Waymon Hudson

LGBT Groups say Try Lawrence King's Killer as a Juvenile

Filed By Waymon Hudson | April 16, 2008 12:01 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Brandon McInerney, hate crimes against LGBT people, Lawrence King, LGBT youth

Over 27 lawrence king[1].jpgLGBT groups from around the country have signed on to a joint statement urging the Ventura County, CA, district attorney to try the 14-year old killer of Lawrence King as a juvenile. Some of the groups include the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLSEN, and The Transgender Law Center.

Brandon McInerney has been charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime as an adult in connection with the Feb. 12 fatal shooting of Lawrence King.

Read the full statement after the jump...

We are saddened and outraged by the murder of junior high school student Lawrence King. At the same time, we call on prosecutors not to compound this tragedy with another wrong, we call on them to treat the suspect as a juvenile, not as an adult.

The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression. The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions.

But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation. California law does not require District Attorneys to prosecute 14 year-olds as adults, even in circumstances such as these, and we oppose them doing so.

We are issuing this joint statement because we believe so strongly in principles of justice that protect all our young people and know that, even in the face of strong emotions, we should not abandon them.

We refuse to let our sense of outrage blind us to the fact that the suspect is only 14 years old.

I share the anger and outrage over the senseless murder of King. I also see the need to not let that outrage cloud our judgment of the other child involved in this case.

I hope that something can be salvaged from McInerney's life. I hope that lessons can be learned and perhaps passed on to stop something like this from happening again. I fear that with our broken justice system that has no focus on rehabilitation may not be up to the task, but we cannot fault McInerney for that.

It is times like this that our community shines. It would be understandable that we ask for blood. Few would fault us if we vent our anger and hurt on this other young man. But we do not live by the dangerous adage of our enemies: "an eye for an eye."

Instead, we should focus our anger and drive on changing those things that contributed to this tragedy: a school system without the support for King, the adults in the life of McInerney that taught this type of hate, the ease in which a 14 year-old got a gun... All these are places that we can focus our energy and fight for change. That is how we can honor the life of Lawrence King without destroying another youth's life.

Our community sees the tragedy of all of this. We see the need to educate, to try and change. As the statement said, we see the need to not abandon any of our children.

That is a lesson that those that fight against us would do well to learn. Perhaps if they held the same views, this tragedy would never have happened.

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Sorry, Waymon, but I just don't share your view. 14 years old or not, that boy is a cold-blooded killer who murdered another boy simply because he was Queer. Legally a child, sure, but also a clearly dangerous individual whom society needs to be protected from.

Blame the parents, or whoever you like, but the fact remains: This boy took a gun and ended the life of a fellow classmate for no other reason than because he was different. Going light here puts other children at risk...should their lives be put at risk too? How many more Queer kids might lose their lives when this boy decides they don't have the right to continue living because they're Queer?

At minimum, Brandon McInerney should not see the light of day until he's at least 21, maybe not even then. If he gets off with a light sentence, what message does that send to the next kid who decides he doesn't like a Queer classmate?

This kid committed an adult act of murder, a hate crime (which carries a sentencing enhancement in California), and should be judged and sentenced according to the severity of his crime and his intent in committing it, not his chronological age.

I never said he should get off with a slap on the wrist. He should be punished to the fullest extent of the law AS A JUVENILE. There are reasons we have different sets of rules for kids who commit crimes.

Trust me, I share the outrage and think he should be put away a long time, but charging him as an adult just satisfy our anger isn't the answer.

Charging him as a juvenile, which he is, isn't going light, it's obeying the law.

I agree that Brandon McInerney should be treated as a juvenile.

Well, I guess we should just be judge, jury, and executioner in this case, Brandi?

That's what McInerney did and we are all outraged by it. You can punish him and still be mindful of the fact that he is a minor.

I fail to understand how calling him what he is, A JUVENILE, will send less of a clear message.

Rebecca and Brandi, I totally understand where you are both coming from. I feel nothing but anguish about the murder of Lawrence King. But I don't think that we should loose sight of the fact that the boy who did this is a child himself. By your analysis, the fullest extent of the law would mean that he would be eligible for the death penalty, which I am opposed to 100%.

I think the words of Matthew Shepard's parents are instructive in this situation. They asked that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson be spared the death penalty, because they believed that it would be a waste of more life. They thought that it would be a greater punishment for them to have to live with the reminder of what they did, every day for the rest of their lives.

Waymon makes a fine point - the juvenile justice system exists for a reason. The law should recognize juveniles as different than adults and treat them accordingly, because they are not at the same cognitive level. We don't give children adult responsibilities for a reason - they're not ready for them. I think a fitting consequence for McIrney would be time in a juvenile correction facility, in addition to community service with GLTBQ organizations. I think this would be the perfect restitution for his crime. What good does it do to throw him into an adult facility where he could potentially become the victim of sexual aggression or other kinds of violence? Is he not deserving of compassion? All children have value, even McIrney.

Of course a 14 year old should be tried as juvenile.

The reasons to have a juvenile justice system (diminshed capacity and responsibility compared to an adult, the hope of rehabiltation) don't change due to the nature of the offense.

And if convicted - just like I don't want to see a transwoman incarcerated with men - I don't want to see a 14 year old incarcerated with hardened adult criminals.

justice is not a dish to be served with rage. and i- like many - am filled with rage over the fate of lawrence king.

we cannot allow that rage to cloud our judgment. mcinerney must receive severe punishment, but that punishment must take into consideration that he is still a child. to pretend he is an adult because we are angry is not justice...it is a miscarriage of justice. and there is enough of that in this country already....

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 16, 2008 8:13 PM

GLBT groups who call for leniency for this racist homophobic killer are as wrong headed as they can get. The ideas of non-violence, turning the other cheek and forgiving ones enemies are a betrayal of our struggle and particularly so in the midst of a growing campaign of violence inspired by political and religious leaders against us.

Adopting positions like that gives a green light to the thugs. This call for clemency sends a mistaken message, that it’s we, not the bigots who should bear the cost of their bigotry. We are NOT going to get any sort of justice in matters like these until comprehensive Federal Hate Crimes and Hate Speech laws with harsh penalties are in place. That’s not going to happen with Democrats and/or Republicans controlling the government. As the election campaign progresses it's becoming clearer that, irrespective of fantasy and wishful thinking, both major parties are cesspools of bigotry.

A little rough justice will be served by harshly punishing McInerney but to be honest the only punishment that fits his crime is the death sentence. No matter how much time he gets or whether it’s in the adult or juvenile systems, the little sack of shit is going to discover ‘God’, get ‘reborn’ and ask for parole. If he gets an indeterminate sentence he’ll be out before we know it. Nationally the average time served for murder is 5.5 years and in California it averages a little less than 3.5 years.

And for the very same reason that the juvenile category exists, trying underage criminals as adults also has its reasons.

If a kid has the mindset to do the math about continually humiliating and taunting an outcast, finding a gun to up the ante, and carrying out a simple shot in the head, I'm pretty sure that he was also aware of the consequences that befall such actions, namely jail.

The justice system is one of vindication in its most raw form; it is not necessarily concerned about rehabilitation. It's also peculiar how some people here mention rehabilitation as if it was the likely outcome, even a rapid and easy job. The years required to counteract such conditioning that led the kid to muster the will to shoot a classmate in the head for asking him out for Valentine's would likely take more than a decade.

I get the feeling that leniency wouldn't even be considered if the crime had been committed against another minority. We are the only minority whose offenders get the likes of 90 days worth of jail and community service for damaging the victim so savagely that it takes years for the victim to recover; and when the victim finally does, there is still permanent damage.

Battybattybats | April 16, 2008 10:57 PM

This recent report on teens and violence is interesting.


Lets look at the results shall we?

Does treating prisoners harshly decrease their reoffence rate? Does actually trying to rehabilitate prisoners decrease their reoffence rate?

Because the 'message' argument is thrown around a lot but often when evidence has come forward it's very wrong.

Harsh treatment might be good emotive rhetoric, but if it makes the reoffence rate worse it makes those who call for it partially responsible for the crimes comitted by harshly treated prisoners after they are released.

So lets stop making crucial decisions based on emotive nonsense. The real world is often counter-intuitive. What do the numbers say?

I'm outraged by the death of this child. The best way to serve justice is to minimise the reoffence of the perpetrator and to minimise the likelihood of similar crime. Let the passion motivate the mind, not rule it and render it useless.

@Kathy - I can't say how much I agree with you. Thank you for summing it up eloquently.

@Brandi #5 - "just" boys' school? You ever been to one? Think Lord of the Flies in jail. It aint pretty and it aint easy either. Nevertheless, yes "boys' school." He's a boy. Rehabilitation is our best hope and he won't get that getting gang raped every day by grown and hardened men.

Our calls for justice must not turn in to calls for blood.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said:
"We must not allow ourselves to become like the system we oppose."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 17, 2008 2:34 AM

Perdue#10, you were right on the religion, but wrong on the reality. Your bitterness, anger and obvious hatred is so self destructive. If the consequences of every stupid thing a pubescent child does were treated with adult severity no one would live to be an adult.

"While vengeance is a dish best served cold." we should add:

"Nothing is more despicable than respect based upon fear."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 17, 2008 2:45 AM

Oh, and Perdue, although we agree on the redundancy of organized religion your approach seems close to:
"Kill them all and let God sort them out."

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 17, 2008 4:24 AM

Ganshorn - Religion, superstition and spirituality in all their forms are a bit more than redundant, they're a disease that’s proven to be an awful tragedy for humankind.

Anger is not self destructive, it is self preserving for our community. Your little killer is not a misunderstood child; he's a premeditated racist gay bashing bigot who deserves to die. He didn't steal a book or a car, he stole someone’s life.

Reread the first press reports and then tell us again how he’s just an angst ridden toddler who took a wrong turn in life but needs time to heal.

“A student at an Oxnard junior high school shot another classmate Tuesday in front of two dozen other students who were settling into their first-period English class, police said. The 15-year-old victim was rushed to St. John's Regional Medical Center, where he was initially listed in critical condition. By day's end, his condition was described as improving.

"He's gone from very critical to a little bit better," said Oxnard police spokesman David Keith. "He's actually communicating with personnel at the hospital." The boy's alleged assailant ran from the E.O. Green Junior High School and was apprehended nearby a few minutes later by Oxnard and Port Hueneme police officers.

Some students said the victim, whose name was not disclosed, sometimes wore makeup and feminine jewelry and had declared himself gay. They said he was frequently taunted by other boys and had been involved in an argument with the alleged shooter, an eighth-grader who also was not named, and others Monday.

During the lunchtime argument, one of the boys shouted at Tuesday's victim, "You better watch your back," said one student who witnessed the encounter.”

At least you didn’t say it was Lawrence Kings fault for being openly gay and provoking his killer.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 17, 2008 7:55 AM

OK Bill, OK, gently consider. He is not "my" little killer. I am well aware of how cruel children can be (I went to school ya know), and I cannot walk a mile in the shoes of this child to know what engendered his hateful decision. Obviously it was not adult reason. There is a very important line between indignation/anger and hatred where we dare not go.

I dislike experiencing:

violent video games
head banger music (I'm more of a Vivaldi lover)
traffic jams
taking off my shoes at the airport

I condemn seeing:

anyone exploited in any way
people marginalized into believeing that they should expect less
our elders forgotten
homelessness and hunger
drug abuse
ignorance and apathy (the difference between I do not know and I do not care)

I hate seeing anyone put to death by our supposed advanced society which takes worse care of it's citizens than tiny Sweden.

I hate seeing inadequate health care.

I hate our government being run by corporations

But guess what Bill? There is no human being that I hate since Jerry Falwell died. It is not as if he does not have a lot of replacements, but I choose not to invest time in hating them. (Limbaugh is too stupid to hate)

We can all find someone to blame, but never ourselves. If it makes you feel better Bill, OK, the kid is now "my" killer. I want you to imagine that it was me who left the gun out and the kid took it to school because I was sleeping off my binge.

Do you feel better? Do you feel less angry? Can you try to find some forgiveness for human imperfection? If you can't you are going to have a very unsatisfactory life (I believe). For myself I have been so angry and filled with hatred in my life that I truly, physically, hurt some people. And I regret this every day. Don't hate Bill. It clouds reason.

Long after the issues important to our group that we talk to death are solved plenty of the things I condemn will remain. Chill Bill, Chill.

Remember the strongest leaders were always known for their mercy. That is why George W killed more people than any other governor in the history of the state of Texas. Did his vengence improve anything?

A couple of points: First of all, if the perpetrator is tried as an adult, he would not immediately be thrown in with an adult population. He would just be treated as an adult in the court system and not the penal system until he is 21.
Secondly, I don't know if California has hate crime legislation. If it doesn't, then McInerney almost has to be treated as another 14 year old who committed a similar crime, i.e., a first-degree premeditated murder. The passionate abhorrence of the crime cannot outweigh the law, even in this case.
Thirdly, there are others who in some way knowingly or unknowingly aided and abetted in this crime, and I feel they, too, should suffer consequences for their actions or lack of action. The school system failed to adequately protect Lawrence King. There is more than enough blame to go around here. I still don't know where McInerney got the gun, but the source of the weapon should also face consequences. Just as Lawrence King was not the only victim here, so too, McInerney did not act in a vacuum all by himself. Hopefully all of this will be brought out in a trial.

I think that Brandon McInerney should be tried as a youth - because he is one - but that does not mean he should get off with a meaningless sentence. No amount of time this young man spends in jail will ever feel like enough to those who loved Lawrence King, but prison won't fix this either.

As the mother of a 17 year old hate crime victim (who was not murdered but who was assaulted and committed suicide soon after he was assaulted) that I know what a slap on the wrist sentence feels like. Our son's assaulters were all under 18 and they were tried in juvenile court for a hate crime (malicious harassment law in Washington State). They spent 20 to 30 days in juvenile court and supposedly did some community service hours. It wasn't enough, but I would not have wanted them tried as adults.

Please read Steve Schalchlin's letter regarding the shooting death of Lawrence King in Oxnard, CA. Steve is on the board of Families United Against Hate (FUAH). Steve is on our board and I think his letter is wonderful.

Also, read Safe Schools Coalition's letter regarding the article in Advocate magazine about Lawrence King which is posted on the Families United Against Hate.

Both are posted on the FUAH website: http://www.fuah.org/

I can't help but thinking how the prosecutors would treat young, gender-variant Lawrence King if he were the defendant in a murder.

Something tells me that juvenile status would not even be on the table.

Maybe. Maybe not. I just don't trust prosecutors with trans issues.

I am sick and tired of our obsession with punishment.

We've become a nation of little Bushes and Rices, desperately running head first into walls by doing things that don't work.

If we're frightened of people or angry with people and the things they do, let's all jump in and punish them.

Letting ourselves get carried away by our most stupid and vengeful impulses is what Brandon McInerney did. He was 14. Aren't we better than that?

He is a murderer, who took the life of a child, solely because he was different. You want me to have sympathy for that? I don't think so.

McInerny should be locked up, away from society, for a length of time commensurate with the horrific crime he committed. Maybe it'll help give to pause to the next one. Maybe it'll inspire parents to make sure that their child is never motivated to commit such a crime. Maybe it'll send a message that when you commit an adult crime, you do adult time.

Maybe...or maybe not. Either way, this boy deserves to rot in prison for a very long time before he ever sees the light of day. You can be sure Larry King never will.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 18, 2008 1:16 AM

I am sick and tired of people with a superstitious and religious background interfering in the movement’s political affairs. It leads to defeat.

In the early of the anti Vietnam antiwar movement religious pacifists opposed mass action, supported draft resistance and opposed reaching out to organize the working class GIs who finally forced Nixon to withdraw from Vietnam. If we’d followed the advice of the religious pacifists GI’s would still be dying in South East Asia. The movement made real progress after we formed mass action coalitions.

In a 1956 speech during the Montgomery bus boycott ML King said “Blood may have to flow in the streets of Montgomery before we attain our freedom, but that blood should be our blood, and not that of the white man.” King couldn’t possibly have done a worse disservice or been more harmful to the voting rights struggle. The KKK saw it as an invitation to inflict a terrible reign of terror and did so, culminating in the murder of four young girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by KKK thugs in Birmingham in September of 1964. Over the two decade long struggle dozens were murdered and thousands were beaten, fired, evicted and jailed. The net effect of Kings misleadership was to disarm the movement, not so much in the military sense, but politically.

Similarly the call for clemency for Brandon McInerney and other cold blooded racists and gay bashing killers is totally wrong. We need to let the thugs and their political and religious enablers know that we’re going after them every time they kill or maim one of us. It’s an elementary question of self defense and our movement will get nowhere if we politically disarm and limit ourselves.

I also think that the murderers of over a million Iraqis ought to face an international court of law based on the Nuremburg precedents. Unfortunately and predictably the same Democrats who dropped the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill AFTER it had passed both houses of Congress also refuse to impeach Bush, Cheney and Rice or to call for an International War Crimes Tribunal. They, like many religious types are against the punishment of bigots and war criminals.

I have to say I am torn here. Forgiveness and mercy, while laudable virtues, are not really a part of the criminal justice system. Ultimately, if the prosecutor feels he has a case to try the defendant as an adult, he should generally do so. In his case, the only people I think I would let talk me out of it would be the victim's family.

Battybattybats | April 18, 2008 7:35 AM

There are two questions.

What will work regarding crime in general and what will work politicly regarding hate crime.

Regarding crime in general. Do countries with harsh and long prison terms, executions etc have drasticly lower crime rates (from a functioning deterrant) or reoffence rates?

No, from the stats I've heard, they don't. From what I've heard it is rather the opposite, that crime prevention based on education and dealing early with mental illness etc works, that quality rehabilitation programs involving education in prisons and programs to help prisoners get stable jobs and readapt to the outside world on release work.

Now as to what will work better politicly at sending a message to the broader community that hate crimes won't be tolerated? I don't know.

The answer to question 1 is easy, look at the differences between states and countries with lower and higher crime rates. The only moral answer is the one that is most successful at preventing crimes and reoffences and yet remains ethical.

The answer to question 2 is not so easy.

I don't think that anyone has been calling for clemency or for McInerney to get off with no punishment. He did a disgusting act and should be punished for a long time, there's no dount about it.

On the other hand, I think screaming for his bloo is just as wrong. I'm not saying we turn the other cheek or even forgive his actions, but saying that we can "teach a lesson" by going after this kid sounds dangerously like what he was thinking about Larry King.

It's not an easy thing to think about or talk about, but I refuse to think that our community should dissolve into a blood thirsty mob, like many of those that oppose us.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 18, 2008 9:27 AM

OK Bill, #25. The pacifists FIRST would have opposed sending the troops. Many were there in peaceful protests of the war. (some not so peaceful, but they did not perform violence)

You are making a connection between 1956 and 1964 and blaming it on M.L.King? Hello? King was famous for non violent protest and, guess what? History has shown him to have been pretty successful. No, incredibly successful showing mercy and nonviolence.

It is not clemency, but years of help, therapy punishment and observation that this kid is going to have to shoulder. Yes, help, because an advanced society helps people. You are so anxious to fry this kid and, I'm sorry, not all 14 year old kids are at the same level of maturity or have the same adult coping skills. Let me ask you, what if the killer is scared to death that he is gay? He acted out in this manner because of fear of his own sexuality. This does not mitigate his need for help either, but gay bashers are often sexually insecure people.

In your last paragraph, darn it Bill, you are right again! I would love to see it happen and throw in a third of the Supreme Court with them! But guess what? It won't happen and we have to deal constructively and engage positively to get our mutually agreed upon agenda accomplished.

On his way out of office I expect Bush to give himself, the veep, Condi, and half of the cabinet an executive clemency in advance. It is within his right constitutionally to do that and it is something Nixon nearly did before Ford bailed him out. Hopefully he will forget Rumsfeld.

A.G. Casebeer | April 20, 2008 2:22 AM

The child was 14. He should be tried as a juvenile. No doubt in my mind.

His PARENTS need to be tried as well. They obviously contributed to his attitudes on life, and failed to secure their firearms, so that he had access to the murder weapon.

What ever happened to PARENTS being held responsible for the misdeeds their kids commit? If we started doing that again, societally, you'd see parents keeping much closer track of their kids, again.