Its been more than five and a half years since 15 year old, gay student, Larry King was killed in the computer lab of his junior high school in Oxnard California. King was killed by fellow student Brandon McInerney, who in a fit of homophobic rage shot Larry twice in the back of the head at point blank range as other students looked on.
The murder case received widespread media coverage and brought the issues of teen transgender, sexual identity, and gun violence at schools to the nations attention. The case, which took three years before it finally went to trial, ended in a mistrial when juries couldn’t reach a decision on whether McInerney was guilty of murder or manslaughter. Prosecutors immediately announced that they would be retrying McInerney as an adult. Soon thereafter McInerney surprised his supporters when he reached a plea agreement with authorities. He pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder as well as to one count each of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm for which he received a twenty-one year sentence with no possibility of parole. He will be incarcerated until he is 39 years old.
Interest in the shooting has been rekindled by a new HBO documentary “Valentine Road” which re-examines the circumstances leading up to the shooting and the effect the killing had on the community. The film is a straight forward account of the tragic incident which includes an account of both boys troubled past and is laced with telling interviews with family members, friends and teachers of both the killer and the victim. Even defense attorney’s, school administrators and prosecutors are interviewed. An interesting portion of the film involve trial jurors who sound in on the problems they had deliberating the case. Many of those interviewed are unsympathetic about King’s death and even suggest that he caused his own killing. Some feel that King’s cross dressing and flirtatious comments put extreme pressure on McInterney who was pressed into finding a solution to his problem. How they can excuse McInterney’s actions is beyond me.It’s a strange case.larry
Although the film ties the killer to white power and Nazism, It offers no opinions and allows us to reach our own conclusions. It is a haunting account of a homophobic killing that could certainly be a valuable tool in teaching tolerance to teens. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do.
Just a Thought…
The following is the post I published on the Larry King killing back in August 2011.
“Gay Student Killed in Classroom: Murder or Manslaughter?”
How do you define murder? Because of my Catholic upbringing I’ve long held the belief that there is only one definition for murder. In the Bible’s Book of Genesis we are told the story of Cain and Abel in which Cain, in a fit of jealousy, kills his brother Abel making Cain the first murderer and Abel the first victim. Cain’s envy of his younger brother’s relationship with God, drove him to kill him. Pretty cut and dry right? Murder is the taking of a human life deliberately and with premeditation, so why then have murder defenses become so damn complicated? I have absolutely nothing against lawyers, but with all their defensive strategies, they are gumming up the works!
FYI – If you kill someone it’s not considered murder for any of the following conditions; killing in self-defense or in the defense of others, temporary insanity, a killing of necessity, killing under duress, or if the killing is the result of intervening events, (for clarification of these last three conditions -Google them) These defenses can result in a defendant not being charged or being found innocent. Another defensive strategy is provocation. Provocation if proven will not get a defendant off, it may only reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter.
It is provocation that defense attorneys are currently trying to sell to the jury in the trial of Brandon McInerney the teenager accused of the brutal killing of gay, classmate Larry King. Lawyers are suggesting that King, the victim, provoked McInerney through his sexually suggestive comments, antics and taunts, which angered McInerney and caused him much discomfort and distress. and eventually pushed him over the edge.
Apparently the final straw came on the day before the murder when King came to school wearing make up and high-heeled boots. During the day King made comments to McInerney and others like “You know you want me” and “Love you baby!” as they passed in the hallway. After school King was parading and prancing around back and forth in front of a bench where McInerney was sitting waiting to be picked up. McInerney appeared visibly upset. The following morning he came to school armed with a handgun went to the computer lab and seated himself directly behind King. About twenty minutes into the class he pulled out the pistol and proceeded to shot King twice in the back of the head. He died two days later. Surprisingly King was dressed in his school uniform and not wearing make-up that day. There is no evidence that students said anything to one another in the moments before the killing.
So I have to ask, How in the hell can this be provocation? I think the defense is going to have a hell of a time convincing the jury. There is too wide of a gap between the so called provocation and the actual killing. This “cooling off time” is just too great. The provocation must cause a sudden and temporary loss of self-control, making the accused so impassioned as to momentarily make him not be in control of his mind. In this case, I don’t think so.
Perhaps if King had singled McInerney out or made more direct advances towards him, but the evidence presented so far doesn’t bear that out. Kings taunts appear to have been more of a show designed to make the boys uncomfortable. He seemed to enjoy making them squirm and directed his taunts at all the boys not just McInerney. McInerney dealt with the situation the only way he knew how. Violence and drug abuse were a way of life in the household where he grew up.
As a former juror I’d have a tough time buying the defenses assertion that McInterney was pushed to the breaking point by Kings taunts. I believe what we have here is a killing motivated by white supremacist ideology or an extreme homophobic reaction on the part of McInterney. Driven by irrational fear and anger, this young man did, with malice and forethought, execute King. He had plenty of time to think it through and change his mind but did not. There were other options available to him. If school administrators would do nothing as has been stated, why didn’t concerned teachers go to district office administrators, the superintendent or better yet, the school board? I’ll tell you why, because they never believed it would escalate beyond King possibly getting beat up or injured. They never anticipated that he would be killed.
I have absolutely no sympathy for McInerey. He cold bloodedly took a human life and must face the consequences of his actions. He should be found guilty of murder, If I was a juror I’d find him guilty, but it wouldn’t really surprise me if the jury finds that he was provoked and finds him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, stranger things have happened, remember OJ. I just believe that if the provocation defense works in this case it could open a door for many other provocation cases, like the employee who takes daily abuse and criticism for years at the hands of a cruel boss and one day can’t take it any longer and kills him,or the husband who cant take his wife’s nagging any longer or the shopper who kills the clerk because he cant take the poor service any longer. Ridiculous I know but it only takes the sympathy of one juror to hang a jury.
I’m just saying…….