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Mistrial Declared in Larry King Murder Trial

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2011

Brandon McInerney (left), Lawrence King (right)

A judge declared a mistrial in the case of Brandon McInerney, who was accused of killing 15-year-old Larry King at their junior high school in 2008. Judge Charles Campbell declared the mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict, deadlocking at 7 to 5 in favor of finding McInerney guilty of voluntary manslaughter. To reach a verdict, the jury would have had to reach a unanimous conclusion. Furthermore, to reach a verdict of manslaughter, they would have had to reach a unanimous decision to find him not guilty of first or second degree murder. The other five voted for either second or first degree murder. The jury had been deliberating since Wednesday.

The mistrial means that prosecution can re-try the case, unless the defense and prosecution reach a plea deal. The Ventura County Star reports:

Previous offers of 25-years to life were rejected by McInerney’s lawyers because the penalty could go up to life in prison. McInerney will remain in juvenile hall while the district attorney weighs its next move.

…Jurors were able to consider first-degree, second-degree and manslaughter charges.

Conviction on a first-degree murder charge would bring a mandatory 50-year sentence, but a manslaughter sentence ranges from four to 11 years, along with a 10-year enhancement for using a gun. First-degree murder is one of premeditation; manslaughter is a homicide committed in the heat of passion.

McInerny was charged with murder, but the his lawyers raised the “gay panic defense,” and coupled it with evidence of an abusive home life. The also accused King of “sexually harassing” McInerny:

The prosecution says it was a calculated murder carried out in part because McInerney was exploring white supremacist ideology and didn’t like homosexuals. Defense attorneys painted a different picture, that of a bright but abused 14-year-old who snapped after being sexually harassed by King.

The Ventura County Star elaborates:

His lawyers put McInerney’s family members on the stand who testified of the abuse that his father, Billy, would exact on McInerney and his two half-brothers. Billy McInerney had drugs and alcohol in his system in 2009 when he fell down, hit his head and died.

Billy would hold Brandon’s brothers down and make Brandon kick them in the face, one brother testified. Billy would punch Brandon in the stomach or the nose when he thought his son was out of line, the brother said.

Billy taught his son to hate gays at a young age and would call them names when they saw them on TV or in the street.

Brandon was on a downward spiral of depression in the months leading up to the shooting, when his father would take him to houses at all hours of the night where Billy would pop pills and drink heavily.

Prosecutors provided evidence that Brandon was a “budding white supremacist who hated King because he was gay and wearing women’s boots and makeup.”

Eliza Byard, Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), responded to the mistrial:

“The mistrial declared today is hardly a surprise. This was always destined to be a case with little resolution and no winners, whatever the verdict. The central facts remain the same: homophobia killed Larry King and destroyed Brandon McInerney’s life, and adults failed both young men because of their own inability to deal forthrightly and compassionately with the multiple challenges they each faced. The jury’s indecision is a sad reflection of our collective inability to find common ground and invest in a better future for all youth and a culture of respect for all.”

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