Attorney for Lawrence King’s Killer Faults School for Shooting

Deputy Public Defender William Quest defended his client, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, who is to be arraigned today for the fatal shooting of his classmate, 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, saying that the school is at fault for not stepping in when it saw conflict between two of its students:

Kingmcinerney“Educators should have moved aggressively to quell rising tensions between the two boys, which began when King openly flirted with McInerney, said Deputy Public Defender William Quest. Instead, administrators were so intent on nurturing King as he explored his sexuality, allowing him to come to school wearing feminine makeup and accessories, that they downplayed the turmoil that his behavior was causing on campus, Quest said.”

The school disagrees:

“School Supt. Jerry Dannenberg strongly disagreed with such allegations. ‘School officials definitely were aware of what was going on, and they were dealing with it appropriately,’ Dannenberg said Wednesday. King was constitutionally entitled to wear makeup, earrings and high-heeled boots under long-established case law, Dannenberg said.”

Ventura County hopes to try McInerney as an adult but a motion has been made to try him as a juvenile. The arraignment may be delayed until the court decides on that motion, according to the L.A. Times. A coalition of gay rights groups has urged District Attorney Greg Totten to try him as a juvenile as well. McInerney has been held in Juvenile Hall since the shooting, in lieu of $700,000 bail.

Lawyer blames school in shooting of gay Oxnard student [la times]


  1. Wes says

    So, they’re blaming the victim essentially because the school didn’t stop him from being overly feminine.

  2. John in Manhattan says

    As expected, here it comes… the GAY PANIC defense. McInerney HAD to shoot King because King was “flirting” with him and flaunting that lifestyle.

    It’s been 13 years since Jenny Jones and sadly, little has changed.

  3. ANON says

    Yes the school is undoubtedly at fault, but unfortunately Brandon’s lawyer is doing him a great disservice. If the school had a more LGBTQ inclusive attitude and curriculum, and promoted acceptance and inclusion instead of mere tolerance, two young boys lives would have been saved. What Brandon did is intolerable, but it is the fact that he was never given to tools to understand LGBTQ individuals that allowed this tragedy.
    It is not unsurprising that such action would be taken due to flirting. After all, when teachers, counselors, and administrators stand idly by when phrases like “thats so gay” and “faggot” are thrown around constantly, what message does that send to the young people they try to serve? Its the school districts policy of “othering” and forced “tolerance” that killed Larry King, not the over-reaction of Brandon whose only crime was conforming to what he thought was right: hate and disdain of gay people.

  4. says

    What a disgusting, outdated ploy. As Wes wrote, it implies that what happened to King was inevitable. That horrendous assumption should be challenged and exposed.

    King wasn’t forcing anyone else to question their orientation, he was simply a 15 year old expressing his own.

  5. john says

    I have the same sentiment as probably all of the other readers – that defense is deplorable. But I have to disagree with David – my opinion is that the killer should be tried as a juvenile – regardless of the type of crime, a 14 year old is still a 14 year old – there’s a reason they’re not considered “adults” legally.

  6. Jimmyboyo says

    I have to agree with John

    The “gay panic” defense is deplorable

    The crime itself a huge tragedy

    BUT, I don’t feel any minor should ever be tried as an adult. Give the maximum sentence possible with LONGGGGGGGGGGGG term incarceratin in Juvinille detention.

  7. John says

    It is unfortunate that the Gwen Araujo Act hasn’t had the impact the legislature had intended it to.

    Under that law, the “gay panic” defense is supposed to be illegal in California. But they left enforcement upto the discretion of judges, and this has been a problem. Judges have mostly ignored this provision for whatever reason. There’s probably some concern that it runs afoul of the First Amendment. But it’s also possible that homophobic / transphobic jurists are actively trying to subvert the will of lawmakers.

  8. nic says

    JIMMYBOYO, you know that i like and respect you. sometimes we disagree. this is one of those times.

    everyone is at fault except the murderer. give me a fucking break. i’m with david ehrenstein on this one. this was not a crime of passion. it was a calculated assassination (and i use that term advisedly.)

    i am as compassionate as the next guy, but c’mon. there has to be something cold-hearted and soul-dead about a 14 y.o. boy who plans (premeditates) a killing. did the parents fail him? most certainly! did society fail him? maybe. did the school fail him? no. frankly, i don’t care. a sociopath is a sociopath is a sociopath. end of story.

  9. Derrick from Philly says

    I’m with NIC & DAVID on this one. But I have to be honest. Remember the case of the young gay highschool kid in the upper Mid-West who shot his highschool principal due to intense gay-bashing at school? In that case, I was vehement that the gay boy shouldn’t be tried as an adult, and not tried for murder at all.

    My explanation: that case with the young gay perpetrator involved years of torment, and inaction by school officials to make school a safe place for him. He was desperately in need of help. This case is about a 14 year old doing what adult men do to transgender gay people everyday (I aint exaggerating). The 14 year old did what grown men do.

  10. Jimmyboyo says


    I in no way wish to imply the murderer didn’t comit a heinous crime.

    Maybe I just don’t want to admit that we live in a world where children can be such cold blooded monsters.


    One moment I am right there with you and then the next I feel like weeping over the depression caused by thinking that children can be so foul.

    I understand your point and in the end would probably agree with you, but for just a moment longer allow me my delusion of children being children instead of monsters.


  11. Brandon says

    Guys, the article doesn’t say anything about a gay panic defense. So, let’s not jump to conclusions about that. And as for the lawyer’s conduct, put yourselves in his shoes for a minute. You have a client where there is NO question about his guilt or innocence. McInerney murdered King. Period. So what do you do to prevent your client (a 15 year old) from possibly being executed? He’s got to do something– otherwise he might as well concede now.

    That said, I am not worried about the defense strategy. This case is a loser. All the attorney can do is try to (a) avoid having his client tried as an adult and (b) put to death. This kid will, at a minimum, be behind bars for a LONG TIME. His life is OVER. It ended the moment he pulled that trigger.

    The murder of King was one of the saddest and most shocking stories I have ever heard. It’s mindblowing that one child was so threatened at the idea that another might be attracted to him that he had to kill him. And while McInenery certainly is responsible for his conduct, King’s blood also on a lot of other people’s hands.

    It’s on the hands of people that saw bullying at the school and did nothing to stop it. It’s on the hands of those that continue to propagate the idea it’s ok to use violence. It’s on the hands of those that say you can hate those that are different. It sure as hell is on the hands of McInenery’s parents. This 15 year lived in a word where it’s ok to lash out at those you’ve think wronged you and he’s the ONLY one on trial.

    I may sound a little earthy-crunchy, but this case is yet another wake up call to EVERYONE. If the only thing that changes is that McInenerny is put away or killed, this will keep happening. We need to change how we see and relate to one another to prevent these types of tragedies.

  12. John says


    Primates are violent creatures from a very young age. Humans are no exception.

    I think you’re looking at this childhood construct with a distinctly modern lens. This whole ‘juvenile innocence’ movement didn’t really come into force until after the Second War World.

    And the concept would be completely alien to anyone born before the 20th century.

    In antiquity, the Romans and Greeks would not think twice about sending a 13 or 15 year old to war. And they hacked, slashed, pillaged, and raped alongside the other ‘men’ on the battlefield.

  13. Landon Bryce says


    How is this not a gay panic defense? He is saying the school is to blame becuase they allowed Larry to express his sexuality. The only way this works as a defense is if that behavior is seen as an incitement to murder. William Quest is trying to leverage bigotry in his client’s favor. Yes, McInnery deserves a good defense, but not an illegal one. And he certainly does not need to give schools who want to discriminate against gay kids a legal excuse for doing so.

  14. Brandon says

    Landon, thanks for your question.

    I preface this by saying that I am not a criminal defense attorney in California, so I don’t pretend to know all of the elements of a defense in that state. Generally speaking, you can use a defense to either avoid culpability or mitigate the sentence and charge. Here’s an example: Let’s say a person pointed a gun at someone’s head. The gun goes off and kills the person. The prosecutor charges the person holding the gun with first-degree (intentional) murder. The holder argues that he didn’t intend to shoot and that the gun simply went off. The defense isn’t that person wasn’t shot and killed, i.e., innocence. It’s a defense to an element of proving guilt for first degree murder– intent.

    Ok, so in this case defense attorney is making an argument that the SCHOOL shouldn’t have allowed King to dress up. This is a political argument– not a legal “defense.”

    The question as to whether the SCHOOL should have intervened is totally IRRELEVANT to the fundamental legal question of whether McInenery “killed” King. He did kill him. And, from everything we know, he “intended” to kill him. If he were an adult, he’d be looking at death row. A gay-panic defense would be something like, McInenery felt so aggrieved by King’s conduct that he had to retaliate; or he didn’t realize what he was doing when he pulled the trigger. It would go to the reasons for MCINENENRY’s CONDUCT– not the conduct of a THIRD PARTY.

    The school IS NOT on trial, although the attorney is trying to make the school the issue. He’s trying to get people to take their eye off the ball. That’s a good tactic in the court of public opinion, but it’s totally irrelevant in a court of law because the defense must address the actions of defendant.

    Schmitz, the murder in the Jenny Jones case, argued gay panic. As with the King case, there was an attempt to put the Jenny Jones show (the School) on trial and say that they helped create the situation. But the gay-panic defense addresses the conduct of the defendant– NOT third parties.

    I hope this makes what I was trying to clearer.

  15. Jimmyboyo says




    My mind knows it but my picese heart doesn’t want to feel it just yet.

  16. Brandon says

    All, I took a quick look on the web to look at CA law and it appears that a true gay panic defense is impermissible in CA. A bill was passed in 2006 that Governor Terminator signed that states that judges should instruct juries to:

    “[N]ot let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence your decision. Bias includes bias against the victim or victims,witnesses, or defendant based upon his or her disability, gender,nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual

    It also states: “It is against public policy for a defendant to be acquitted of a charged offense or convicted of a lesser included offense based upon an appeal to the societal bias that may be possessed by members
    of a jury.”

    I think this buttresses my point the McInenery is making these comments to influence public opinion– not as a legal defense.

  17. Landon Bryce says


    I think the following quote makes it more clear that this is an illegal gay panic defense:

    “Quest said he believes school administrators supported one student expressing himself and his sexuality — King — and ignored how it affected other kids, despite complaints. Cross-dressing isn’t a normal thing in adult environments, he said, yet 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds were expected to just accept it and go on.”

    In other words, the school sided with the abnormal kid and did nothing for the normal kids like Brandon who should not be held completely responsible because they were exposed to an atrocity like cross-dressing. Quest is claiming that King’s behavior was so outrageous that the school should have foreseen the likely consequences. He is arguing that McInnery should be excused because of King’s behavior. That is the gay panic defense, isn’t it?

  18. Brandon says

    Landon: I think I understand what you’re saying now, but I think we see what he said somewhat differently. When I read the quote, I don’t see anything about “excusing” McInerney’s conduct. He’s saying the school is ALSO to blame. That doesn’t get his client out of hot water AND/OR truly defend his client. And the gay-panic defense is about your client and arguments that you make (or could make in court). It’s like talking about the responsibility of a gun manufacturer in a murder trial. Even if I assume that a gun manufacturer is bad, it still doesn’t take responsibility away from the guy who used the gun to kill someone. It means you may have a separate action against the gun manufacturer.

    I also think we differ on how far we go with our inferences about the language.

    I tried to find the rest of the article.

    It was story in the LA Times. The title of the article was: “Lawyer blames school in shooting of gay Oxnard student.”

    Additionally, the part Andy has in quotes ‘Educators should have moved aggressively . . . . .’ IS NOT in quotes in the article. This appears to be a characterization of Quest’s remarks by the reporter.

    Additionally, here’s an excerpt of the article that I think calls into question whether that the lawyer was raising this to excuse the conduct:

    “Brandon is not some crazed lunatic,” Quest said. “This was a confluence of tragic events that could have been stopped. If there is partial blame in other places, let’s not throw away Brandon for the rest of his life.”

    Notice the focus. It’s not on excusing the behavior. He’s trying to keep his client out of the chair/jail.

    So, it kind of takes me back to my original post which I saw before I actually read the article, where I said let’s not jump to conclusions.

    These types of cases get people so riled up that people start taking things way out of context. In looking for this article, I saw several other blogs where people were saying it was the gay panic defense and getting all riled up with having the FULL CONTEXT. Now the story isn’t what the lawyer actually said, it’s what people think he said.

    Anyway, sorry for the long posts. Hope they made sense.

  19. Landon Bryce says


    Thanks. I think I do understand what you are saying. Where I would absolutely disagree with you is your implication that the facts as stated should not rile people up. William Quest is using the same line of logic that some have used to defend banning gays from the military: it is not realistic is expect normal people to be able to be around gays without being violent toward them. He is using bigotry to defend his client. He is increasing the likelihood that other gay kids will be treated badly by the adults at their schools. If there were a hell, he would be going there.

  20. Clint says

    What about the murderer’s parents? When minors do terrible things, how do the parents escape scrutiny? We are products of our environment. What sort of environment did his parents provide?

    He did an adult crime. He did it in front of the class. There is no question as to his guilt.

    Let’s make him an example of him Let him fry.