Gay student's slaying carefully planned, prosecutor tells jurors [Updated]
An Oxnard student carefully planned and carried out the execution of a 15-year-old gay classmate because of his ongoing feud with the victim and his white supremacist belief that homosexuality is an abomination, a Ventura County prosecutor said Tuesday.
Brandon McInerney, now 17, is charged with murder in the 2008 shooting death of Lawrence King in a high-profile case that has rallied the gay community and triggered calls for greater protections of young homosexuals on school campuses.
King was bullied by McInerney and other boys at the school, Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox said in her opening statement in the trial, which is being conducted at a courthouse in Chatsworth. But shortly before his death, King had begun wearing high heels, makeup and earrings to school and had become more confident in himself, she said.
“Larry King for the first time in his life wasn’t taking it anymore,” Fox said. “And he started to give people what I prefer to call the proverbial chin. Only it was more profane. The proverbial ‘f ... you.’”
The day before King was shot, the two boys had been bickering in a eighth-grade science class, she said. When King got up to get a drink of water, “Brandon said ‘I am going to shoot him.’ And this is what a student will testify to.”
The next day McInerney pulled a .22-caliber handgun out of his backpack and shot King in the head, authorities have said.
Before Tuesday’s hearing, McInerney’s older brother, James Bing, 25, told jurors outside the courtroom that “the fate of my brother is in your hands.”
Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell banished Bing from the courthouse for the duration of the trial, unless he is called as a witness.
“This is so obviously inappropriate,” Campbell said. “He is forbidden from attending this proceeding, until he is actually called for testimony.”
Prosecutors have added a hate crime allegation, arguing that McInerney's actions were spurred in part by a hatred of gays, in line with his alleged neo-Nazi sympathies. If convicted, he faces 53 years to life in prison.
McInerney is being tried as an adult court under the provisions of Proposition 21, which allows prosecutors to bring murder charges against juveniles as young as 14 for certain serious crimes.
[Updated, 12:30 p.m.: McInerney’s lawyer, Scott Wippert, argued that King -- and not his client -- was the aggressor. He said King targeted McInerney for sexual harassment, making flirtatious remarks, and had humiliated him.
King was encouraged in his effeminate behavior and dress by school administrators who said he was within his rights to dress that way, Wippert said.
For his part, McInerney was “a confused, emotionally torn 14-year-old from a violent home who saw no other way out than to shoot Larry,” Wippert said. “It was a heat-of-the-moment decision.”
“This is a very troubled young man,” he said of his client. “Everyone knew and nobody did anything. He was in a helpless state.”
Wippert said McInerney was not a white supremacist but rather was working on a paper on Adolf Hitler for school and that is why he had white supremacist material in his room.
Wippert has said his client doesn't deny the killing. But he argues it was voluntary manslaughter because McInerney was provoked by King's repeated sexual advances.]
A voluntary manslaughter conviction would prevent a life sentence, making McInerney eligible for release before he's 40, his lawyers said. A finding of second-degree murder would virtually assure that he wouldn't be eligible for parole until he was in his 70s.
-- Catherine Saillant
Photo: Brandon McInerney, left, was 14 when he shot gay classmate Larry King. Now 17, he is standing trial on first-degree murder and hate-crime charges. Credit: Los Angeles Times