Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Brandon McInerney Defense Blames Gay Teen Larry King for his own Murder

Lawyers for an Oxnard teenager accused of murdering a gay classmate are using the ‘gay panic’ defense, blaming the victim’s taunting, provocative behavior for the killing.

On February 12, 2008, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney brought a loaded handgun to E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California and shot Larry King, age 15, in the back of the head as he sat in a computer lab. King, who was openly gay and wore makeup and women’s clothing to school, had been constantly taunting McInerney. According to the Los Angeles Times, witnesses in the murder trial testified that King “seemed to relish making the boys squirm” and often taunted them, making provocative and flirtatious comments like “I know you want me.”

Numerous teachers have testified that they were deeply worried about King’s feminine attire and taunting behavior and feared it would lead to serious problems, but that school administrators ignored their concerns. They described assistant principal Joy Epstein as someone more interested in protecting King’s civil rights than in preventing problems arising from the teen’s provocative behavior.

“It was reported, more than once, by more than one person,” English teacher Dawn Boldrin testified. “It was documented. There is paperwork on this. She kept saying that she didn’t know and she did. She knew. She did. Everybody did.”

When teacher Jill Ekman told King to wash off mascara and eyeliner, he returned the next day with more makeup on and told her that Epstein said it was okay to wear it.

“We hear a lot from teachers who feel handcuffed because they don’t know how to respect those rights and create a safe place for children who aren’t comfortable with,” education director Joel Baum told the Los Angeles Times.

E.O. Green officials repeatedly told King not to draw unnecessary attention to himself, but the student did not listen.

He even followed male students into the bathroom to harass them, something Ekman says is sexual harassment. She went to Epstein with her concerns, but claims the vice principal “shut the door in her face.”

On Monday, February 11, 2008, King paraded back and forth in high-heel boots and makeup by Brandon McInerney, who he’d earlier said “love you, baby” to. According to history teacher Arthur Saenz, McInerney was visibly incensed. The next morning, King showed up at school wihtout any makeup. McInerney showed up with a gun. He took a seat behind King in the school computer lab and twenty minutes into class he shot him twice in the back of his head.

The so-called ‘gay panic’ defense, that a defendant acted out of violent temporary insanity caused by a psychiatric condition called “homosexual panic,” seems rooted in still-“acceptable” societal homophobia more than in any legitimate medical condition. But it has been used– twice– to successfully  avoid murder convictions in New Zealand before that country’s parliament acted to strike the provocation defense from the law books.

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