, because there are times I’d dearly love to break a law to achieve an objective. But penalties (and personal morality) deter me.

But such as it exists, criminal imagination (and morality) isn’t thoughtful in that way; it’s in a different world. I believe that few criminals expect to be held accountable, and thus, the accounting is no deterrent.

Erin
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

A 14 year-old knows exactly what happens when he points a loaded gun at the back of someone’s head and pulls the trigger. 14 is more than old enough to understand death and feel remorse. This boy had time to contemplate the obvious consequences. I’m not sorry he is being tried as an adult.

Stephen
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

Erin: 14 is not a legal adult. Do we live under law or are we the teabagger nation?

Priya Lynn
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

Stephen, Andrew, and Soren, I’d like to hear what all of you think would be an apropriate penalty for this crime.

Stephen
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

A time spent in a place that he can understand what he did. And he can prepare for the time when he is outside the prison system. And while he is a prisoner he is kept apart from the worst of the prison system: or he could be sent through juvenile detention which is where he might more properly be treated.

So that you know: a friend of ours, he was 21, was shot dead in the parking lot of an apartment building in Dallas. The killer was 14. He’s a black boy and it was thought that the murder was part of a gang entrance thing. Who is the victim? Yes, our friend, but what of the black boy? He made our friend kneel on the ground and shot him through the head with no pity.

What does this tell us about our society? What does the ignorant cracker boy shooting his classmate tell us?

Soren456
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

@Priya Lynn:

I’ll second Stephen. What else would we do with him?

But I’ll add: If you want to speak of “penalty,” we have no basis for conversation. Do you mean that we (society) need to get even with this kid? Spank him? Show him who’s boss? Twist his arm until he cries Uncle?

Revenge and retribution simply, only, aggravate the situation, especially when you’re receiving it. I absolutely guarantee that if McInerney is not led to own and appreciate his deed through appropriate education, retribution (“penalty”) will kill every possibility that he will. Waste a life for a life? Aren’t we beyond Hammurabi?

I’m 23, but I recall my 14th year and the callow youth that I was. I recall how pliable I sometimes was and, with acute embarrassment today, how much I cared what others thought of me. And I had every advantage that McInerney obviously lacked, yet I see parts of McInerney in me then, and parts of me in McInerney.

I learned my way out of my 14th year, and McInerney deserves a crack at getting past his. I believe in education, not penalties.

Donny D.
July 24th, 2011 | LINK

Stephen wrote:

I’ve always read your comments here and at the ridiculous Throckmorton site

Why in your view is the Throckmorton site ridiculous?

In this instance I think you’re blaming the victim for the crime. Not the poor boy who was killed but the poor boy who didn’t stand a chance.

How do you figure that McInerney is a “poor boy who didn’t stand a chance”?

And how do you justify saying that McInerney is the victim here?

Erin
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Stephen, Don’t call me a Teabagger, I’m far from it. 14 is old enough to establish if he understood what he was doing when he committed the crime. It has nothing to do with if he is legally an adult. If they want to detain him in Juvie until he’s 18 as a protective measure, fine. But, he needs to be treated like any other person who was competent enough to understand he was committing murder and did so with forethought. He needs to spend a very very long time in jail. No death penalty. That needs to go altogether.

Erin
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

When we adjudicate violent crimes, we look at motive and when we hand down sentences, we take into account how dangerous the offender is to society. We all know an adolescent mind is not fully developed as far as risk-taking, maturity, and compassion. But an adolescent mind knows and understands that death is permanent. Even a ten year-old knows a gunshot wound to the back of the head is 99.9% guaranteed to kill someone. The prosecution has an interest in motive, regard for the victim, and level of remorse. These characteristics in any person don’t change overnight on the eve of their 18th birthday. I’ve been 14 (obviously), I’ve had many 14-year old friends when I was 14 (obviously), I’ve since worked in the school system, as a substitute teacher covering classrooms full of 14 year-old. A 14 year-old knows what he’s doing when he tells his friends he is going to kill someone, then points a gun to his head and point the trigger, and a 14 year-old has a developed enough brain to know the consequences, and if he doesn’t have to propensity to have regard for the victim or remorse for the act at 14, he’s not going to at 18 either. Period.

Erin
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Blah, typed too fast. Should say “full of 14 year-olds”, “points a gun to someone’s head and pulls the trigger,” and “if he doesn’t have the propensity.”

Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

I said “Stephen, Andrew, and Soren, I’d like to hear what all of you think would be an apropriate penalty for this crime.”.

Stephen said “A time spent in a place that he can understand what he did. And he can prepare for the time when he is outside the prison system.”.

That’s a copout Stephen. How about telling me how long in years you think he should spend in prison. You know that was what I was asking.

Soren said “I’ll second Stephen. What else would we do with him?

But I’ll add: If you want to speak of “penalty,” we have no basis for conversation.”.

Also a copout, especially the false claim that “we have no basis for conversation”. You said you agree with Stephen that he should do some unspecified prison time but then implied there should be no penalty. Which is it, should he spend time in prison or not? And if he should do prison time how much?

Regan DuCasse
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn,
Indeed, released killers have killed again. The list is quite long actually. Including a killer that then governor of Arkansas and Presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee commuted.
This murderer convinced the Christian, ordained minster Huckabee, that he’d found Jesus.
A lot of sociopaths affect such things, and ministers are notorious for convincing parole boards of conversion as proof they aren’t a danger anymore.
Sociopaths will manipulate and do anything they can to get what they want. They are exceptional fabricators and pretenders.

Well sure enough, he killed again. Something that stained Huckabee’s credibility during his run.

I have to go back on the night shift now. And there’s a firebug who set 14 fires in two days close by my neighborhood.
None of you have to take my word for anything here.
You might disagree as to the meaning or need of the death penalty.
But sociopaths come 1 in 25 people and rehab doesn’t have an affect on them. They are just biding their time to do damage again.
When I go to crime scenes and have to be a first responder to what people like McInerny have left behind, it shouldn’t take you seeing what I do for your sympathies to be in the right place.
It really shouldn’t. I’m doing what SOMEONE must.
As are my colleagues. McInerney must stay where he is the rest of his life. A caution to other knuckleheads to take in the gravity of what can happen to them when the plot and plan to murder someone.

Regan DuCasse
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

@ Stephen,
WTF?
I ‘assumed’ he’s dangerous?! If his bullying a smaller, non threatening boy for weeks, voicing his plan to kill him, having a gun at home, loading it and bringing it to school, and coldly firing two bullets into the BACK of his target’s head is an ‘assumption’ of his nature and dangerous capability, then you’d love to make MY job and that of my colleagues a lot harder because of your misplaced sympathies.
And what the hell does this teabagger shit have to do with anything?

Stephen, I don’t expect everyone to understand the facts and figures of the criminal justice and penal system or how law enforcement works.
But I’m not voicing a man in the street opinion here. But the facts from years of professional experience.
And I’m VERY good at what I do and you better hope folks like me are listened to.
Because listening to someone like you, is why not ENOUGH people are locked up who should be.
My heart will NEVER bleed for a Brian McInerny, but it will be forthright and serious in the pursuit of justice for kids like Lawrence King.
In a way, you’d be exacerbating to McI that Lawrence King’s life wasn’t worth him forfeiting his freedom for all of his.
He already didn’t think Lawrence King had any worth, that’s why he pulled the trigger in the first place. He’s hard, despite being young.
It happens. And he won’t change, no reason for him to.
And more importantly, he got his attitude from a family he’d return to if released. Too much opportunity to kill again or something else very serious.

Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Regan, if I remember the Huckabee case correctly Huckabee pardoned the killer long before his sentence was up – he didn’t do 25 years, he was given the message by Huckabee that “You can get away with murder”.

While there will always be some killers who can’t be trusted what I recommend is the same system we have in Canada. A murder conviction is 25 years, but the prosecution can make a case to have the killer declared a dangerous offender and such a person’s prison stay can be extended indefinitely.

I’d support the death penalty if guilt could always be established with certainty, but it can’t, far from it, and never will be. I recall in one state more than half of death row inmates were found to be innocent and that governor rightly suspended implementation of the death penalty.

You said “In an age of far more sophisticated investigative techniques, science and information databases, there is less and less need to be so reticent or fearful about the guilt or innocence of perpetrators. The way our system works, there is hardly a rush to execute.”.

All the sophistication, science and databases in the world isn’t going to ensure every murder cnviction is infallably wrong. There’s always going to be trials where there isn’t a lot of evidence and sophistication and science are of no help. There’s always going to be trials where faulty eye wittness accounts are key, where people lie, prosecuters hide evidence, coerced false confessions and so on. There’s never going to be absolute certainty about every murder trial and that is why I will always oppose the death penalty.

I recall one death row inmate in Texas that had come up with some potential evidence (DNA?) that might exonerate him. The texas governer rushed through his execution before the evidence could be considered because to him it was more important to not appear like his system had made a mistake than it was to avoid executing an innocent person, so yes there certainly has been at least one rush to execute.

Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Regan said “@ Stephen,
WTF?
I ‘assumed’ he’s dangerous?!”.

Yes, I had to laugh when Stephen wrote that – he KILLED someone, of course he’s dangerous.

Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

I said in my comment before last “All the sophistication, science and databases in the world isn’t going to ensure every murder cnviction is infallably wrong.”.

I meant to say “All the sophistication, science and databases in the world isn’t going to ensure every murder cnviction is infallably right.

Regan DuCasse
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

May I say also that my father was a probation officer. After his first five years with adult parolees, he switched to juvenile offenders. My mother was a social worker. Lesser offenders (minor drug charges, misdemeanor theft or assault) were kids that had a chance.

They came from homes that were as difficult or worse than McI’s. My FATHER’S own childhood was horrendous, so he had cred with his charges. Who saw him as a father figure because of the rock solid moral principles and examples my father set for them. He was tough and unswerving in what he had to teach those boys. Some of whom LIVED with my family from time to time.
At risk young people appreciate reasonable and tough moral principles. They don’t, the soft easy to manipulate types.
They get it when you set an example, they don’t when things waffle back and forth and you can’t explain anything forthright to them. They’ll see a soft touch coming a mile away and test you every time on it.

Because of how soft and lacking in moral principles and backbone a lot of adults are, especially parents, young people ARE very hard and end up committing MUCH worse crimes because they have no serious RUDDERS among the adults to steer them in a straight line.

I’m like my old man. VERY much like my old man. And I’m trusted because I have to know the differences and be effective in what I do. Whether in professional or non professional life.
I know what teenagers are like. And I’ve been called upon to do similar mentoring or live in situations.
And I know when some are lost and there isn’t anything that can be done about them.
Since we’re talking about Brian McInerny, HE’S lost. Move on.

Regan DuCasse
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Unfortunately Priya Lynn, even I know of an example of someone on death row in West Memphis who is innocent. But cooler more sophisticated heads were made aware of the case through a documentary. A similar situation of exoneration through a documentary called “The Thin Blue Line” is something that perhaps calls on serious oversight on cases, through objective observers so that adjudication can be done right. A very good friend of mine is doing a documentary of an executed inmate in TX.
In his case though, he was a 17 year old with two children already, that had committed two armed robberies and another in his area resulted in a murder.
He claimed to be innocent of that murder. And he might have been.
But he didn’t give the police much to go on by way of being believable.

Let’s remember also that those who have been exonerated of capital crimes done decades ago before the advent of DNA and so on, were also people that law enforcers were right to suspect because of their reputations, prior records and the company they kept.

The lesson here is there ARE some of us who can’t afford to take risks with the justice system. If you gamble with something you claim is stacked against you, then gambling anyway isn’t too smart.
And felony stupid will get you in major trouble, despite the ONE major crime you didn’t do.

Those on death row, who typically are there for decades, DO take up resources that could otherwise be used elsewhere in shortening the time it takes to have OTHER cases reexamined. McI’s attorney will appeal, of course he will. He’s going to trial, which is costly, even though there is no doubt whatsoever of his guilt.
And certainly there are plenty of cases that occurs, but they appeal anyway because there isn’t much else to do when you’re in prison.
As I said, it took three years before THIS case came to trial.
And the appeals are the reason why it took so long.

I doubt Canada has as dense a criminal element as California does alone.
And with our state broke as it is, even courts are being shut down to save money while prisons are being opened and those thought to be less of a threat, actually ARE.

I might have to start wearing a bullet proof vest to work again, depending on the neighborhood we respond to. We’ll see.

Regan DuCasse
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Oh and…
How about those cases that guilt is ABSOLUTELY well established and no doubt involved?
They still get the same option of appeals and so on, as those whose guilt isn’t determined yet.
Which would be more sensible? No appeals for those of absolute, unquestionable guilt like McI, therefore leaving resources only to questionable guilt?

We have to be sensible about it because there are limits to the resources available to both situations.

Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Regan said “Let’s remember also that those who have been exonerated of capital crimes done decades ago before the advent of DNA and so on, were also people that law enforcers were right to suspect because of their reputations, prior records and the company they kept.

See, now that scares me that you would say that. A policeman might decide I’m guilty based on things that are not related to the case at hand. To me that’s never a valid reason to try to pin a crime on someone, that’s one of the major reasons there are wrongful convictions.

Regan said “Oh and…
How about those cases that guilt is ABSOLUTELY well established and no doubt involved?
They still get the same option of appeals and so on, as those whose guilt isn’t determined yet.
Which would be more sensible? No appeals for those of absolute, unquestionable guilt like McI, therefore leaving resources only to questionable guilt?”.

Well, I’ve thought a lot about this and have been unable to come up with any workable solutions. Do we state a degree of certainty with each murder conviction and only kill those we have established with absolute certainty? Who decides the level of certainty of a murder conviction and how? How can we be certain about the stated level of certainty given that humans are fallable? Yes, I’d like to see some actual murderers put to death but I don’t see a practical way to do this without killing innocent people. So while the system I propose would see people I’d like to see executed do 25 years we have to establish some limits and no law no matter how finely crafted can account for every variation in every case.

Regan DuCasse
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks for you thoughtful response Priya Lynn,
Let me explain what I mean regarding your first paragraph. Don’t misunderstand this as without connection to a case. Detectives have no reason to follow a line of investigation WITHOUT connection. If there is one, it’s right they at least LOOK to see if one exists. When you have gang members for example, who have prior rapes and other violent assaults on their record, and an ex girlfriend or her current boyfriend end up murdered, suspicion would be right to fall on a gang member closest to her with a record of violent assaults on rivals for that girlfriend. It’s not farfetched for a detective to check into ALL avenues of the associates as well as prior behavior and records. They are OBLIGATED to follow a line of investigation that way.
Part of a lot of the problems with convictions, is the JURIES.
Too many of them don’t really know how to examine evidence that isn’t a video or the “CSI” round up of what SHOULD be in evidence. At that point they are speculating beyond what can or would exist. They aren’t supposed to do that. Now you have them dismissing circumstantial evidence as invalid.
Evidence is evidence, whether circumstantial, trace or hard. Dismissing ANY of it, would be wrong.

What needs to be done is perhaps changing the jury system. Imagine if people buy into Brian McI’s defense claim and he doesn’t get the time he deserves. Prejudice within juries has done the most damage to the cred of the courts. It happened in the OJ trial (celebrity trials are another problem). There was plenty of HARD evidence against him, and it’s amazing how many people deny it.

I can tell you in all honesty that a good many crimes, especially domestic violence ones are not hard to solve. They tend to be much more furtive and messy. And the public, thinking THESE sorts of crimes never exist is another way to damage the justice system. Especially when it should favor the victims and their survivors.

In the case of Susan Smith and the murders of her young sons, the jury didn’t have the will to commit her to death row. And they should have. Her being alive set up a whole other list of problems.

Soren456
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

As Priya Lynn hyperventilates because someone won’t agree with her, I’ll stick with what I said.

Priya Lynn challenged me to describe what “penalty” I think McInerney ought to receive. I took the trouble and the time to write a response to her. I made several points in my response. Failing to note most of them, she dismissed the whole thing as a “a copout.” Priya Lynn is rude.

This is my thrust: Revenge and retribution (“penalty” to Priya) accomplish exactly zero; they are useless, they are pointless. They destroy possibility; they destroy life. We have no right to extract that penalty from anyone.

I support education, learning and relearning, and the concomitant change and more change. We have every right to insist upon that.

Priya Lynn continues to sputter on about “penalty.” I refuse to join her conversation. That’s all I have to say.

Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

That’s pretty dishonest of you Soren, I never asked you to agree with me. I asked you if you think he deserved any prison time and if so, how much. All you wrote was just a cheap excuse to avoid giving an answer. Its pretty easy to figure out why you don’t want to say what you actually think, you figure no prison time, or a trivial sentence is apropriate and you know that’s going to make you look naive and like you’re sympathetic to a cold blooded killer.

In all your desperation to avoid making a statement you’ve made a much bigger one than you had wanted to.

Priya Lynn
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

Soren said “This is my thrust: Revenge and retribution (“penalty” to Priya) accomplish exactly zero; they are useless, they are pointless. They destroy possibility; they destroy life. We have no right to extract that penalty from anyone.”.

Okay, sure. Let’s revoke the laws against murder – no penalty whatsoever for killing whoever you want for whatever reason. I’m sure that’ll work out fine and there will be no increase in the murder rate. F’n idiot.

Timothy Kincaid
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t know what the appropriate penalty for McInerney should be. I doubt that there really is a magic number of years that would suitably reform him into a stellar member of society but also send the appropriate message, whatever that might be. That’s arbitrary, a guess, and I have no data from which to even begin.

But I know this: some people will not or cannot live according to the underlying requirement of society: respect for the life, property, and freedom of others. Maybe it’s upbringing, or circumstances, or sociopathy but some people simply will never ever be able to respect the life, property, and freedom of others.

I don’t know that either punitive or rehabilitative measures have ever worked on such people. There is only one response that I can think of that has any chance: make the consequences adequately unpleasant to deter those who can be deterred and keep those who cannot be deterred permanently separated from society.

The most difficult thing, I guess, is knowing who can be rehabilitated and who is just forever going to be a threat. And our response runs both the risk of too harshly throwing away the potential of those who could be productive members of society or too leniently putting sociopaths back on the streets and putting the good people to a higher level of threat.

Which is McInerney? I don’t know.

Frankly, when you choose in your teens to get involved with white supremacy and neo-Nazi ideology, you seldom go on to be of much use. That sort of general disregard of the value of the lives of others based on their race tells us that your respect for life, property and freedom is diminished, at best. But plenty of people dabble in hate before they reject it and some even dedicate themselves to fighting against such ideas.

Had he not told others that he was going to kill a fellow teen, got a gun, shot the teen in the back of the head, stood over him and put another bullet in him, who knows what his life may have turned out to be? But this action suggests to me that McInerney is not a person that is likely to respond well to efforts to convince him that he should place the good of society above his own wishes.

Somehow I just don’t think that is going to work in him.

Timothy (TRiG)
July 25th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t pretend to know what penalty is appropriate in this case. I do know that the US is one of only two countries in the world which has not signed the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and that what happens to children in US prisons can be barbaric.

TRiG.

Donny D.
July 26th, 2011 | LINK

I’m by no means a supporter of the “lengthen as many sentences, try as many juveniles as adults, make as many misdeamoners into felonies, and as many felonies into capital crimes as possible” movement that’s been raging here in California for over 40 years. Nor do I assume that I’m competent to decide what McInerney’s sentence should be based on media coverage.

But I strongly suspect that one or more commenters here don’t have a problem with McInerney killing King, though they aren’t being clear about their own motivations or what penalty, if any, McInerney should receive.

Priya Lynn
July 26th, 2011 | LINK

Donny said “I’m by no means a supporter of the “lengthen as many sentences, try as many juveniles as adults, make as many misdeamoners into felonies, and as many felonies into capital crimes as possible” movement that’s been raging here in California for over 40 years.”.

Neither am I.

Donny said “Nor do I assume that I’m competent to decide what McInerney’s sentence should be based on media coverage.”.

I’d agree with you given a lot of court cases, but here its a certainty that Mcinerney intentionally killed King so I have no problem whatsoever in deciding what the sentence should be.

Donny D.
July 27th, 2011 | LINK

Priya, the first paragraph in my previous message was only a setup for the second paragraph. What do you think about what I wrote in the second paragraph?

Stephen
July 28th, 2011 | LINK

Legally 14 is not an adult.

Legally.

Not a question of what anyone remembers: the net curtains blowing in the storm winds off the Gulf when the Minory boy came by to play checkers.

If we think the supreme court might vote down DOMA we’d better be careful what we espouse. If we appeal to the law we should respect the law and question when it’s abused.

Donny D: the Throckmorton site has some interesting commentary by its owner. Unfortunately the comments are plagued by a group that seems never to have left its basement. Ignorant, small minded and provincial. And though Throckmorton is pretty provincial himself he’s not as bad as the commenters.

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