Calif. Teen Faces 21 Years After Guilty Plea
A Southern California teenager who shot a gay classmate to death during a computer lab class three years ago avoided a retrial by pleading guilty to second-degree murder, a deal that will send him to prison for 21 years.
Brandon McInerney, 17, pleaded guilty to the murder charge Monday, as well as one count each of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm, said Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley. McInerney is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 19.
The case drew wide attention because of its shocking premise: McInerney, in a fit of homophobic rage, killed 15-year-old Larry King at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard because he was offended by King’s dress and how the victim interacted with him.
Larry King’s father, Greg King, told KABC-TV he understands why prosecutors agreed to the plea deal.
"I don’t think that 21-year sentence is justice for my son, but I understand the reality that was facing the DA of trying to convict a defendant who was 14 ... when he committed the murder," Greg King said.
Comic Ellen DeGeneres, a lesbian, weighed in on her talk show shortly after the shooting and said gays shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens.
McInerney was only 14 at the time of the February 2008 shooting. Several jurors said after the teen’s trial earlier this year that he should never have been tried as an adult.
A mistrial was declared in September when jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the degree of guilt. The panel took a series of votes, the last one with seven jurors in favor of voluntary manslaughter and five supporting either first-degree or second-degree murder. The trial had been moved from Ventura County to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity.
Frawley said prosecutors agreed to the plea deal because of uncertainty about what might result from a second trial.
"We took that into account and looked at what it would take to protect the community," Frawley said. "The total time in custody for 25 years will do that."
The murder conviction will be stayed, and the plea deal calls for McInerney to be given the harshest sentence under California law for voluntary manslaughter - 11 years - and use of a firearm - 10 years, Frawley said. McInerney is ineligible for time served or good behavior because he pleaded guilty to murder.