Prosecution Tears Apart McInerney’s “Gay Panic” Defense
BY Neal Broverman
August 25 2011 4:35 PM ET
In closing arguments in the trial of accused killer Brandon McInerney, Ventura County, Calif., senior deputy district attorney Maeve Fox today worked to discredit McInerney’s “gay panic” defense and referred to it as character assassination against 15-year-old Larry King, whom she called the victim of a cold-blooded execution.
“Let’s just say it, this defense is gay panic,” Fox said. “For the past six weeks, there’s been this giant smoke screen.” The real reason for the shooting was “the defendant hated Larry King for who he was.”
McInerney, now 17 and with severe slick-backed hair, looked on without reaction as Fox spoke conversationally but at times emotionally. She discarded much of the previous testimony of teachers at Oxnard, Calif.’s E.O. Green Middle School, some of who described the effeminate King chasing other boys around the halls. Fox said the teachers went into blame overdrive after the February 12, 2008, shooting of King, and in their testimony were covering their reputations and defending their agendas.
Fox reminded the jury of nine women and three men that it was the testimony of students that mattered — teenagers who not only witnessed King’s shooting firsthand but were also privy to interactions between the two boys. Speaking for long stretches and only briefly looking at notes, Fox reminded the jury that most of King and McInerney’s peers didn’t witness the gay teen being disruptive or sexually aggressive toward McInerney or anyone else, as defense attorney Scott Wippert claims. Fox reminded the jury that Wippert brought up the fact that King would use the boys’ restroom at school and other students would scurry out.
“That’s not Larry chasing boys out of the bathroom,” Fox said. “That’s Larry using a bathroom he had a right to use.”
Fox admitted King may have chased a different teenage boy than McInerney down a hall, but only after that teen said to King, “I smell queer.” Larry’s reaction was a “reasonable response to being teased.” Fox said that other students testified the eighth-grader’s heels and makeup didn’t bother them, with one saying in court, “Whatever, it’s not my life.” If jurors are to convict McInerney of manslaughter instead of murder, they will have to decide if a person of average disposition would have acted as he did. McInerney didn’t complain about King, he didn’t beat him up, he killed him, Fox stated.
“This gay panic thing is not a legitimate defense,” Fox said. “Even in death he’s been degraded and subjected to inappropriate character assassination. No reasonable person of any age would have reacted the way the defendant did.”
Fox described a situation the defense brought up in which King allegedly waved to McInerney, a scenario they presented as flirtation that bordered on sexual harassment. It’s not even clear that King was waving to McInerney, who was 30 to 40 yards away.
Of the defense’s case, “It’s awful, it’s inappropriate, it’s mean,” Fox said. “You can’t use bias [in your decision]. You’re going to hinge a voluntary manslaughter on the fact that this small effeminate kid was waving at somebody? That’s awful.”
After the shooting, rumors swirled among E.O. Green students that King had at one point said, “I love you” to McInerney. Fox said that was clearly an unsubstantiated rumor. What happened in the days leading up to the shooting was that, in front of witnesses, McInerney told King to his face that he was going to shoot him. After class, King came across McInerney in the hall and said, “What’s up, baby?”
“How is that in any way sexual?” Fox asked the jury, stating it was a normal response to a threat that King did not understand was deadly serious. Fox was working to discredit the defense mounted by Wippert that claims King’s cross-dressing and aggressive flirting drove McInerney to the edge, forcing him to commit manslaughter, not premeditated first-degree murder.
A hate-crime charge was pushed by Fox, who said McInerney’s statement to a psychiatrist — after the shooting — about hating gay people and finding King “disgusting” demonstrate his hatred of LGBT people. McInerney’s sketchings of Nazi symbols and adoration of Adolf Hitler also prove McInerney’s malice toward minorities like gays, which served as partial impetus for the shooting of King, Fox said.
Fox’s closing arguments were thorough and detailed, but she often reminded the jury that what happened in February 2008 wasn’t complicated — McInerney hated gay people, hated King, planned for days on killing him, told people of his plans, and carried them out.
“You cannot skew the evidence because of sympathy [toward McInerney],” Fox said. “You know what happened in this case. Don’t torture it, don’t overthink it. An American was executed for who he was. It was a cold-blooded execution.”