The murder of Larry King refers to the
February 12, 2008, shooting death of Lawrence "Larry" Fobes King
(January 13, 1993 – February 13, 2008), a 15-year-old gay student at
E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California, United States. He
was shot twice by a fellow student, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, and
kept on life support until he died two days later.
Newsweek described the shooting as "the most
prominent gay-bias crime since the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard",
bringing attention to issues of gun violence as well as gender
expression and sexual identity of teenagers.
Following many delays and a change of venue,
McInerney's first trial began on July 5, 2011, in the Los Angeles
district of Chatsworth. That trial ended on September 1, 2011 when the
judge, Charles Campbell, declared a mistrial due to the jury being
unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Prosecutors decided to seek a
second trial, but dropped the hate crime charge.
On November 21, 2011, McInerney pleaded guilty to
second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a gun. The
plea carries a sentence of 21 years imprisonment without time off for
good behavior, and avoided the scheduled retrial. He was sentenced on
December 19, 2011.
Lawrence Fobes "Larry" King was born on January 13,
1993 at the Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, California. King
was adopted at age two by Gregory and Dawn King. His biological father
had abandoned his wife, and his mother was a drug addict who failed to
care for her son properly. King was prescribed medication for
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and according to Gregory
King, Larry had been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, a
condition in which a child fails to develop relationships with his or
her caregivers. He was also forced to repeat the first grade of
schooling. By the third grade, King began to be bullied by his fellow
students due to his effeminacy and openness about being gay, having
come out at ten years old.
At the age of twelve, King was placed on probation
for theft and vandalism. In November 2007, he was removed from his
adoptive home and placed in a group home and treatment center named
Casa Pacifica after he alleged that his adoptive father was physically
abusing him, a charge Gregory King denied.
The bullying continued when King transferred to E.O.
Green Junior High School in the seventh grade, and intensified when he
began attending school wearing women's accessories and clothing, high
heels and makeup in January 2008. King's younger brother Rocky also
suffered bullying because of Larry's appearance. The school could not
legally stop King from dressing as such because of a California
anti-discrimination law that prevents gender discrimination, although
teachers at the school thought that his clothing was clearly in
violation of school code, which prevents students from wearing
clothing considered distracting. The school issued a formal notice to
every teacher on January 29, 2008 via email. Written by eighth-grade
assistant principal Sue Parsons, it read, in part:
We have a student on campus who has chosen to
express his sexuality by wearing make-up. It is his right to do so.
Some kids are finding it amusing, others are bothered by it. As long
as it does not cause classroom disruptions he is within his rights. We
are asking that you talk to your students about being civil and
non-judgmental. They don't have to like it but they need to give him
his space. We are also asking you to watch for possible problems. If
you wish to talk further about it please see me or Joy Epstein.
Joy Epstein was one of the school's assistant
principals, and also openly lesbian. Several teachers, and King's
father, accused Epstein of encouraging Larry's flamboyance as part of
her "political agenda." King also taunted boys in the halls, saying "I
know you want me" and was known to make inappropriate comments to boys
while they were changing for P.E. class. However, prosecuting
attorneys filed court documents that stated King was not sexually
harassing other students in the weeks before the shooting. McInerney
and King had been in several verbal altercations described as
"acrimonious" by the prosecutor.
Brandon David McInerney was born on January 24,
1994 in Ventura, California. His mother Kendra had a criminal history
and was addicted to methamphetamine. In 1993, Kendra accused her
husband William of shooting her in the arm with a .45-caliber pistol.
In another incident, William McInerney choked his wife almost to
unconsciousness after she accused him of stealing ADHD medication from
her older son. He pleaded no contest and served ten days in jail and
36 months probation on a charge of domestic violence. Between August
2000 and February 2001, William McInerney had contacted Child
Protective Services at least five times about concerns of his son
living with his mother. In 2001, he filed a restraining order against
Kendra, and in 2004, Brandon was placed in the custody of his father,
as his mother had entered a drug rehabilitation program.
In July 2008, Newsweek reported that a day or two
before the shooting, King walked onto the basketball court in the
middle of a game and asked McInerney to be his Valentine in front of
the team who then made fun of McInerney. Just after lunchtime on
February 11, King passed McInerney in a corridor and called out, "Love
you baby". Later that day King was seen "parading" back and forth in
high-heeled boots and makeup in front of McInerney. According to a
teacher, a group of boys were laughing at McInerney who was getting
visibly upset and assistant principal Joy Epstein, noticing
McInerney's reaction, wagged her finger at him. When McInerney endured
teasing because of the incident, he attempted to recruit other
students to assault King but no one expressed interest. He then told
one of King's friends to say goodbye to him "because she would never
see him [King] again".
On the morning of February 12, 2008, McInerney was
witnessed repeatedly looking at King during a class in a computer
laboratory. At approximately 8:15 a.m local time, McInerney drew from
his backpack a .22-caliber revolver belonging to relatives and shot
King twice in the back of the head. Following the shooting, McInerney
tossed the handgun on the floor and walked from the classroom. He was
apprehended by police about seven minutes later and five blocks away
from the school campus.
King was transported to St. John's Regional Medical
Center where he was listed in serious condition. He was declared brain
dead on February 13 but was kept on life support for two days so that
his organs could be donated.
Since McInerney has refused to speak to
investigators, the motive for the shooting remains unclear. According
to Police Chief John Crombach, "It's pretty clear our suspect was
focused on his victim and what he planned to do".
Vigils and marches were organized across the United
States following King's death. Sympathies for King have been expressed
by numerous people including Judy Shepard, Human Rights Campaign
president Joe Solmonese, Senator Hillary Clinton and television host
Ellen DeGeneres. A thousand students in the Hueneme School District,
where E.O. Green is located, marched to pay tribute to King on
February 16, 2008, four days after the shooting.
A new diversity education bill was introduced on
behalf of King by California Assemblyperson Mike Eng, saying, "We need
to teach young people that there's a curriculum called tolerance
education that should be in every school. We should teach young people
that diversity is not something to be assaulted, but diversity is
something that needs to be embraced because diversity makes California
the great state that it is." The bill would require mandatory classes
on diversity and tolerance in California school districts.
A local vigil in Ventura, California was organized
one year after King's death. The Day of Silence for 2008, which is
intended to protest LGBT harassment and occurred on April 25, was
specially dedicated to King. King's father Greg is unconvinced his
adoptive son was gay as Larry had only recently told him that he was
actually bisexual. Greg believes that Larry was sexually harassing
McInerney, and has expressed concern that Larry is being made a poster
child for gay rights issues.
Teachers also showed sympathy for McInerney. "We
failed Brandon," a teacher said. "We didn't know the bullying was
coming from the other side—Larry was pushing as hard as he could,
because he liked the attention." Hundreds of children from the school
have signed a petition requesting that McInerney be tried as a
Criticism of the school
In August 2008, King's family filed a claim against
E.O. Green Junior High School at Ventura County Superior Court,
alleging that the school's allowing King to wear makeup and feminine
clothing was a factor leading to his death. According to the
California Attorney General's Office, however, the school could not
legally have stopped King from wearing girls' clothes because state
law prevents gender discrimination.
According to a Newsweek article published on July
19, 2008, some teachers at E.O. Green also allege that assistant
principal Joy Epstein was "encouraging King's flamboyance to help
further an 'agenda' ". When Epstein was later promoted to principal at
another local public school, King's father described it as a "slap in
the face of my family". The superintendent, Jerry Dannenberg, stated
that the promotion was given because "she was the most qualified
person for the new principal job".
Pretrial legal proceedings
In February 2008, McInerney's lawyer, William
Quest, was considering a change of venue. On July 24, 2008, Judge
Douglas Daily of the Ventura County Superior Court ruled that
McInerney would stand trial as an adult, with the decision being
On August 7, 2008, in the same court, McInerney
pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder and a hate crime. A
preliminary hearing was set for September 23, 2008, which had been
rescheduled for October 14, 2008.
On September 23, 2008, the court appointed Willard
Wiksell, a lawyer from Ventura, guardian ad litem for McInerney.
Previously, McInerney's family took steps to fire his lawyer, William
Quest, of the Public Defenders Office and hire the United Defense
Group, a criminal defense law firm from Los Angeles. However, the
Public Defenders Office filed a petition stating that the United
Defense Group might not have McInerney's best interests in mind.
On October 14, 2008, after the court received a
report from the appointed guardian ad litem, and the court determined
that the defendant had not been coerced into changing representation
and knew what he was doing, the Ventura County Superior Court allowed
McInerney to fire his Public Defender, William Quest, and the Public
Defenders Office, and hire the United Defense Group together with
attorney Robyn Bramson as his attorneys. The court also denied a
motion to gag the defendant's former representatives from the Public
Defenders Office from speaking about the case, especially to the
On December 8, 2008, Ventura County Superior Court
ruled that McInerney, after being evaluated by a psychiatrist and a
psychologist, was competent to stand trial. That same day, Scott S.
Wippert, of the United Defense Group, filed a legal motion for
discovery, asking the court to order the district attorney to provide
documents to uncover whether prosecutors exercised discretion in
sending McInerney's case to the adult court system. On December 29,
2008, Judge Rebecca Riley denied the motion, stating that there was no
evidence of abuse of discretion in transferring McInerney from
juvenile to adult court.
On January 26, 2009, the preliminary hearing was
postponed until March 17, to give McInerney's lawyers time to appeal
Judge Riley's rejection of the December motion for discovery. On March
18, 2009, the hearing was once again postponed, when William McInerney,
the father of Brandon, was found dead in his living room in the Silver
Strand area near Oxnard after he sustained an accidental head injury
from a fall. Brandon McInerney was granted Judge Riley's permission to
leave the juvenile detention facility and attend his father's funeral.
On August 27, 2009, at his arraignment in Ventura
County Superior Court, McInerney pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The judge, Bruce Young, set the pretrial hearing date for October 23,
2009, and a trial start date for December 1, 2009.
On September 1, 2009, Ventura County Superior Court
Judge Kevin DeNoce ruled that the addition of a lying-in-wait
allegation to the list of charges was acceptable. The addition of this
allegation would automatically mean that the case must be heard in an
adult court. The addition was petitioned, and in November the Ventura
2nd District Appellate Court denied the request to overturn the
earlier ruling, finding that the District Attorney’s Office did not
act vindictively in adding the lying-in-wait allegation to the murder
On January 21, 2010, the State Supreme Court
rejected the petition to overturn the earlier ruling by the Ventura
County Superior Court judge.
After a postponement from May 14, 2010, McInerney’s
trial was set to commence on July 14, 2010, in Ventura County Superior
Court, but was again postponed. A hearing was slated for April 4,
2011, to determine whether McInerney's attorneys would be ready for a
trial beginning on May 2. Previous postponements followed motions from
defense attorneys requesting recusal of the district attorney, a
change of venue, and more time for fact-finding. In August 2010,
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell ruled that the
trial would proceed in Ventura County with jurors selected from Santa
Barbara County. On December 6, 2010, Campbell denied the motion for
A California appeals court affirmed on May 5, 2011,
that the juvenile records of the victim, Lawrence King, will remain
sealed after a lower court refused the request of the McInerney
defense team for the records.
After multiple delays, the trial began on July 5,
2011, with a change of venue to Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California.
Multiple previously scheduled dates were bypassed for various reasons,
and plans or requests to move the venue or use jurors from other
locations in California were not realized.
On the first day of trial, the half brother of
McInerney, James Bing, was admonished by Judge Campbell because it was
overheard that Bing went to the jury outside of the courtroom and
addressed them. He said: "The fate of my brother is in your hands."
Bing was then banned from the courtroom unless he is summoned to
The prosecutor depicted McInerney as a popular
teenager, who was skilled in martial arts and firing guns as well as
being a white supremacist. She went on to describe King as a small guy
who had often been picked on, saying that King wore high-heeled boots,
makeup and jewelry along with his school uniform to school.
Scott Wippert, McInerney's attorney described King
as the aggressor, saying he often was sexually aggressive and often
made inappropriate remarks, provoking McInerney.
Witnesses who were students and classmates of
McInerney testified on July 7, 2011. One witness said that King told
her he had changed his name to Leticia. Another witness said many
students made fun of King and called him offensive names behind his
back when he came to school wearing makeup and jewelry. A few of the
witnesses said that they never noticed King making sexual advances
toward other students but that sexual comments he made was "just
messing" with McInerney.
The former vice principal of E.O. Green School, Joy
Epstein testified on July 11, 2011. She said she had discussed King's
behavior with other school officials of the school district and they
decided it was according to the constitutional rights, legitimate for
King to wear what he wanted unless it violated the school dress code.
Joy Epstein said high-heeled boots, makeup and jewelry were all
allowed according to the Oxnard school dress policy. She said another
administrator within the district said that the school must protect
the students civil and equal rights.
Another teacher testified that pupils had told her
King would seek them out and follow them into the bathroom, behavior
she considered to be sexual harassment. She was told by Epstein the
school could do nothing about the behavior.
On July 22, 2011, the jury was shown footage of a
video in which McInerney was fighting in the Ventura County Juvenile
hall, where he currently lives. One of the corrections officers,
testified that the defendant was a "good kid" in the honors program
for good behavior and had relationships with people of different
backgrounds and origins. He said that within the juvenile hall
environment fighting was a routine occurrence and that McInerney was
not prone to violence as the prosecution alleged.
Dawn Boldrin, an English teacher had testified and
said she counseled King and told him he should not wear
attention-getting clothing if he did not want to receive negative
attention. She also gave the teen, who was exploring his sexual and/or
gender identity, a strapless, green, chiffon gown. She meant for him
to wear it outside school. A photo was shown of Larry King holding up
the dress and many people in the courtroom were crying. Greg King,
Larry's father became upset and gathered his family to leave, but
before doing so, Dawn King, Larry's mother, swore at Boldrin's 13-year
old daughter and a relative. The judge later barred Dawn King from the
remainder of the trial. Because the school administrators were
allowing King to wear whatever he wanted as long as it did not violate
the dress code, the defense was arguing that this allowed King to
sexually harass McInerney.
The trial ended without a verdict and was declared
a mistrial by the judge, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles
Campbell, on Thursday, September 1, 2011, after the jury reported that
they were hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a unanimous
verdict. There were eight weeks of testimony with almost 100
witnesses, and the jury had been deliberating since August 26, 2011.
The jury had taken four votes and the last vote was split between
seven jurors voting for voluntary manslaughter and five jurors voting
for either first-degree or second-degree murder.
On September 2, 2011, the district attorney's
office announced that they intended to retry McInerney, and a hearing
was scheduled for October 5, 2011. For the second trial, the
prosecutors dropped the hate crime charge.
On November 21, 2011 McInerney pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm. He
will receive 21 years behind bars, with no credit given for time
served prior to the trial and no credit will be given for good
behavior. He will initially serve his sentence in a juvenile facility
and then be transferred to prison upon turning 18.
Gay teen's killer takes 21-year deal
The youth avoids a retrial by pleading guilty to
shooting his classmate in 2008.
By Catherine Saillant - Los Angeles Times
November 22, 2011
A teenager who fatally shot a gay classmate in the
back of the head during an Oxnard middle school computer lab will
spend 21 years in prison under a plea deal reached Monday, closing the
books on a case that drew international headlines and ignited debate
on how schools should handle sexual identity issues.
Brandon McInerney, who was 14 when he pulled a gun
out of his backpack and shot Larry King two times at point-blank
range, will be kept behind bars until he is 38 under the terms of the
deal struck by Ventura County prosecutors.
In an unusual arrangement, the 17-year-old pleaded
guilty to second-degree and voluntary manslaughter. In return,
prosecutors agreed not to go forward with a second trial, which could
have resulted in a life sentence.
The family of the victim, Larry King, broke their
silence on the case outside court Monday, saying that they supported
the sentence but believed school officials hold deep responsibility
for what happened.
"Larry had a complicated life, but he did not
deserve to be murdered," said the youth's father, Greg King.
McInerney's first trial ended in a hung jury in
early September, with jurors torn between murder and manslaughter.
Some jurors said they believed the district attorney's office was
being overly harsh in trying McInerney as an adult and several showed
up Monday wearing "Save Brandon" bracelets.
Greg King said he was satisfied by the deal reached
with his son's killer, given the "unpredictability of juries."
"Twenty-one years is a long time," King said. "At
the end of the day, this is something we can live with."
McInerney shot King in a school computer lab at E.O
Green Junior High in Oxnard in February 2008, after days of conflict
between the boys. Students and teachers at the trial testified that
King had been dressing in women's accessories and wearing makeup, and
was flirting aggressively with male students on campus who did not
want the attention.
School administrators sent a memo advising teachers
to give King his space, but to report safety problems.
Teachers at the trial testified that when they
tried to report growing tensions between King and several boys, school
leaders shunned them.
The victim's mother, Dawn King, revealed for the
first time Monday that she had contacted school officials four days
before the shooting in an effort to solicit their cooperation in
toning down her son's behavior. The boy had been taken from the Kings'
home two months earlier by authorities because of problems at home.
She said she was told that her son had a civil
right to explore his sexual identity.
"I knew, gut instinct, that something serious was
going to happen," she said. "They should have contained him, contained
Prosecutors said the first trial showed that the
case was too emotional to take to trial a second time.
"The first jury was unable to keep their emotions
out of it," Ventura County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Mike Frawley said.
"This really tugged powerfully at people's hearts."
During the first trial, prosecutors portrayed
McInerney as a budding white supremacist who hated homosexuals and was
enraged by King's sexuality and aggressive flirtations. Jurors
rejected that contention and the hate crime allegation was dropped
when prosecutors announced last month that they would retry McInerney.
Defense lawyers argued that McInerney was the
product of a violent and dysfunctional home and had reached an
emotional breaking point in response to King's advances.
At Monday's hearing, McInenery's family left the
courtroom without comment after the plea agreement was announced.
McInerney's mother, Kendra, sobbed loudly as her
son, clad in a dark blue jail jumpsuit, answered "guilty" to the two
charges -- one of the few times he has spoken in the courtroom.
Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson said their client
is mentally preparing himself for state prison.
He will be transferred to a state facility in
January, when he turns 18. Though he will spend many years behind
bars, Brandon McInerney is grateful that he will one day be free, his
"Now he has a date he can circle on his calendar,"
After the first trial, gay-rights advocates were
After Monday's announcement, the Gay, Lesbian and
Straight Education Network, which offers on-campus support for gay and
lesbian students, said the plea bargain shows McInerney is being held
accountable for his actions.
Bramson said she hopes the case has raised
awareness that parents and school administrators need to be involved
and aware of what is happening with their children at school. In this
case, all of the adults failed, she said.
"This was so preventable and it shouldn't ever
happen again," she said.