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Posts for November, 2011

Larry King’s Killer Pleads Guilty In Exchange for 21 Year Prison Term

Jim Burroway

November 22nd, 2011

Brandon McInerney (left), Lawrence King (right)

Brandon McInerney, who was a fourteen-year-old Oxnard Middle School student when he shot Larry King in school at point blank range in 2008, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and the use of a fire arm in a plea deal which will result in a 21 year prison term in addition to time served. Under the terms of his plea deal, McInerney, who is now 17, will be released shortly before his 39th birthday. McInerney will be formally sentenced on December 19.

McInerney’s plea deal comes after a mistrial was declared in his first trial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict. They had deadlocked at 7 to 5 in favor of finding McInerney guilty of voluntary manslaughter, with the five holding out for either second or first degree murder.

The Gay and Lesbian Education Network’s Executive Director Eliza Byard applauded the plea deal:

“The plea deal announced today ends a tragic chapter in Ventura County. Holding Brandon McInerney accountable for his actions is necessary and right, but putting him behind bars does not solve the problems that led a boy to become a bully, and then a murderer. Homophobia and transphobia, compounded by the lack of counseling and other supports for struggling young people, resulted in Larry King’s death and the effective end of Brandon McInerney’s life. As adults and as a society, we must find the resolve to fix the broken systems that lost two young lives to hate and fear.

I echo Byard’s sentiments. I’ve always felt very uncomfortable with sending a fourteen-year-old to prison for the rest of his life. This, I think, strikes the right balance.

Lawrence King murder trial – day two

Timothy Kincaid

July 6th, 2011

The testimony has begun and, frankly, I’m glad I’m not there. So far there have been several students who were but around 14 at the time and who remain horrified and shaken by the event. But while it must be difficult having to relive the events of three years ago, these are the witnesses. They were there when Brandon McInerney and his friends spent months tormenting Lawrence King; they were there when King finally fought back using flirting as his defense; and they were just feet from the two when McInerney put two bullets into the back of King’s head.

Today students testified about being present at the shootings and one boy spoke about hearing McInerney talk about plans to attack King. (LATimes)

Wearing a pullover sweater and a black plastic rosary around his neck, Cristian, 17, said he and McInerney had a physical education class together and that McInerney talked about King to a group of boys on the day before the February 2008 shooting.

“He said he was going to get some guys together and rush him and shank him,” Cristian said in court, adding that McInerney showed no emotion when he made the statement.

Cristian testified that he saw King occasionally wearing makeup, jewelry and high heels with his public school uniform. When that happened, some students would taunt him with homosexual slurs, Cristian said.

When asked by defense attorney Scott Wippert if he ever saw King “chasing boys around,” Cristian answered no.

Today also revealed a detail that is shocking and may suggest that the day ended with less tragedy than it might have. (Star)

The second witness this morning was retired Oxnard detective Joe Chase, an investigator in the case. He testified about the crime scene, including about finding the .22-caliber revolver used in the slaying.

The gun was cocked when police found it, meaning it was ready to fire a third shot. There were four live bullets remaining in the gun.

During cross-examination, Wippert asked Chase if it was possible that when the gun was dropped, it could have fallen on the hammer, cocking the weapon.

“Anything is possible, but I would say no,” he said. He later said the weapon was jammed and likely could not have fired a third shot.

LA Times joins “gay panic” smear of Lawrence King

Timothy Kincaid

July 5th, 2011

Brian McInerney (left), Lawrence King (right)

From the beginning, reporters covering the murder of Lawrence King have had difficulty in finding the right tone and delivery. Few stories are more challenging than that of a 14 year old boy shooting his schoolmate in the back of the head at point blank range in the middle of his classroom.

Two young lives have been destroyed. Lawrence King is dead, and Brandon McInerney will spend much of his life behind bars. And reporters have sought to make that point rather than just tell the tale of a murderer and his victim. Sadly, this effort has evolved in some media from telling both stories to a cover-up of the facts and a retelling in which King was the culprit and McInerney an innocent who defended himself in the only way he knew how.

I will concede that it is difficult for a reporter to tell the victim’s side of the story. While defense lawyers invariable seek to influence public opinion (and a jury pool) with press conferences full of alternative possibilities, prosecutors are generally more circumspect. And while Ventura County senior deputy district attorney Maeve Fox did finally release information about McInerney to counter the defense’s fairy tale, it is not her job to defend King’s reputation.

That role is often filled by family of the victim. But Lawrence King’s adoptive parents were estranged and more interested in trying to find a way to make a buck off of King’s murder. They had no interest in defending the reputation of the weird kid who had “never bonded with them” and whom had been shipped off to a youth facility. Which leaves no one – no one at all – speaking for Lawrence.

But that is no excuse for shoddy journalism, deceptive reporting, and homophobic insinuation.

Perhaps the worst example was the hit piece on Lawrence King penned by Ramin Setoodah, a celebrity interviewer, for Newsweek. Setoodeh’s piece was the first to characterizate King as a bully and sexual aggressor who tormented Brandon McInerney. Parroting McInerney’s attorneys, Setoodeh laid out the gay panic defense, tossing in stereotypes and insinuations and “a lesbian vice principal with a political agenda.”

But while Newsweek’s article was unforgivable, one expects that hard news media will avoid such tactics. So it is even more disturbing to see the LA Times join in on the character assassination of Lawrence King.

But today’s article by Catherine Saillant about the start of the trial does just that. It seeks to minimize Brandon McInerney’s crime by diminishing the value of the life of his victim. Saillant does not see one child shooting another in the back of the head in his classroom but rather a sexual abuse victim acting in self defense against a sexual aggressor, a tormentor, a homosexual menace.

I don’t claim that Saillant has an anti-gay bias. Her use of the somewhat ominous phrase “young homosexuals on school campuses” instead of “gay youth” may be accidental or out of ignorance. For all I know, she is an ardent supporter of equality.

But her article is a textbook example of journalistic gay panic: the presumption that heterosexuals are entitled to live a life free of gay people, and that a gay person acknowledging their own existence is such a threat to heterosexuals that it justifies murder (or, at least, is a mitigating circumstance).

In the presumptions of journalistic gay panic, it is relevant to their murder whether a child was or was not effeminate or sometimes wore “women’s accessories”. In the presumptions of journalistic gay panic, the flirtations of a girl to a boy are very very different from the flirtations of a boy to a boy.

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 eventually became 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.

And this cannot be chalked up to a lack of information. In a February 2009 Times article written by Saillant herself:

“Witnesses said King was usually not the aggressor. But after months of teasing by McInerney and other male students who called him “faggot,” he had began to retort, according to prosecutors.”

But it is in the second sentence that Saillant steps from being a reporter of a one-sided version of the story to active manipulator. Here she 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 cross-dressing that he couldn’t even get along with his parents.

But the worst was just previous:

…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?

And again, this is not unfamiliar territory to Saillant. From that 2009 article:

In her statement of facts, Fox contends that King and McInerney had an acrimonious relationship for months prior to the shooting. They sparred with “typical 8th grade, back-and-forth insults; some sexual, some not,” she wrote.

But today, those “back and forth insults, some sexual, some not,” have become one-way “repeated sexual advances”. If Saillant is going to just parrot the accusations of McInerney’s defense, she has an obligation to inform that King’s “advances” consisted of flirting, at most, and did not consist of acts of adult sexual aggression. On the other hand, King’s “death” consisted of death.

This is not journalistic balance. This is advocacy for the defense’s gay panic strategy.

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 current age that is a problem.

I don’t know Saillant’s motivations. It may be that she is among those who think 14 is too young to be tried for murder. Maybe she wants to look at “all the circumstances” and see McInerney as “a victim too”. Perhaps wants to “present both sides”.

And the easiest way to do that – as McInerney is a pretty nasty neo-Nazi with white supremacist connections 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. Besides, who is going to complain?

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

Now, 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.

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.”

Larry King Killer Linked to Hate Literature

Timothy Kincaid

October 3rd, 2008

Since he was shot in the head on Valentines Day of this year, sympathy has seemed to shift from murder victim Larry King to his killer Brandon McInerney. Many, both straight and gay, have expressed concerns over trying McInerney as an adult and lamented the destruction of two young lives. And some felt that no hate crime had been committed.

Some, like Newsweek author Ramin Setoodeh, sought to portray McInerney as a good kid victimized by “inappropriate, sometimes harmful, behavior” from King who was flamboyant and “flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon”.

Now information has come to light that may challenge McInerney’s image as a squeeky clean white boy who just couldn’t take Larry King’s advances any more.

The LA Times reports:

Investigators seized white supremacist materials, including doodlings of Nazi swastikas, from the bedroom of Brandon McInerney, the 14-year-old Oxnard student accused of gunning down his gay classmate.

The prosecution considered McInerney’s attention in such literature in its decision to add the hate crime charge. His attorney, who has been seeking to convict King, the school, and administrators in the court of public opinion, sought to excuse the findings.

He said McInerney had the items because he was writing a school paper on Adolf Hitler. He also shared an interest in the German military with other family members, Quest said.

Yes, no doubt he did have an interest in the German military and Hitler. But Quest does not describe how reading skinhead, white supremacist literature and scrawling swaztikas prepared McInerney to write his paper.

Newsweek Justifies Rumor and Innuendo as Source

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

Timothy Kincaid

July 25th, 2008

Earlier this week I criticized Ramin Setoodeh’s Newsweek article about the “flamboyance” of 15 year old murder victim Larry King. Now Newsweek’s Kurt Soller has written a follow up that is, frankly, disgusting.

Soller spends a few paragraphs quoting from some of the 4,000 responses. If you are easily angered, I’d advise against reading Soller’s piece.

While some of the comments he quotes share my ire that Newsweek was quick to point out every foible of King while refusing to mention reports that McInerney and his friends had picked on him, some seemed to put words to Setoodeh’s innuendo that King was really to blame for his own murder and that McInerney was the true victim.

Soller presents these justifications for premeditated, execution style murder as though they are just another opinion. It makes me nauseous that a credible news magazine can act as though “you blamed the victim” is the moral equivalent of “he had it coming” and that both are worth reporting without comment.

And what further annoyed me was the closing paragraph. Maeve Fox, the prosecutor in this case, told the magazine that they had inaccurate information and should not have relied on whispered anonymous rumors. Too bad.

While Fox thought the anonymous sourcing was unnecessary, Setoodeh says his story would have been impossible to tell without it.

Setoodeh had a story to tell. And he wasn’t about to let journalistic integrity stand in his way. And Newsweek applauds him for it.

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.

Newsweek’s Hit Piece on Murder Victim Larry King

This article expresses the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the opinion of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2008

There are certain words and phrases that give a reader a sense of the perspective of the writer. And when discussing issues relating to orientation, some words and phrases suggest either a harsh hostility to gay people or a callous ignorance of our lives.

So it was with dismay that I read Ramin Setoodeh’s piece in Newsweek about the circumstances surrounding murder of Lawrence King. Setoodeh, in an effort to tell a “multilayered and complex” story, saw fit to use such language as “inappropriate, sometimes harmful, behavior”, “flaunted his sexuality”, “flamboyance”, and “pushed his rights”. These are all catch phrases that are most often heard from anti-gay activists when seeking to justify bigotry and discrimination.

Setoodeh uses these phrases to present a picture of Larry King, and one that is not complimentary. Unlike his murderer, Brandon McInerney, who “was smart” but “had his share of troubles”, for King the author had little good to say.

To Setoodeh, Larry was the primary source of disturbance on campus. He wore makeup and “thought nothing of chasing the boys around the school in [high heels], teetering as he ran.” He was “a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon”. “He went to school accessorized to the max” and would “sidle up to the popular boys’ table and say in a high-pitched voice, “Mind if I sit here?””

If there were any residents of Oxnard that didn’t view Larry as a prancing mincing menace intent on wreaking havoc on all around him, Setoodeh didn’t seem to find them. He found instead an attorney with a “gay panic” defense, a litigious adoptive father who resents the gay community for caring about Larry’s murder, and several teachers who objected to his effeminate ways.

In short, there’s very little in the Newsweek article that would not seem more at home on World Net Daily or a press release from the American Family Association.

And other than the briefest of disclaimers there is little to suggest that King was not fully to blame for his own death,. After all, he “sexually harassed” McInerney. He “was pushing as hard as he could, because he liked the attention”.

In addition to Larry King, there’s one other villain in Setoodeh’s tale. No, not the boy who pulled the trigger; he was being “bullied”, you see. The other responsible party is Joy Epstein, “a lesbian vice principal with a political agenda.” In Setoodeh’s words, “Some teachers believe that she was encouraging Larry’s flamboyance, to help further an “agenda,” as some put it.”

It may be that Ramin Setoodeh was limited by the nature of the legal system. While the defense attorney has an interest in pushing a “blame the school, blame the administration, blame the victim, blame anyone but McInerney” spin, the prosecution was not willing to try the case in the papers. And with Larry King’s allegedly abusive adoptive father motivated by his lawsuit against the school, there is no one left to speak for Larry.

Setoodeh may have let inexperience and limited input sway his judgment into writing a hit piece on the victim. He is, after all, an odd choice for an in depth article about social interactions in an elementary school. His prior articles appear to consist primarily of celebrity interviews and entertainment commentary.

But though Setoodeh had not written substantive work for Newsweek before this, it is not the first time that he has shown awkwardness around the subject of homosexuality.

In December of 2005, he phrased a question to Jake Gyllenhaal that makes presumptions about Gyllenhaal’s expertise on gay issues and also wild assumptions about what “people” believe.

“Brokeback Mountain” is a breakthrough movie. Why do you think people oppose gay marriage?

Similarly, his odd questioning of Clay Aiken and whether the Kelly Ripa incident was homophobic cut short his interview with the former American Idol star. In fact, I was surprised at how frequently the term “awkward” appears when googling Mr. Setoodeh. And often when it didn’t, it should have.

I don’t know Ramin Setoodeh’s orientation or his personal tastes or biases. Nor do I know his reasons for writing an article that serves as little more than a press release for the defense on this murder case.

But whatever his motivations, it is clear to me that he was tragically under-qualified for the job and his lack of experience showed in his use of language and in his final product.

District Attorney on King Case Dismisses Quest’s “Blame the Victim” Defense

Timothy Kincaid

May 9th, 2008

Lawrence King Karen Ocamb, writing for the Advocate, interviewed Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox about the murder of Lawrence King, a 15 boy shot by a classmate because he was gay. Although William Quest, the defense attorney for King’s killer, Brandon McInerney, has been telling the press that the blame should lie with King or with the school district, Fox isn’t buying it.

Fox declined to say if she thought Quest would mount a “gay panic defense” – saying that McInerney murdered King because the gay boy came on to him. However, Fox scoffed at any “blame the victim” defense as an “absolute failure to acknowledge personal responsibility.” Any “heat of passion” defense,” Fox said, requires an immediate, unforeseen reaction to an objectively overwhelming provocation and the absence of malice of forethought – the exact opposite of premeditation, which is what McInerney is charged with.

Fox further explained her thinking and why the DA wants to charge McInerney as an adult with premeditated murder with a special allegation of a hate crime.

“When you kill someone, to me you need to be incarcerated away from the public for a long time. Because to me, you’ve demonstrated that you’re dangerous. That’s why we have such lengthy sentences for murderers because you don’t want to just say, ‘Now don’t ever do that again!’ They’re dangerous people in most cases – unless it’s some extreme case where the person was under duress – in those cases we generally work out some kind of plea or arrangement. What I’m thinking of is battered women, people who kill under extreme circumstances.

“But if it’s a situation where it’s unprovoked and premeditated,” Fox continued, “then I would say in pretty much all of those cases, that public safety is a tremendous concern for me. And punishment is very high on my list of priorities. I’m very big on personal responsibility. And unless you can show me that you had a really, really, really good reason for doing what you did, I think you should stand up and be accountable for it. And you should be punished because otherwise we would live in pure chaos. These are the rules we’ve set up for each other and to me, it’s a very important part of this job.”

Lawyer Blames School for King’s Shooting

Jim Burroway

May 8th, 2008

Deputy Public Defender William Quest is something else. Quest is the lawyer for 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, the teen accused of shooting Lawrence King point blank in the head at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California February 12. Last April, Quest blamed King’s death on King himself. Today, he’s decided that it’s the school system’s fault:

Educators should have moved aggressively to quell rising tensions between the two boys, which began when King openly flirted with McInerney, said Deputy Public Defender William Quest. Instead, administrators were so intent on nurturing King as he explored his sexuality, allowing him to come to school wearing feminine makeup and accessories, that they downplayed the turmoil that his behavior was causing on campus, Quest said.

Defense Blames Lawrence King for his Own Murder

Timothy Kincaid

April 21st, 2008

Lawrence KingDeputy Public Defender William Quest, the defense attorney for Brandon McInerney, the 14 year old who shot his 15 year old gay classmate Lawrence King, has made statements intended to fuel blame against the victim.

From the Ventura Star

Quest said he believes school administrators supported one student expressing himself and his sexuality — King — and ignored how it affected other kids, despite complaints. Cross-dressing isn’t a normal thing in adult environments, he said, yet 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds were expected to just accept it and go on.

Mr. Quest is not being accurate. Other than boots and jewelry, King did not cross-dress; he wore the school uniform.

Further, Mr. Quest is not allowed to use gay panic as a defense in his case. California law does not allow it.

A.B. 1160 declares that it is against public policy for a defendant to play upon the bias of the jury, or for a jury to allow bias against the victim to enter into its decision-making.

So, other than efforts to disparage young Mr. King or to taint the jury pool, it isn’t clear what Quest is hoping to achieve by such claims. Sadly, I fear that his statements may just be the result of the common belief that gay people deserve the violence enacted against them.

Gay Groups Ask for Leniency in Lawrence King Murder

Jim Burroway

April 15th, 2008

Lawrence KingA coalition of 27 LGBT activist organizations is urging the Ventura County, California District Attorney to charge 14-year old Brandon McInerney, Lawrence King’s murderer, as a juvenile. McInerney shot King, 15, point blank in the head on February 12th at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. With hate crime enhancements, McInerney faces up to 27 years in prison if he is charged as an adult. But citing an overall “climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and expression,” the coalition feels that prosecuting McInerney as an adult would “compound this tragedy with another wrong.”

The press release, which is not yet available online, reads:

A coalition of 27 groups fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights today is urging Ventura County prosecutors to try 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in juvenile court, and not as an adult. McInerney has been charged as an adult in the February 12 murder of his E.O. Green Middle School classmate, 15-year-old Lawrence King. Students say McInerney targeted King because the victim was openly gay and because he wore women’s jewellery and makeup.

LGBT civil rights organizations, including Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, have delivered a short statement to Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten, calling on him to try McInerney as a juvenile.

“We are saddened and outraged by the murder of junior high school student Lawrence King,” the statement reads. “At the same time, we call on prosecutors not to compound this tragedy with another wrong “we call on them to treat the suspect as a juvenile, not as an adult.

“The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression. The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions. But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation. In addition, public safety is not served by treating children as adults. According to research released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2006, children transferred to adult court are more likely to re-offend than those committing similar offenses who remain in the juvenile justice system. California law does not require District Attorneys to prosecute 14 year-olds as adults, even in circumstances such as these, and we oppose them doing so. We are issuing this joint statement because we believe so strongly in principles of justice that protect all our young people and know that, even in the face of strong emotions, we should not abandon them. We refuse to let our sense of outrage blind us to the fact that the suspect is only 14 years old.

“Prosecuting the alleged perpetrator as an adult will not bring Lawrence King back nor will it make schools safer for LGBT youth. We must respond to this tragedy by strengthening our resolve to change the climate in schools, eliminate bigotry based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and hold schools responsible for protecting students against discrimination and physical harm.”

The list of signatories include: American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties; American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; Ally Action (CA); Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE; national); Community United Against Violence (San Francisco); Different Avenues (DC); Equality California; Gay Straight Alliance Network (CA); Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD); Human Rights Campaign; LAGAI – Queer Insurrection; Lambda Legal; LifeWorks Mentoring (Los Angeles); Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Center for Transgender Equality; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; Safe Schools Coalition; San Francisco LGBT Community Center; Sylvia Rivera Law Project (New York); TGI Justice Project (CA); Transgender Law Center; The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (NY); TransYouth Family Allies, Inc.

LA Times Article about Larry King

Timothy Kincaid

March 8th, 2008

The Times has a good article filling in a few details of the life of young Larry King, a 15 kid shot by a schoolmate because he was gay.

Larry had searched elsewhere for a safe harbor. After he landed at Casa Pacifica, he joined a youth group sponsored by the nonprofit Ventura County Rainbow Alliance, which offers social services to the gay community.

Alliance Executive Director Jay Smith would not reveal what Larry had talked about during the group’s Friday night meetings. But Smith said that no teenager should have to wake up in a shelter knowing the school day ahead would bring a fresh heap of rejection and scorn. “Not having a mom or dad to run to. . . . I can’t imagine what that is like,” he said. “His life was tough.”

While there is no part of this story that isn’t tragic, it is encouraging to know that there was someone to turn to. When anti-gays and homophobes claim that youth groups or Gay-Straight Alliances are “recruiting” and “sex clubs”, think of Larry King.

In Response To the Murder of Lawrence King, Where Is the Voice of the Church?

This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and is not necessarily those of the other contributors of Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

February 18th, 2008

If you want to infuriate a conservative Christian, suggest that the church is at least partially responsible for anti-gay violence.

The response is quick, harsh, and brimming with indignation. How dare you suggest that the church supports violence? Why, the very admonitions against murder are from the ten commandments, you know! The church is full of love, love, love, love for “persons suffering with same-sex attraction”.

I do not doubt that sermons within the church talk about love. About being kind. About showing mercy. All while opposing sin and the vile agenda of sinners. One should love the sinner and hate the sin.

But only one part of that message seems to make it outside the church doors.

Much is said about homosexuality by the self appointed voices of Christianity. One cannot go a day without some proclamation about destroying society, or an evil agenda, or protecting children, or some such thing. It is clear that “Christianity” feels threatened by and is in opposition to “the Homosexual Agenda”.

But is it opposed to violence against gay people? And if so, how would anyone know?

In the wake of the murder of 15 year old Lawrence King by a classmate apparently motivated by King’s non-gender-conforming appearance and openness about his sexual orientation, the community of Oxnard has been asking itself hard questions. Why did this happen? What could we have done differently?

And the community has joined together to express its sorrow and its love. A hastily organized rally by two sophomore students resulted in over 1,000 children showing their support for tolerance and peace. Editorials and letters to the local paper have called on the community to look at its part in the tragedy.

But one group has been strangely silent. One voice has had nothing to say about retrospection or self-examination. One voice has not been raised to condemn either the harsh treatment of Lawrence King when he was alive or his brutal execution.

I have searched and as best I can find, in the days since King’s murder, the sole discussion about this tragedy from Christian media has been limited to a single CNS article by Susan Jones titled “Hate Crime Charges Against Teen Who Shot ‘Feminine’ Boy”. This, incidentally is from a media source that actively opposes hate crimes legislation.

At no point did the article indicate that it was heinous, immoral, or even slightly inappropriate that Lawrence King was murdered for his orientation. But it did declare that “homosexual activists have seized on Lawrence King case” and that “some conservative groups say California has gone overboard when it comes to “sexual indoctrination” in the schools”.

Perhaps the church in Oxnard mourns the loss of one of the community’s children. But if it mourns, it does so silently. I am confident that sermons on Sunday sought to bring comfort to congregations, but if there was any outcry against the homophobia that led to King’s death, it was not public.

But the greater voice of Christianity has not been silent since Larry was shot.

In the past few days, CBN tells us that homosexuality is about relational brokenness and that it’s possible to change your orientation. OneNewsNow (AFA) reports Rev. Ken Hutcherson calling a Gay-Straight Alliance a “sex club” without even suggesting that perhaps his accusation may be extreme. The California Catholic Daily reports that in California young children are to be “educated” to approve of the homosexual lifestyle and a Christian leader says “You have to get them out. You have to rescue them”.

And it is not just within the Christian press that homosexuality has been decried as evil this week.

From the Battle Creek Enquirer:

“I don’t define myself against other churches, but I am very scriptural and I don’t shy away from the hard scriptural passages,” said Griffin, who has recently tackled issues such as homosexuality, adultery and pornography. “I believe the truth is spoken in love. I don’t just pound the pulpit.”

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Presbyterians may disagree with their church’s ban on ordaining noncelibate gays and lesbians, but they must follow the rules, according to the Louisville-based denomination’s highest court.

From the Arizona Daily Star:

Leaders from five Anglican provinces said Friday they will boycott a once-a-decade world Anglican summit because the U.S. Episcopal Church ordained a gay bishop.

Yes there are denominations, churches, and individuals that are seeking to include gay people in the body of Christ. And they are seeking to have their voice be heard.

But sadly, if you asked the random stranger on the street, “What do Christians believe about gay people,” the answer would not be that gay people are to be loved as your neighbor or that they are equal children of God. Rather, you are going to hear time after time that the church condemns gays and lesbians and opposes their rights and equality.

So I ask – if the church opposes violence against gay people and seeks to show love, why does no one see it? If the church finds the murder of Lawrence King to be heinous and disgusting, why cannot I find words to that effect? If murder is at least as bad as homosexuality in the eyes of the church, why don’t the articles of Christian news-sources or the quotes of preachers and other religious leaders reflect this?

Tell me, just who is to blame for the message that the world has heard from the church this past week… if not the church?

Students March for Lawrence King

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2008

Last Friday, we reported on a memorial march for Lawrence King, the 15-year-old student who was shot and killed by a classmate because he was gay. There was another march Saturday, this time organized by Oxnard, California students. They had expected only a few hundred to show up. But much to the surprise of organizers, school officials and police, more than a thousand turned out to remember Larry.

Student memorial march

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