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King's Accused Killer to Be Tried

King's Accused Killer to Be Tried

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A California judge ruled Wednesday that probable cause exists to try 15-year-old Brandon McInerney, accused slayer of gay classmate Larry King, for premeditated murder.

A California judge ruled Wednesday that probable cause exists to try 15-year-old Brandon McInerney, accused slayer of gay classmate Larry King, for premeditated murder with hate crime and "lying in wait" special circumstances.

Ventura County superior court judge Ken W. Riley issued the ruling at the end of a preliminary hearing that lasted almost three days and included evidence of McInerney's alleged neo-Nazi and white supremacist beliefs and the role they might have played in the killing, along with other details of the crime.

McInerney allegedly shot King twice in the head just as first period began on February 12, 2008, in a packed computer lab at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, a port city of 200,000 about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. He is being tried as an adult and has pled not guilty to all charges.

Detective Dan Swanson, a Simi Valley gang expert, testified that McInerney had steeped himself in white supremacist ideology, and that investigators had found drawings of Nazi symbols and related materials in McInerney's backpack and in a bedroom he shared with an older brother, who is serving in Iraq. In a telephone interview with The Advocate after the hearing, senior deputy district attorney Maeve Fox, who is prosecuting the case, described the material as "an almost obsessive quantity of doodlings and some very detailed drawings... a lot of Nazi symbols, a lot of swastikas, the death's head, the number 14, which pertains to white supremacy, and a lot of symbology pertaining strictly to white supremacist, neo-Nazi, racist, skinhead ideology."

"The evidence strongly indicates he had been indoctrinated to some level," Swanson testified, according to a post by blogger Alex Blaze at Bilerico.com . Fox explained that the connection between neo-Nazism and white supremacy, on the one hand, and the allegation that McInerney killed King at least in part because he was gay, on the other, is that, "in Detective Swanson's opinion, based on the writings of people like David Lane, homosexuality is not to be tolerated."

Swanson dismissed testimony the defense elicited from other witnesses that McInerney had black and Latino friends, explaining that neo-Nazis often hide their true beliefs.

District Attorney's Office investigator Robert Coughlin testified that Dawn Boldrin, one of the boys' teachers, said that McInerney had told her he wanted to become a skinhead and join the "white power" movement, but later claimed to have been kidding, the Ventura County Star reports.

When students were studying the Holocaust, McInerney allegedly told a female friend of King's, Avery L., there was no need to be upset about it because people die every day, Oxnard police sergeant Kevin Baysinger testified. McInerney also allegedly told the girl he admired Hitler and wanted to be a Nazi.

Several witnesses testified that tension rose between the two boys in the days preceding the shooting, and that McInerney spoke during that time about harming or killing King. Officer Ramiro Albarran of the Oxnard Police Department testified that one of McInerney's friends told Albarran that a few days before the murder, King had said to McInerney, "Baby, I love you," and that McInerney had become angry and said he was going to shoot King.

Another student, Keith L., told Baysinger that McInerney had said, "We should jump him," after King again called McInerney "baby" during the days prior to the murder.

McInerney told another student that he did not like King because King was gay and dressed like a girl, and that he and his friends were going to jump King and "shank" him, Albarran testified.

The day before the murder, McInerney told Avery L. that she had better "tell Larry goodbye because you're not going to see him again," according to Baysinger. McInerney also bragged to the girl that if he ever wanted to kill someone, his father had guns, and that he (McInerney) knew how to use them, Baysinger testified. Police say they found guns in an unlocked closet at McInerney's home, and a DVD titled Shooting in Realistic Environments in McInerney's bedroom, according to the Los Angeles Times.

None of the students reported these incidents to school authorities, apparently not taking them seriously.

On the morning of the murder, students told police, McInerney sat directly behind King in the computer lab. King was working on an English report, according to the Los Angeles Times . Several youngsters heard what they described as the sound of a balloon popping, or a firecracker going off, and looked over to see McInerney holding a gun, and King slumping out of his chair. The teacher, Dawn Boldrin, shouted, "What the hell are you doing, Brandon!" the Los Angeles Times reports. McInerney allegedly made momentary eye contact with a female student, then fired a second shot into the back of King's head, and fled the classroom.

Police arrested him near the school without incident a few minutes later. "I'm the one who did it," McInerney said, and repeatedly apologized, officers testified.

The defense seemed to be trying to construct an argument that King provoked McInerney into shooting him, repeatedly asking witnesses about King's alleged "sexual advances" toward McInerney. California law recognizes a "heat of passion" defense which, according to Fox, "will not completely exonerate a defendant but will leave open the possibility of voluntary manslaughter." The defense requires "provocation by the victim of a nature which would excite in the ordinary, reasonable person a passion" such as "anger or rage or jealousy," Fox said. But "the actor has to act under the heat of that mental disturbance," an element Fox sees as absent given that none of the "provocation" the defense points to happened the morning of the killing.

McInerney's lawyer, Scott Wippert, of the United Defense Group, also asked many questions regarding King's having worn female clothing, nail polish, and makeup. How this might fit into the defense was not made clear, though, and Wippert did not respond to an e-mail request from The Advocate for an interview.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Riley made a statement to the effect that there was evidence that would support findings that King's slaying had been a cold-blooded, premeditated execution of an innocent victim, a statement Fox termed "remarkable."

McInerney will be formally arraigned August 3. His counsel have not responded to a plea deal the prosecution offered July 8 under which McInerney would plead guilty to first-degree murder, which would carry a sentence of 25 years to life, instead of the 53 years to life he faces now.

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