McInerney Could Get Off With Manslaughter
BY Neal Broverman
August 25 2011 2:00 AM ET
Closing arguments begin today in the California trial of 17-year-old Brandon McInerney, who shot gay teen Lawrence King twice in the head in 2008 — and Judge Charles Campbell decided yesterday that a jury could find McInerney guilty of only manslaughter instead of murder.
McInerney is charged with first-degree murder that includes hate-crime charges, but a jury could find him guilty of voluntary manslaughter, Campbell ruled. The manslaughter charge would still carry jail time, but McInerney could be free by the age of 40. Sentences for first-degree murder, a premeditated act, can carry 53 years of incarceration. Second-degree murder, killing without premeditation, is also being considered by the jury.
Ventura County senior deputy district attorney Maeve Fox says King’s shooting was undoubtedly premeditated murder, spurred by McInerney’s racist and homophobic hate. McInerney’s public defender Scott Wippert has used a “gay panic” defense, claiming McInerney was harassed, cajoled, and flirted with by the effeminate King, who was barely five feet tall. Wippert claims the actions of King provided incentive for McInerney to shoot the 15-year-old.
California has a law, passed after the 2002 murder of Bay Area transgender teen Gwen Araujo, that blunts the effect of a “gay panic” defense. Jurors are to be instructed that biases against a victim’s sexual identity not influence their decision. Fox is expected to remind the nine female jurors and three male jurors of the Araujo law during her closing statements. If there is one dissenting opinion among the jurors, the jury will be hung and the case will likely be retried.
Stay tuned to Advocate.com for updates on the trial.
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