Brandon McInerney, who shot 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King in the back of the head during a computer science lesson in 2008, has been sentenced to 21 years in prison by a court in Ventura County, California.
McInerney will report to prison next month, after he turns 18. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and unlawful use of a firearm after jurors deadlocked during his trial as an adult on a first-degree murder charge.
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed McInerney as a teen who couldn’t control his anger and was influenced by white supremacist ideology. Jurors rejected the claim that the killing was a hate crime.
Prosecutors said the plotted killing was first-degree murder and that McInerney should be punished as an adult. Defense attorneys, who unsuccessfully argued to keep the case in juvenile court, said McInerney reached an emotional breaking point after King’s advances. They said he snapped when he heard King wanted to change his first name to Latisha.
Under teams of the plea bargain, McInerney’s murder conviction was stayed and he received the harshest possible sentence under California law for voluntary manslaughter – 11 years – and use of a firearm – 10 years. McInerney is ineligible for time served for good behavior because he pleaded guilty to murder.
The case became a flash-point for LGBT rights groups, especially when McInerney’s defense offered that Larry King provoked McInerney with sexual advances, and that the school’s permissive attitude toward Larry being able to wear female attire as an expression of his identity contributed to the escalating tensions between the pair that would eventually lead to King’s death — something King’s parents also touched on during the trial. Understandably, arguments raged as to whether this was a case of victim blaming or a valid concern.
While McInerney’s defense originally offered that King had been aggressive in the way he had pursued McInerney and the prosecution were keen to absolve King of any antagonist behavior whatsoever, what emerged from the trial was evidence of a long history of both the quite troubled boys feuding with one another.
A mistrial in this case was declared in September after jurors found they were unable to decide between a murder or manslaughter charge.
Shortly after the mistrial, McInerney admitted second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm.
Greg King, Larry King’s father, reportedly told McInerney during sentencing “You have left a big hole in my heart where Larry was and it can never be filled.”