Brandon McInerney was a fourteen year old teen from California who who would murder a classmate. According to court reports the victim Lawrence King was a fifteen year old student who was openly gay had been bullied for years because of his sexuality. Lawrence King had enough of the bullying and began to taunt other boys who were bullying him.
Brandon McInerney was one of the boys who would be taunted by Lawrence King and according to witnesses he endured the teasing for a few days but would soon had enough and tried to get other students to attack King and told one of Lawrence King’s friends to say goodbye to him.
On February 12, 2008 Brandon McInerney would bring a gun to school hidden in his backpack. He was observed staring at Lawrence King in the moments before the shooting. The teen killer would walk over to King and shoot him twice in the back of the head. McInerney would drop the gun and walk out of the school. He would be arrested just blocks away from the school.
Lawrence King was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The fifteen year old would be declared brain dead the next day however his body was kept on life support for two days so his organs could be donated.
Brandon McInerney would first go on trial in July 5, 2011 and was initially charged with the murder and a hate crime enhancement. The jury would be unable to reach a verdict.
The second trial was suppose to start in late November 2011 however Brandon McInerney would plead guilty to second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm. Brandon McInerney would be sentenced to 21 years in prison
Brandon McInerney 2023 Information
|Inmate Name||MCINERNEY, BRANDON|
|Current Location||California Correctional Center|
|Parole Eligible Date (Month/Year)||12/2025|
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Brandon McInerney was sentenced on Monday to 21 years in state prison for shooting a gay student in the back of the head during a computer lab class three years ago.
McInerney, 17, didn’t speak at the hearing but his lawyer Scott Wippert said his client was sorry for killing 15-year-old Larry King.
“He feels deeply remorseful and stated repeatedly if he could go back and take back what he did he would do it in a heartbeat, Wippert said.
King’s family said they couldn’t forgive their son’s killer.
“You took upon yourself to be a bully and to hate a smaller kid, wanting to be the big man on campus,'” King’s father, Greg King, said on behalf of his wife. “‘You have left a big hole in my heart where Larry was and it can never be filled.'”
In a deal reached with Ventura County prosecutors last month, McInerney agreed to avoid a retrial and to plead guilty to second-degree murder, as well as one count each of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm.
A mistrial was declared in September when jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the degree of guilt. Several jurors said after McInerney’s trial that he shouldn’t have been tried as an adult.
Leading up to the February 2008 killing, teachers and students saw a dispute growing between King and McInerney, who shot King twice in the head in a computer lab at E.O Green Junior High School.
McInerney, then 14, had reached an emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward him and other boys, defense lawyers said. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, school administrators allowed King to wear heels and makeup because federal law provides the right of students to express their sexual orientation.
The case drew widespread attention because of its shocking premise and raised questions about how schools should deal with students and sexual identity issues. Comic Ellen DeGeneres, a lesbian, weighed in on her talk show shortly after the shooting and said gays shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens.
Because of pretrial publicity, the trial was moved from Ventura County to Los Angeles.
Prosecutors said the shooting in front of stunned classmates was first-degree murder and that McInerney should be punished as an adult. They argued the shooting was a hate crime, an aspect jurors rejected, after authorities found white supremacist materials in his home.
Defense attorneys, who unsuccessfully argued to keep the case in juvenile court, said it was voluntary manslaughter because McInerney lost control of his emotions. They said the teen was beaten by his father and was described as a bright student who lost his motivation.
King’s father also blamed the school district for not doing more to address the brewing feud between the two teens and their son’s flamboyant behavior.
“Instead of protecting him from himself and his poor impulse control, they enabled and encouraged him to become more and more provocative,” Greg King said.
King’s family and Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox wore buttons with the teen’s face on it, while some of McInerney’s supporters wore powder blue wristbands that read “Save Brandon.”
After serving nearly four years since King’s slaying, with the additional 21 years McInerney will be released just before his 39th birthday.
His murder conviction will be stayed, and the plea deal calls for McInerney to be given the harshest sentence under California law for voluntary manslaughter — 11 years — and use of a firearm — 10 years, prosecutors said. McInerney is ineligible for time served or good behavior because he pleaded guilty to murder.
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Emotions have run high since the very first day of Brandon McInerney’s trial for murder. Perhaps that’s because the killing of his gay middle-school classmate Lawrence King was as emotionally jarring as it was appalling. When McInerney, then 14 years old, shot 15-year-old King twice in the back of the head in a school computer lab three years ago, the incident jolted the coastal city of Oxnard, California, thrust two unstable households into the spotlight, and made King a rallying point for the gay community across the nation. The shooting exposed a multitude of sensitive subjects all at once: issues regarding gays, transgender people, bullying, white supremacy, child abuse and school violence came to the surface.
And there were other kinds of baggage. Before proceedings had even begun, almost two months ago, the judge reportedly barred McInerney’s brother from watching the proceedings after he spoke to members of the jury. Since then, former classmates have broken down crying on the witness stand. McInerney’s mother and a teacher cried when the defense displayed a picture of King holding a homecoming dress and smiling, prompting the victim’s father to storm out of the courtroom in disgust. The defense has even tried to disqualify the judge, alleging he was biased in favor of the prosecution.
In theory, the jury should only be concerned with the facts. But what happens when emotion becomes a fact, one that could benefit the defendant? The question at hand is whether McInerney, who is being tried as an adult, committed a hate crime as well as murder with premeditation, as the prosecution is arguing, or whether he committed manslaughter in the heat of extreme emotion — a crime of passion — as the defense argues. A first-degree murder conviction would get McInerney 53 years to life in prison, while manslaughter would reduce the sentence to as few as 18 years, according to the defense attorney. (No one is debating whether McInerney shot King; an entire classroom saw him do it.)
Prosecutor Maeve Fox is arguing that there was clear premeditation. According to testimony, after King made sexual advances, McInerney told another student he was going to bring a gun to school, went home, spent the night, brought a gun the next morning, sat behind King in class, and then pulled the trigger. In her bid to prove a hate crime, Fox has shown drawings of Nazi images found in McInerney’s notebooks and has brought in a white supremacy expert to argue that the defendant was influenced by an ideology of hatred that includes despising homosexuals. (Fox, King’s adoptive father Greg, and the King family attorney Steve Pell all declined interview requests from TIME.)
On the other side, defense attorney Scott Wippert is pulling out all the stops to convince the jury that it was manslaughter. First, he argues that McInerney’s upbringing in an abusive home played a role in his killing of King. Second, he’s blaming school officials for not doing more to prevent King from wearing feminine attire and taunting other boys, arguing that such behavior pushed McInerney to an emotional breaking point. Third, he says the defendant’s extreme emotional state made him unaware of his actions. Finally, Wippert says King’s advances amounted to sexual harassment and were partly responsible for the shooting. Witnesses have said King came to school wearing women’s accessories like make-up and high-heeled boots and made flirtatious comments to McInerney such as “Love you baby!”
For the jury, it may come down to a question of whether people are fully responsible for their actions. It’s a hard sell to argue that the behavior of other people can actually cause someone to kill. But Wippert is trying. “Is there responsibility that goes further than Brandon? Absolutely,” he said in an interview with TIME. Prosecutor Maeve Fox is having none of it. “This entire defense is built on a bias against the victim, and this hope that people will buy into the fact that the way he was and they way he dressed was so provoking that a reasonable person would have reacted the way the defendant did,” Fox said in court. “It’s tragic and nauseating at the same time.”
Gay rights advocates and some experts say Wippert is using what’s known as “gay panic defense,” where the defense argues that a gay person’s sexual advances are so frightening that they lead the perpetrator to commit violence. “It is blaming the victim,” says Courtney Joslin, a law professor at the University of California, Davis. UCLA law and education professor Stuart Biegel adds, “These unseemly efforts to discredit Lawrence King, who was brutally mistreated and then killed, should be rejected by any jury.” Biegel, who has written about the case, also says that King’s behavior didn’t amount to sexual harassment, and that he was merely responding to bullying by McInerney and other kids.
According to media reports of classmates’ testimonies, boys at the middle school, including McInerney, would make fun of and insult King with derogatory slurs because he was gay and wore women’s accessories. At lunchtime, boys eating at a table would scatter if King asked to sit with them, one friend said. Fox has said King was bullied by other boys for years and only had girls as friends. He would then flirt with the boys in order to get even because he knew it bothered them, the classmates said.
Still, the defense’s approach could prove successful because similar arguments have worked in some other cases, Joslin says. In 2004, three men accused of killing a transgender person in California got a mistrial after their attorneys invoked a panic defense. After that, the state then passed the Justice for Victims Act, which was sponsored by gay-rights group Equality California, in a bid to dampen the use of such tactics. Fox has said she will invoke that law and instruct jury members not to let bias against King’s sexual identity influence their decision. The defense attorney, for his part, denies that he is using gay panic. “The defense is that he was being targeted and he was being sexually harassed by this other boy, who just happened to be gay,” Wippert says.
Wippert’s strategy seems to be gaining traction — at least in local media and op-ed pages. The headline of a recent Los Angeles Times story said the school’s decision to allow King’s behavior had come “under scrutiny,” while an opinion piece and readers’ comments in the local Ventura County paper, where Oxnard is located, said school officials were at fault for allowing King to dress as he did. One Ventura reader wrote in to say that McInerney shouldn’t be convicted of a hate crime. An opinion piece in the same paper said McInerney was as much as a victim as King because his father was a drug addict and — as witnesses have corroborated — was physically and verbally abusive toward his own son.
Will the jurors buy the defense arguments? A jury of one’s peers can be just as susceptible to emotional factors as anyone, says Brian Levin, a civil rights attorney and criminal law professor. “It can pull the jury to interpret the facts in the most sympathetic way to a defendant,” says Levin, who is director of hate and extremism studies at California State University, San Bernardino. “If that’s done, manslaughter is a really big split-the-difference verdict.” It could help McInerney get less time in prison. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 25 and the jury gets the case immediately.
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