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Trial to begin in slaying of gay middle school student

July 5, 2011 |  7:37 am

Opening arguments are set to begin Tuesday in a Chatsworth courtroom in the case of an Oxnard teenager who shot an eighth-grade classmate to death more than three years ago.

When he was just 14, Brandon McInerney walked into an Oxnard classroom, took his seat, pulled a .22-caliber handgun out of his backpack and shot the student sitting in front of him.

He then tossed the weapon to the floor and walked out. The victim, Lawrence King, was an openly gay student who McInerney reportedly thought had a crush on him.

This week McInerney, looking more like an adult at the age of 17, will be tried in a high-profile homicide case that rallied the gay community and triggered calls for greater protections of young homosexuals on school campuses.

Prosecutor Maeve Fox says McInerney carefully planned and carried out the Feb. 12, 2008, execution.

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. McInerney is being tried in 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.

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.


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-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: Brandon McInerney, left, was 14 when he shot gay classmate Larry King. Now 17, he's about to stand trial on first-degree murder and hate-crime charges. Credit: Los Angeles Times