Trial Begins for Teenager Who Killed his 15-Year-Old Gay Classmate

This week, three years after then-14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot his gay classmate Larry King, McInerney’s trial will begin in Los Angeles.

Both were students at E.O. Green Jr. High School, where McInerney walked into English class with a .22-caliber handgun in his backpack and shot and killed King, who was 15. McInerney claims he was motivated by King’s alleged “sexual advances.”

McInerney is being tried as an adult and is charged with premeditated murder with enhancements of use of a firearm and a hate crime. He faces 53 years to life in prison.

The defense will push for a voluntary manslaughter conviction which would prevent a life sentence and could lessen the sentence by 30 years. They plan to argue that, at 14, McInerney did not have the necessary critical-thinking abilities to handle King’s repeated sexual advances and was incapable of understanding the consequences of his own actions.

For a veritable treatise on Larry King’s “repeated sexual advances,” you can consult Ramin Setoodeh‘s fine piece of investigative journalism, “Young, Gay, and Murdered,” which was written shortly after the murder occurred.

As usual, Setoodeh fucked this one up big time, painting King as an obnoxious, aggressive, and confused little boy who essentially brought this upon himself by wearing pink and glitter to school. With the help of a few throwaway disclaimers—”They’re not blaming Larry for his own death—as if anything could justify his murder” —Setoodeh spends the majority of the article laying out exactly why King deserved his fate. This was, you should know, all most of mainstream America ever heard or will hear about this case.

Besides being offensive at best, the piece is problematic in that it tells a story that anti-gays have been dying to hear: an abused child grows up to resent his adoptive parents, acts as a distraction in school by acting effeminately, and then preys on other boys in his class. This isn’t to say that Setoodeh should be censored, but as the Box Turtle Bulletin points out, “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.” 

It isn’t the first time Setoodeh has catered to homophobia by insisting on perpetuating stereotypes. If this were just about his own self-loathing it would be one thing, but his reach is too wide to be ignored. As we said when Setoodeh was under fire for the legendary Gay Actors Can’t Play Straight Characters story:

Setoodeh’s work for Newsweek is so covertly anti-gay that it’s exactly the kind of thing you could imagine reading if you were say, your Mom, or even yourself ten years ago, and you can imagine thinking (though you’d smack your enlightened head over it now), “oh yeah, good point.” Because it’s not THAT over-the-top. It’s packaged neatly inside of Setoodeh’s own homosexuality and his belief, inherent in his prose, that he’s raising “important issues” rather than exhuming ancient, pervasive, damaging stereotypes we ought to be actively “sweeping under the rug.”

Because ultimately McInerney’s defense is basically a variation on “gay panic” — a defense that failed to acquit Jonathan Schmitz when he murdered his gay friend for confessing his crush on The Jenny Jones Show and failed to acquit Matthew Shepard‘s attackers and failed to acquit Joseph Mitchell Parsons, a.k.a “The Rainbow Killer” in 1987. But it’s complicated. From Pride and Prejudice: The Homosexual Panic Defense:

Although the Schmitz case is an infamous example of the HPD’s role in reducing culpability for anti-gay violence, the case is not unique. To the contrary, a troubling pattern has emerged from cases involving the HPD; from the inconsistent and inaccurate manner with which attorneys assert the defense, to the prejudices attorneys and judges explicitly rely on to decide whether to employ the defense, to the egregious violence that juries excuse when they are exposed to the defense, it is clear that when a judge allows a defendant to use the HPD, she allows that defendant to blame the victim, to solicit courtroom actors’ anti-gay biases, and to further institutionalize in the legal system our society’s prejudice against gays.

The outcome of this case may very well set a serious legal precedent — will the defendant’s age change how we view the “gay panic” defense ? (Murder trials have been moving away from it for some time now)

Because minds are harder to change than laws, often the courts are to be the most the most straightforward paths to progress. As prosecutors seek justice for Larry King, two other LGBT bullying cases are also making their way through the legal system.

The Tehachapi Unified School District of Southern California recently reached a settlement with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education that will require them to enact new policies to combat gender- and sexuality-based harassment. The school district was found to have violated civil rights law by “failing to stop the persistent bullying of Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old gay middle school student who committed suicide.”

Meanwhile in New York, a mother is suing the city and the school district for ignoring her complaints that her son, who committed suicide in March of 2010, was being bullied — and we’re hoping for similar results to what the Walshes received in Tehachapi.

No trial will change the fact that Larry King was murdered. What can change is our attitude towards hateful crimes. Will we accept excuses—whether they come from Ramin Setoodeh or defense attorneys— for this kind of behavior? Or will we look towards something bigger for an explanation? What will it take for us to accept that we live in a culture of homophobia that allows hate to fester until it becomes a tragedy?

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. I shared this link on my facebook and my friend Liz said “excuse me? have you tried being a girl in middle school. if i shot every person who made sexual advances at me at that age, i’d be a fucking serial killer.”

    in reference to this line,
    McInerney did not have the necessary critical-thinking abilities to handle King’s repeated sexual advances and was incapable of understanding the consequences of his own actions.

    • Seriously! It pisses me off whenever guys get away with physically harming, or worse, another man because of flirtation or minor sexual harassment, when women deal with that every goddamn day. No, nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable or have to put up with unwanted advances, but jesus christ men quit your whining!

      • Not only “getting away with” but believing they have every justiable reason to do so. That’s what sickens me.

  2. So I might get some flaming for this from hurt and vindictive users, but I gotta say it…

    McInerney had the mental capacity to kill a human being at 14 years of age?
    And hes being tried as an adult?

    Look, kid’s obviously fucked up in the head. Why is being tried as an adult? Giving him a harsh trial and sentence wont do ANYTHING for the bigger problem. this kid needs severe psychological treatment, not to be put in adult prison, where you all know what will happen.

    I especially loved the last paragraph of this article

    • The prosecutor in Ventura County disagrees with you and that prosecutor has read McInerney’s statements, spoken to all of the witnesses and reviewed all the other evidence in the case.
      Are you not aware of the law that passed over 15 years ago allowing minors to be charged as adults, depending on the severity of the crime?
      In this case, it’s well-deserved. Murder is murder. He took a life and, like anybody else who has ever done that, he should be made to answer for it.
      And yes, there are many sick people in this world but how many actually take a gun to school and shoot their classmate in the head twice because the classmate was gay? McInerney believed that he was entitled to impose the death penalty on King for his behavior.
      He doesn’t need mental assistance. He needs to be incarcerated.

  3. The Gay Panic Defense really drives me crazy. Because someone hits on you, or supposedly hits on you, it does not give anyone license to kill them. If this were true, I know many people who would have killed lots of people who hit on them unwantedly. The universalization of GPD is just crazy, and no one would agree to it.

    It is also very sad that Brandon McInerney will spend most of the rest of his life in jail, if he has a guilty verdict. It is even sadder that Larry King never got to see 16-years old. This whole thing is just depressing.

  4. This is unbelievably tragic, and I agree that Brandon should get the appropriate sentence for his crime. But I don’t think he should get *more* than the appropriate sentence just to send a strong message.

    Does anyone know why he is being tried as an adult? I know I certainly would never have dreamed of shooting someone who bugged / bullied me (or whatever he conceived it to be) at that age, but all the same, shouldn’t he be tried as a teen, not an adult? Teens simply don’t have the same impulse control as adults, and, based on the background I read on the story at the time, he had been raised to think that gay people were deeply threatening and that to attract their attention was shameful. It seems unreasonable to me personally, and I don’t think it helps our cause to be seen as vengeful rather than seeking justice: won’t it just rally sympathy for him?

    • I don’t know specifically about this case but legally I’m pretty sure the threshold to be tried as an adult doesn’t have much to do with having the critical thinking skills of an adult because that’s kind of difficult to quantify. It is more about whether the defendant has the capacity to understand that shooting someone will kill them and that killing someone is illegal. I think at 14 I understood and probably most 14 year olds do understand this. That doesn’t mean that they neceesarily understand the full implications of killing someone but just that they have some basic understanding that killing is not condoned by society. Usually teenagers are only tried as adults in particularly brutal or horrible crimes. I personally don’t feel that comfortable with it because putting someone in jail so young is bound to fuck them up more than they already are.

  5. I agree with the people who say that Brandon should not be tried as an adult. What he did was awful, but I don’t think ANY fourteen-year-old should be tried as an adult. The onus in this case lies on his parents, school, and society for creating his “gay panic” and access to a gun, as much as on Brandon.

    • seriously. Whoever owned the gun he used to commit the crime should be charged with something.

    • “The onus in this case lies on his parents, school, and society ”
      No, it lies with Brandon McInerney, who took a loaded gun to school and, like a coward, shot his classmate in the back of the head twice.
      McInerney is cold-blooded criminal who premeditated murder at age 14. Do you really want this guy released in a few months when he turns 18?

      • No, wait! He’d be released at 18 unless he’s tried as an adult?

        OK, that’s no good either. It definitely wouldn’t give him enough time to sort his head out. I don’t know if that’s even possible in prison, but it seems like it certainly isn’t possible in his home. *sigh*

        • I’m not a lawyer but don’t juvenile detention centers release you when you’re not a “juvenile” anymore?

        • and he doesn’t need “sorting out”, he is a murderer. he needs incarceration.

          • I know what you mean, but I can’t help but think that even if he was a natural-born thug (if there is such a thing) he wouldn’t have had the response that he did if he hadn’t been brought up in that home, in that social environment, in that time. Do people even become killers if they aren’t raised with violence, with talk of violent solutions to personal problems, with weapons to hand and access to the training to use them *even when they are a known bully.*

            I don’t know, honestly. It seems to me that there are others who should be answering for this crime alongside him (not instead of him). Responsible adults who should have been able to help him put on the brakes, or who otherwise, knowing his temperament, should have denied him access to the means and training to commit this murder.

          • We all live in worlds where our upbringing/the actions of others/etc. impact us to a great degree. But no one else should (nor can they be, if we believe producing verifiable evidence is important) be held responsible for someone else’s choice to pull the trigger, except in extreme cases of brainwashing. Do you see Westboro baptist church kids shooting up gay kids in their schools? And that’s teaching/brainwashing hate if I ever saw it.

            Anyway, I think earlier commentators made a great point – if this kid was harassed (and I doubt that is even true), that is no excuse for murder. People deal with a lot worse than that (women deal with it on a daily basis) and don’t turn to violence, ever.

          • ‘Do you see Westboro baptist church kids shooting up gay kids in their schools? And that’s teaching/brainwashing hate if I ever saw it.’

            Excellent point.

          • According to ‘America’s Most Hated Family’, they do. As living testimonies or something like that, poor kids. I should think they have a rough time.

  6. I have a lot of feelings about this but I don’t know how to make words with them. Thank you for covering this, Laura.

  7. i’m sorry, if at fourteen you are able to kill someone, and act as an adult (not that adults should do that), you should be ready to be held responsible for your actions.

    if you cannot possibly foresee that shooting someone would result in killing them, and you getting arrested and going to jail, at fourteen, you have problems.

    that being said i’m not sure if he should be tried as an adult. i know many fourteen year old children who have the critical thinking skills of an eighteen year old. but i know many eighteen year olds who think like children.

    • Do you really know that many 14 year old children who have adult-level critical thinking skills? Because I work in a middle school and I don’t know any. What is making all these children you know so psychologically advanced?
      If those children are truly functioning mentally as adults when they are only 14, it must be because of good parenting. Clearly neither Larry King nor Brandon McInerney had the kind of parents that were able to teach them to think critically and rationally at such a young age. Therefore, Brandon McInerney should not be tried as an adult.
      This whole situation is tragic.
      *End soapbox rant*

      • The flip side of this argument is how many 18 year old boys do you know who would employ the exact same logic given their upbringing and maturity? 18 is an arbitrary line.

        Does a 14 year old understand about death, guns, and murder? Short of a developmental disability, yes.

        It’s awful he was raised to believe it’s OK to bring a gun to school and murder someone for unwanted advances. Yet as @naiiimah pointed out, somehow virtually every girl learns it’s not OK to murder for unwanted sexual advances by 14.

        From what little I’ve read, it sounds like he committed a premeditated, cold-blooded murder. To me, not trying him as an adult would smack of “boys will be boys” and pander to homophobia.

        I completely agree the whole situation is tragic. However he’s tried, two lives are lost – one literally and one functionally.

        • If 18 is just an arbitrary line, then what is the purpose of having a different set of standards for adults? Let’s just throw ’em all in jail! But seriously, there are psychological differences between a 14 yr old and an 18 yr old. If we’re going to keep trying 14 yr olds as adults, then we might as well just get rid of the adult/juvenile differences.

          No, murder is not okay. But in my opinion, neither is putting an outrageous punishment on a kid who really probably just needs a lot of help.

          • I’m not sure murdering someone has to do with critical thinking skills that 14 yr olds lack, especially not murdering someone with 2 shots to the back of the head. That’s why he’s being charged as an adult. I can think of quite a few situations where you might kill someone, being a teenager and being impulsive/not being able to see the consequence of certain actions (speeding in a car, driving drunk, maybe even beating someone up, encouraging them to drink liquor, etc). But a bullet through the head produces an IMMEDIATE, OBVIOUS consequence that every 14 year old knows, short, as other posters have said, a serious developmental disability. If trying him as a kid is going to suggest that a kid would kill someone in this case when as an adult he wouldn’t, then it’s not appropriate to try him as a kid – because it seems that as an adult he would have made the same decision.

          • Yes, I was thinking of the poor impulse control that teens seem to have, since the front part of the brain, which manages impulse control, is less developed then. I’m certainly not going to argue that he didn’t know that it would kill: of course, he must have.

            It just sucks that we live in a culture where a boy feels it is appropriate to avenge what he might see as an insult to his honour, or expiate his shame at not being able to defeat a gay boy verbally, by murder. Or even that he thinks this argument is a credible defence. We still have a long way to go.

          • I said 18 is an arbitrary line because the US wiggles it all the time. We let 15 year olds drive +3000 lbs of steel at 70 mph – if you’ve ever taught someone to drive you know just how much of a weapon a car can be despite training and the best intentions. We teach people as young as 17 how to kill in the military yet you generally have to be 20 or 21 to become a police officer. You have to be 21 to legally drink. You’re never old enough to do drugs legally.

            Do I think the kid needs a lot of help? Hell yes. Do I think he’ll get it in prison? Highly unlikely, especially in CA with their budget problems. And I’m no apologist for the prison-industrial complex.

            I have no citations to back it up but my sense is that “Don’t commit cold-blooded murder” is not developmental rocket science given there are literally millions of people in the United States around his age who face similar and arguably substantially greater threats and they don’t murder the people they feel threatened by.

        • I agree with you completely.
          Now I know I wasn’t the best honors student when I was fourteen, but I’m pretty sure I knew better. Even now, my brother is fourteen and even though he is a bit on the homophobic side, he knows better. I’m sure McInerney also knew better.
          To be honest, I can hardly fathom anyone so close to my age killing a classmate over “harassment” (and I really have my doubts about that ever happening to the point where it justifies murder).
          Whether or not he is tried as an adult, there is nothing to benefit from in this case.

      • ok, i’ll give you that i don’t know THAT many. while that level of maturity is rare, EVERY 14 year old i have met realizes that killing is wrong, and you should not bring guns to school.

        i’ve never met the kid. i don’t know him. i can’t tell you whether he should or should not be tried as an adult, like i said. but i think the defense’s defense is bullshit, frankly. to not realize the consequences of his action, at 14, is unthinkable.

        regardless of the environment they grew up in, neither child should have ended up in this situation. i agree. this is completely tragic.

        none of what i said was meant to offend, and if it did, i apologize. :( this is sad, and confusing.

    • Teen brain development:

      I would agree that he must have been able to foresee that Larry King would die. The problem is that he presumably genuinely thought he had a right or duty to ‘stand up for himself.’ Either that, or he was simply unable to manage his rage and humiliation, and the impulse to hit out was stronger than his ability to control.

      Either way, appalled as I am at the murder of a young boy, I can’t see that his killer should be tried as an adult when he is not an adult. Honestly, I think there should be some serious scrutiny of the domestic and social environment in which this boy was raised, and in which this horror took place, in order to make sure it never happens again.

      • Do you remember yourself at 14? I was 14 only a few years ago and I honestly was not that stupid. Although I may not have been the most mature, I assure you my thought processes were well under control.

        I believe he would have to be nothing short of mentally disabled to not know there would be consequences

  8. I know this isn’t helpful, constructive, relevant, fair, insightful, or anything else. But the kid who shot his classmate has to be gay, right? Why would a truly straight (not self-labeled straight) person experience gay panic? The kid who shot him is going to go to sit in jail realizing he likes dudes and killed the first dude that liked him. I don’t know anything about this case really, but it makes you think. The world is crazy.

  9. Oh good lord, I *just* had an argument with a friend about the gay panic defense thing because she agrees with it. This whole thing makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.

  10. While this doesn’t impact the murder which was horrible any way it was characterized, it’s still amazing to me how Lawrence King, who went to school in makeup, heels, women’s accessories and, sometimes, women’s clothing, is still described as a gay boy. Why is it that gay bloggers and media are so quick to ignore the trans aspects of stories like Constance McMillen, the Lopez Mercado murder and Lawrence King when it benefits their own goals? Lawrence was clearly a transgender person who liked boys… that doesn’t make them a gay boy. And it bugs me how ‘gay panic’ is mentioned time and again when, really, this case had as much or more to do with transphobia. When it’s understood as a case more about gender policing than ‘who came on to who’ it makes irrelevant many of the false assumptions mentioned in the LA Times article.

    • i wanted to rant about this too, but as somebody who’s usually more or less okay with my assigned gender i felt weird about it. it IS bull the way the trans aspect is always swept under the gay rug, and it makes both issues harder to address. amen to everything you said.

    • while i’m ALLLL over calling out transphobia — or any phobia, i guess — i don’t remember hearing that lawrence king or constance mcmillan self-identified as transgender at any time. wearing clothing or accessories that are traditionally set aside for another gender doesn’t make a person trans.

      am i missing something? i’m not being snarky — i really want to know if they’ve identified as trans before and maybe i just didn’t read it.

      • Lawrence King regularly cross-dressed. Crossdressing is (according to any standards I’ve recently heard) part of the transgender community and crimes against people who are cross-dressed (whether they wish to medically transition or no) are crimes against gender expression and maybe also identity.

        Constance McMillan isn’t trans… another student who was a friend of hers was and was hounded out of the same HS school after attending it for a short time. The entire situation around banning Constance from wearing a tux at her prom was to prevent a cross-dressing protest some students were planning about the treatment of the trans student (who, btw, has since transitioned, then detransitioned and is currently back to living as a femme boy). This entire aspect of the story was purposely ignored by most (but not all) gay media and organizations because they were so busy getting their own use of the story.

        Bradley Manning is very likely trans-identified person… how many gay publications have discussed that part of who Bradley is?

        I don’t want to derail this thread, but these are all examples of trans-erasure. It would be like you reading a story about a young woman being killed, yet the media not mentioning she was also gay. Wouldn’t you wonder why this part of her life and how it might have impacted her being attacked wasn’t being acknowledged?

        • Bhan, I understand there can be varying feelings about this, but from my viewpoint (as a trans woman) violence which occurs to people displaying some form of ‘cross-gender’ expression involves an aspect of gender policing and, therefore, is to one extent or another, involves transphobia. So, yes, if a gay man is doing genderfuck and is attacked, that involves transphobia even if he isn’t trans identified himself (but it also involves homophobia if it involves fear of having sex or being turned on by that person). And I would say that when trans women are (often) murdered by men they’ve shared sex with (which is almost always by men who knew of their trans status beforehand but freaked when they got turned on) there is an element of homophobia involved… and transphobia. Does that make any sense?

          I happen to think Lawrence was murdered as much or more for cross-gender expression than anything and it concerns me this aspect is being left out most gay media discussions.

        • I remember reading the original article by Setoodeh, and Larry was insisting on people calling him by a girl’s name when he was in his girl-clothing. I can’t remember if it was Latisha or something similar, but that part was definitely emphasized as being part of his “obnoxious behaviour” to make people “uncomfortable” around him.

          I don’t know if that was just a drag character of Larry’s, or if that was his legitimate identity, but that’s Setoodeh’s fault. He was not using that detail to Larry’s benefit, that’s for sure.

  11. that newsweek article was so awful. obviously both of those kids were pretty troubled, but wow. just like the military fraud article, it’s so stupid when people say the issue should be separated from any issues of gay rights or homophobia. if our society wasn’t so stuck on binary gender, his outfits wouldn’t have been considered disruptive. if the school hadn’t been paralyzed with regards to dealing with guy-on-guy harassment, maybe brandon wouldn’t have felt victimized. maybe if larry’s peers, parents, and teachers had been more respectful of his identity, he wouldn’t have acted out. it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to murder one. this kid should NOT be tried as an adult. i especially can’t believe people are villainizing the openly lesbian teacher who supported him.

    • ‘i especially can’t believe people are villainizing the openly lesbian teacher who supported him.’

      That’s what gets me the most; the suggestion that the teacher, by having a photograph of her partner on her desk, brought the topic of gay sexuality into the school. I mean really Setoodeh?

  12. McInerney is a cold-blooded criminal who premeditated murder. Actually he premeditated an execution, because that is what shooting someone in the back of the head is. 14 is definitely old enough to know that taking a life is wrong.
    I can’t stand the ‘killer being the victim’ routine. There is only ONE victim here — Lawrence King. May he get the justice that he deserves.

    • That’s sort of what I was getting at, in my comment above. I think that trying him as an adult actually promotes the idea that the killer is somehow the victim, or is being needlessly victimised. It muddies the waters.

      There’s no disputing that he murdered Larry King. And I think there’s probably little dispute that it was premeditated. Even the people who are claiming he was harrassed by Larry King can’t deny that he killed him, and that he meant to do it. And it’s clearly not a proportionate response to the problem he claimed he had with Larry.

      Brandon’s getting wider sympathy simply because he’s being tried as an adult.

  13. When I was a teenager I stayed with a woman who’s young daughter had been murdered by her 12 year old cousin. Even staying with that woman and hearing her story I still don’t know how I feel about kids being tried as adults. It almost feels like more tragedy within a tragedy if that makes sense? Like no answers feel satisfying.

    The real question here is why on earth a 14 year old thought that being hit on by a guy was such a horrific thing that it deserved ANY sort of attack never mind murder. Maybe he’s just nuts plain and simple, but maybe he also grew up in an atmosphere that made gay people out to be deserving of hatred and that plus his own mental issues led to this? That side of things certainly deserves to be explored and publicized.

  14. My brother is fourteen. I’m pretty sure HE understands the consequences of shooting a classmate in the head.

  15. You know what I love about Autostraddle?

    You can actually read the comments on an article like this and not lose faith in humanity.

    It’s an article about something that’s heart-wrenching and baffling and nonsensical, and there’s NO pleasant solution to the dilemma presented. Almost anywhere else on the Internet that would mean that the comments would be just the WORST. And here they’re not. And that makes me feel good even when other things are really bad.

  16. This makes me have a couple different thoughts… First of all, I don’t think ANYONE under 18 should ever be tried as an adult under our current laws. Simply, they aren’t adults. Though they may know that shooting someone will result in their death and their own punishment, they aren’t able to fathom what life in prison will be like, understand the ramifications on their future, and properly consider the value of a life. That said, if the laws were changed so that everyone was tried equally for equal crimes, regardless of age, then it might be another story. Our current system is deeply flawed for many reasons, not least of all that the amygdala and pre-frontal cortex (used in reasoning and judging consequences) don’t fully develop until some time in our 20’s. I know I’m arguing both for and agaionst here, and that’s because I don’t know what the right solution is. sajdalsajdalsajdal…

    The second thought I have is the question of whether or not hate crimes (I would consider this a hate crime) should have harsher punishments than “regular” crimes. Basically, should motive for a crime have any bearing on the punishment? Part of me feels that yes, motive should be taken into consideration in some cases. But logic dictates that a crime is no more or less criminal for any reasoning behind it. Hmmm… In one of my classes, the professor asked us the following: “Two men steal loaves of bread. the first man was rich and stole it because he didn’t want to pay what the vendor was asking. The second man had six children and stole it to feed them, because he was too poor to buy bread. Should the second man receive a lighter punishment?” My heart says yes, but my head says no. Punish the action, not the attitude, etc. Oy. For better or for worse, though, the law is supposed to be based on facts, not feelings. (Not that it always works out that way, of course.)

    This is such a tragic situation. I agree with other posters that the culture that made being hit on by someone of the same gender so horrific that it would justify murder is a sick culture indeed. I can’t help but feel that something in our society has gone terribly wrong and needs to be fixed.

    That was really long and nonsensical… I just have so many thoughts, and they all seem to contradict each other!

    • You have to remember that the current system *does* take motive into consideration in almost every case, depending on your definition of ‘motive’. If you consider homicide, there are lots of different arguments that can lead to a not-guilty verdict or a reduced sentence: accidental causing of death is not murder, self-defense is not murder, crimes of passion tend to receive lesser sentences though I think they are still technically murder, etc. The law is only based on facts so far as proving what happened. Whether the defendant is culpable for what happened is not so cut and dry, except in strict liability crimes such as *I think* selling alcohol to a minor, where even if the suspect is unaware they’re committing a crime, they’re still culpable.

      • True, true. I was defining “motive” more like “justification”, which in this case, McInerney’s motive would be “a gay kid hit on me, and I didn’t like it”. My definition of motive (and stuff about hate crimes) wasn’t really brought up in the article; it’s simply what the article made me think of.

        What you’re talking about, with culpability, pre-meditation, accidental deaths, etc. is something I wasn’t even thinking about! You’re right that there are many factors and circumstances that are taken into account when determining whether a death is a murder, homicide, accident, or self-defense. So in that way, our justice system is less rigid than I had been thinking.

      • You’re correct as to the definition of strict liability crimes. These are crimes that are crimes regardless of the absence of what’s known as mens rea / scienter (in the civil context). Basically fancy latin words for knowledge. The knowledge can extend to general concepts of what is right and wrong, what is prohibited by statute, and specific facts — like whether that minor was a minor, or whether that red light was red.

        Within mens rea, the MPC (model penal code — it’s what most state criminal statutes are based off of) there are four general levels of knowledge — purposefully, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently. If we’re talking homicide, it might break down something like (and this isn’t saying that’s what’s going on in this state, just generally speaking):

        Premeditated murder — purposefully
        Murder 2 / manslaughter — knowingly
        Vehicular manslaughter — recklessly
        negligent homicide — negligently

        Thus… premeditated murder (you knew that your action would kill the victim and you intended to kill the victim),

        manslaughter (you knew that your action could kill the victim, but that was not your intent.. say if you got into a fight with someone and were repeatedly striking them in the head despite there being no self defense justification / usually crimes “in the heat of the moment”)

        vehicular manslaughter (say, DUI or driving w/o license… could be reckless or negligent depending on the state)

        Etc. etc.

        • Ah, thank you so much for the clarification and info on mens rea! I hadn’t been aware that there were four levels of knowledge, nor precisely what their definitions were.

          This is really helpful in understanding plea bargains. It also makes me wonder whether a different charge (manslaughter or negligent homicide) would have stuck better with the Casey Anthony case.

          Now I’m off to read about the trans panic defense – thank you for all the information!

          • The problem with Casey Anthony was that the entire case was circumstantial to begin with. The prosecution was never able to determine, let alone prove, a cause of death. Without a cause of death, how do you prove that it was or wasn’t an accident? They were hoping that circumstantial things like the presence of duct tape, the possible use of chloroform, or Casey’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the disappearance/death of her child would be enough to convince the jury that the death was not accidental and that Casey was culpable. Many believed it was enough, this jury, apparently, did not.

    • Omigod, this was so well-written. I feel compelled to send this to my friend…but I know the effort will be in vain.

  17. I grew up in Ventura county, and as bad as it is for gay people in Ventura county and it’s schools, I just can’t see what putting this kid away for the rest of his life will do.

    Also I think it would be interesting to mention Joy epstein, the lesbian vice principle who supported Larry king and has now taken a lot of fire for doing so.

  18. I think it’s criminal that this boy is being tried as an adult. I mean don’t get me wrong, I think the crime was sick and cold-blooded, and he should be punished to the full extent of the law.
    But as a minor.

  19. On something of a side note, reading about this case reminded me of the importance of gun safety. I may love firearms and hope to share my love of them with my children as soon as they’re big enough to hold a 10/22 comfortable, but I will always lock them up and keep my key in a safe place that the kids will NOT know about until they’re 18.

  20. I just want to comment on some of the people in this thread who seem to be buying into the meme that King was hitting on McInerney. Just to clarify… King was not a gay boy but, rather, was a trans girl. King asked her mother about getting ‘a sex change’ and, crossdressed even in school (and even more often at home) and used the name Letitia. What is being called ‘hitting on someone’ is no more than anything a not-acting-out teenage girl would do while existing in the world. Her asking to sit at a lunch table isn’t hitting on someone. Her saying to a boy “you look hot” is nothing any other teenage girl might say to a boy she liked. As so often happens with young trans women, their very existence is sexualized and gets projected as ‘aggressive’ by a society (including queer cis-people) which is hugely uncomfortable with their very existence.

    And now I want to say something I know won’t go down well… but I wonder if some of the people on this thread who are upset with McInerny being tried for murder would feel the same if he had murdered a young lesbian in the manner he did? I am against minors being tried as adults too… so I don’t think this trial is right. But I also see people and elsewhere trying to play down this crime as something other than a premeditated execution of a trans girl, which is totally what it was. It was not just a childish act in the heat of the moment.

    • Thank you for the further info wrt King not ‘hitting on’ McInery, Ginasf. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be a trans teen.

      WRT your other point: I don’t think anyone on this thread is suggesting that McInery should not be tried for murder. Like you, I think most of us who are talking about his youth just don’t think that a minor should be tried as an adult. I’ve been avoiding the comments sections on other sites because I know they’ll upset me. We have such a long way to go on trans rights, or even just on trans* people being less ‘othered’.

  21. What was the kid supposed to do, wait at risk until they sent that deviant to reparative therapy? The young man took action in his own defense and we charge him! He’s a hero, not a zero and all the children his depraved classmate won’t molest will thank him.

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