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No second trial in murdered gay teen case, gay rights group urges

October 5, 2011 |  5:01 am

Greg King

A national gay rights group says that Ventura County prosecutors should do the “just and merciful thing” and reach a plea deal with Brandon McInerney for fatally shooting a gay middle-school student rather than trying him a second time.

A court hearing is scheduled Wednesday morning, when it is expected prosecutors will announce whether they will try McInerney again for shooting Larry King, and if so, whether as an adult or a minor.

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, urged prosecutors and defense attorneys to reach a compromise.

A Ventura County judge last month declared a mistrial after a nine-woman, three-man jury was unable to reach a verdict in the murder trial, which captured broad attention.

Trying McInerney a second time would “only dig into old wounds that have never been given a chance to heal," Byard said in a written statement.

McInerney’s emotional nine-week trial ended in a hung jury, with seven jurors voting for voluntary manslaughter and five pushing for either first- or second-degree murder.

One juror contacted by media after the trial said McInerney’s age at the time of the crime was a significant factor in the panel’s inability to find agreement. Many felt he shouldn’t have been tried as an adult, said juror Karen McElhaney.

McInerney was 14 at the time of the shooting, King 15.

Others who followed the case said on Twitter that they found it shocking McInerney wasn’t convicted of a point-blank shooting that his attorneys conceded he committed and wondered whether jurors couldn't reach a verdict because the victim was gay.

During the first trial, the prosecution alleged that McInerney was angered by King’s romantic attentions in the days leading up to the shooting. He was also a budding white supremacist who hated homosexuals, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said McInerney told a friend he intended to kill King and then brought a gun to his Oxnard school in his backpack the following day.

Defense attorneys said McInerney was pushed to an emotional breaking point by King’s unwanted advances and accused the school’s administration of refusing to do anything despite teachers reporting rising tensions.

Student witnesses testified that King, 15, who in February 2008 had begun wearing women’s makeup and boots to school, approached McInerney the day before and said “What’s up, baby?” or “Love you, baby” in front of classmates.

Later in the day, he was seen wearing high-heeled boots in front of McInerney. The next day McInerney shot King twice in the back of the head in a school computer lab.

Byard called the case a tragedy that points out the need for schools and teachers who are better trained to deal with issues of bullying and sexual identity.

“We knew going into the first trial that there would be no resolution and no winners, regardless of the outcome," she said.

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--Catherine Saillant

Photo: Greg King, father of victim Larry King, leaves the courthouse angry after the trial of Brandon McInerney was declared a mistrial last month. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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