Judge Allows Manslaughter Charge in McInerney Trial; Lawrence King’s Killer Could Get as Little as 14 Years

Jurors will be able to consider a voluntary manslaughter charge in the trial of Brandon McInerney, who shot his gay classmate Lawrence King in the head in an Oxnard, California courtroom in February 2008, the Ventura County Star reports:

Kingmcinerney "I think it is too risky and we have gone on too long and there is too much invested in this to take a risk with an appellate judge who might disagree," Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell said.

Conviction on a first-degree murder charge would bring a mandatory 50-year sentence, but a manslaughter sentence ranges from four to 11 years, along with a 10-year enhancement for using a gun. McInerney will have to be found not guilty of first- and second-degree murder by all 12 jurors for them to consider the manslaughter charge.

The paper adds: "Decisions must be unanimous or the jury is hung. A first-degree murder is one of premeditation; manslaughter is a homicide committed in the heat of passion. McInerney also faces a hate crime charge that carries a one- to three-year sentence."

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday morning.


  1. paul says

    how is manslaughter even an option when the murderer admitted to actually planning to kill the poor boy in advance ??? This is quite literally insane. It was clearly premeditated.

  2. luminum says

    He planned it, talked about planning it, and did it. What more do you want? A gun didn’t magically appear in his hand at the point of confrontation.

  3. Charlie says

    Well, I am glad to hear this. The US justice system is far too punitive. And as far as I am concerned, convicting someone of a crime who was 14 at the time and sentencing them to 14 years is a life sentence.

  4. candideinnc says

    Charlie–If this were a drug related offense or a robbery, I would agree. I don’t think a premeditated murder is of the same stripe. This kid, if let off with 14 years, will still have much of his young adulthood ahead of him. The victim is dead forever. I say at least keep the murderer in prison until he is middle aged!

  5. MikeInSanJose says

    I’m with Charlie. As much as I hate what the kid did, he’s a kid – or he was when he did this. There’s far too many sources in our society that enforce or encourage this type of behavior when dealing with situations you don’t like – movies, tv, pop music, religion. Throwing him in an adult prison for the next 14 years – what are still his formative years – will either give him time to reflect on how he could have better dealt with the circumstances and help him turn himself around… or make him a much much worse individual. As horrible as it was, the kid only made the one mistake that I’m aware of.

  6. NaughtyLola says

    @Charlie, he’s 17 now. He’ll be out at 31, if he is not paroled earlier. Missing out on your 20s because you intentionally shot someone in the back of the head hardly constitutes a “life sentence”. Not even close.

  7. Scott says

    Made one mistake mikefromsanjose? He brought a gun to school, and shot another boy. He didn’t push him, he didn’t start a fight, he didn’t impulsively buy drugs or start a fire, he planned a murder, and committed a murder. He has to pay the punishment… I understand he’s a product of his environment, and he was abused, but he was not assisted to committ murder. He planned it- on his own. An innocent boy is dead, and he should not be free at 30, free to do whatever he likes.

  8. Kevin_BGFH says

    “McInerney will have to be found not guilty of first- and second-degree murder by all 12 jurors for them to consider the manslaughter charge…. A first-degree murder is one of premeditation; manslaughter is a homicide committed in the heat of passion.”

    So then, what’s the definition of second-degree murder, since the paper seems to place it somewhere between first degree and manslaughter?

  9. Zlick says

    Wow, I’m stunned at all the comments urging leniency for the poor young lad who planned a murder, brought a deadly weapon to school, and shot a human being execution style in the back (of the head) in front of a class of school students. Yeah, um, LIFE in PRISON is what this psychopath deserves. I sure hope the jury sees this clearly.

    When you do not plan a murder, bring a gun to carry out that plan, and then KILL someone, that’s MURDER – not manslaughter. How absurd.

    A long sentence is not to punish this kid. It’s to keep the rest of us safe from him.

  10. bewilderbeast says

    I call bull on this, here I am watching many cases of murder, but guess what, my father was murdered by three men when I was 8, that was 34 years ago, the men are all free now after serving time, myself, I didn’t really get to know my father. How many times growing up did you just want to punch the sh!t out of someone for making fun of you or referring you to gay? Myself? Too many times to count, but guess what? I was/am better than that I swallowed my pride and let it be. I have been following this story from the day it happened, yes, Brandon was a minor when the shooting took place, but I call bull on this, he KNEW EXACTLY what he was doing! The King family will live without Lawrence for the rest of their lives, I am sorry but Brandon’s family can go visit him in jail-said!

  11. anon says

    Both the defense and prosecution have screwed up here. I think the judge knows that so is hedging that it doesn’t get too technical upon appeal. Voluntary manslaughter is something of a grey-area law for these types of cases where it might be hard to figure out intent or willfulness.

  12. peterparker says

    What did was horrible, but he was (and still is) a CHILD. Children should NEVER be tried as adults, no matter how heinous the crime. Their brains are not fully developed, and that means that it is quite literally impossible for them to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions.

  13. says

    Awwwww, the poor little thing with his “not fully developed brain.”

    It was developed enough to get ahold of a gun bring it to school and shoot Lawrence King TWICE in the back of the head in full view of his enitre class (the collateral victims of this crime)

    I sincerely hope this mansaughter addition is a technicality so the creep and his lawyers can’t appeal if he gets the first degree muder conviction he deserves.

  14. says

    What McInerney did was absolutely heinous and he will live with it on his conscious and on his record forever. However, as a child, he is not entirely culpable; 1) his parents’ job as teach him how to deal with his emotions; 2) adolescent brains are NOT adult brains: http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr07/teenage.aspx so they simply can’t be judged as adults. To deny this difference, in the face of the obvious and scientific evidence is just republican-style willful ignorance and irrationality.

    Yes, he should be judged and treated as a very sick child, but a child nonetheless.

  15. candideinnc says

    DavidR–When they get to the stage of sentencing, then these things are relevant. Children are capable of distinguishing right from wrong certainly by age seven. A 14-year-old may have impulse control problems, but premeditated murder goes way beyond poor impulse control. I call a 14 year old an adolescent, not a child. I think if you asked any 14-year-old, they would call it the same.

  16. Xavi says

    Absurd, this boy carefully planned the murder and shot Larry not once, but twice, in the back of the head! The crime McInerny committed was murder, not manslaughter. He is a murderer, pure and simple and should be locked up for a very, very long time, decades and decades, not a measly 14 years.

  17. Francis says

    It was premeditated murder, clearly, admitted by Brandon himself. As for Brandon being 14, I knew killing other people by shooting them in the head was wrong by that age. Let’s stop the excuses for bad behavior.

  18. Joey says

    He won’t get the death penalty because of his age, thank goodness. But think about it. He will go into prison and become a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. Do you really want this guy out on the streets at 30??? Maybe at 50 he might have learned that violence is a dead-end. If he has any good in him let him prove it in prison.

  19. Oh please says

    Plenty of kids grow up in unpleasant homes. Plenty of kids get abused by their parents. Plenty of kids are subjected to taunts and insults in school. An infinitesimal number of kids who endure these things murder another kid.

    If the liberals on this blog insist on applying generalities to excuse Brandon McInerney’s murderous behavior then let’s do it correctly. Most kids who suffer at home and at school do not commit murder so McInerney is the exception to these generalities and he should not benefit from them. The kids who deserve our compassion are the ones who put up with this crap and do not kill other people.

  20. says

    I’m with ‘Oh Please’ here and I’m as liberal as they come. Brandon knew exactly what he was doing and he should be convicted of homicide and get the death penalty or at least the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole – altho I don’t think we, the public, should be burdened with the cost of his incarceration – thus, I’d rather he be put to death. That would be just.

  21. Oh Please says

    I part company with OS2Guy on the death penalty. I am opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances, however, it is clear to me that McInerney is very dangerous. I have no problem with a 50-year prison sentence for him.

  22. says

    I agree, Oh Please. Larry King, for instance, did not kill anyone, and he also came from a troubled family and was bullied daily. But I wouldn’t assume that those supporting lighter penalties are liberals. I suspect many liberals here have little sympathy for a water-downed charge and penalty.

  23. BobN says

    I agree with those who say the U.S. system is far too harsh on child criminals. BUT the way to fix that is to fix it, not just to give lesser sentences when the victim happens to be gay.

  24. Garry says

    I agree with Charlie and the rest. He’s 14. There are no excuses for his behavior, but even if you know right from wrong, I don’t think you quite understand the consequences at that age, even for something as heinous as murder. It’s easy to get outraged from your desk, but this isn’t the same as a premeditated murder committed by an adult. Whoever gave him access to a gun should also be culpable.

  25. Davelandia says

    I simply do not understand how this could possibly be regarded as anything but premeditated murder. I don’t care how old you are, he was old enough to know better. I just cant fathom how a jury could not agree unanimously on that. He brought a gun to school with the intention of killing him. He admitted it!

  26. says

    When I was a teenager, I saw one of my friends (not a good friend) shoot another of my friends point blank three times. The trial was a joke. He was convicted of involuntary man slaughter and was paroled after serving three years.

    In less than three months on the street, he killed one man, a well known bartender in the neighborhood, and he shot his girlfriend, who was partly responsible for his light sentence in the first trial, in the spine and she is now paralyzed from the neck down.

    This “kid” should not be back on the street after he learns to hate even more in prison, until he is to old to be that much of a threat to society.

  27. Isaac says

    I’m a little surprised by all of the people on here wanting to give this kid a slap on the hand. If this kid had been black, how many of you would be arguing that this kid had a troubled childhood, that his parents were partly to blame, the he had not fully formed mentally, and that he grew up surrounded by violence? Many of you would be screaming about “homophobia in the black community,” the violence that his community “needs to solve on their own,” not to mention the flurry of dehumanizing names this kid would have been called. I’m against the death penalty, which I think that this kid shouldn’t get, but he planned for and killed another child in front of other children. Not too many people do this, they try to hide what they’ve done. This child has some serious problems that could be psychopathic in nature. We don’t know if any amount of time and counseling will solve his issues. This kid deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison not only for what he has done to King, but the lifelong psychological pain that he put the rest of his class through.

  28. DN says

    If this kid is to be welcomed back into society after shooting his classmate point blank in the head… *AND THEN* shooting his braindead corpse twice more (oh but somehow it’s not murder if you take two extra shots at a presumably dead body – wtf)

    *If* this kid is to be welcomed back to society, then I wish him all the Dan White best. Enjoy your very own White Night riot, kid. Can’t wait to read about this murderer’s suicide.

  29. says

    @ CANDIDEINNYC—Thank you for a well-reasoned response. I still don’t think minor should be tried as adults. We don’t give them the right to drink, vote, or make other major life decisions, so they shouldn’t be treated as legal adults in criminal court.

    To all: I don’t think he should get a slap on the wrist or be let loose, without serious treatment for his pathology—whatever that is. Simply sending him to prison will only give him a great opportunity to hone his skills.

  30. Malcolm says

    Those of you talking about leniency for this kid need to do some research. Google Greg Harris Jr. convicted of second degree murder at 13 years old for something that was an accident. Or Lionel Tate sentenced to life without parole for a crime he committed at the age of 12. These children were convicted of harsh crimes for something that was not even premeditated, but this kid plans a murder, tells people he’s was going to commit murder, shoots a kid at point blank range and he should get manslaughter? To me the only reason why people feel any sympathy for this kid is that he’s a young photogenic white child. If this kid was black there is no doubt in my mind that he would already have been convicted of murder. But that’s just the way the criminal justice system works in America.

  31. Beau says

    I agree with David R. on this issue. It would be a good idea to provide him with therapy, possibly throughout his incarceration. He shouldn’t be tried as an adult. Yes, as a child he acted in an adult manner, and just look at the result it yielded. Therapy will not bring Lawrence King back, but it could quite possibly bring Brandon McInerney back from his own personal hell. I can’t help but feel we should at least try to save one of the two. It’s too late for King, but is it too late for McInerey?

  32. ricky rocky says

    It all comes down to politics. The politics of society. It depends on who the killer is. It depends on who the victim is. The race, class and sexuality of the killer is the determinate in relation to the race, class, and sexuality of the victim.

    In this case, the middle class white straight killer will be enjoying a light sentence that reflects his privileges in our current society.

  33. Hollywood, CA says

    MANSLAUGHTER: Getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking one too many, running someone over and accidentily killing them.

    MANSLAUGHTER: Getting into a heated argument at a bar, getting into a fight, and one person hits their head the wrong way and dies.

    MURDER: Plotting to take a gun to school and killing a fellow student.

    How many inner-city kids have brought guns to school and plotted murdering one of their classmates, and been thrown under the jail? I would LOVE to see the statistics on that, and how much of a bias there is. This is BS!

  34. Tarun says

    Re Post by David Ehrenstein:

    “Awwwww, the poor little thing with his “not fully developed brain”. It was developed enough to get ahold of a gun bring it to school and shoot Lawrence King TWICE in the back of the head in full view of his enitre class (the collateral victims of this crime)”

    The argument that a young teen is as responsible or maturely understanding of their actions is a complete fiction, an utter lie, that is only used selectively.

    It is only on a heinous crime that this absurd position makes an appearance. Meanwhile, barely a soul otherwise argues that children have or should have the same rights for other decisions, such as financial or relationship. We don’t let them vote, drive, or sleep alone in a house at night but decide that they should be held to the same standard as the generation that is raising them. It’s really shocking.

    Holding a gun does not give you a fully developed brain David. That’s a sleight of hand. Adolescent brains are continually developing, especially in the area of managing impulses. Further, it is not just the physical brain, but the social learning and training of us all that leads to the conformity to the norm. Nothing in our brains says we should or should not be anti-gay. These are socially developed, and for god’s sake, we need to recognize that children especially are still in the process of being socialized.

    Another argument that others on your side is to point to all the other children who’ve grown up in violent or anti-gay homes and not killed anybody and say this is proof it is an individual responsibility. That is a logical fallacy. In fact, those very statistics show that on average, rates of violence by such children is higher in such homes. The idea that all children must go on to become killers for us to accept that certain environments make us more likely to do a certain thing is absurd. It is a clear falsehood and violates the simplest rules of logic.

    Further, from just the pragmatic/crime control view as well, the ever increasing punitiveness of the legal system since the early 80s has done absolutely nothing to reduce crime or help the youngsters caught in our sick game. Look around for 2 minutes at research articles to confirm this. If locking people up for longer and longer sentences, and charging them as adults at ages younger and younger has done nothing to solve the problem, it’s because the problem is not, and never has been the preponderance of crazy, gun toting people in society who just need the book thrown at them and locked away. This kid doesn’t need to be treated like an adult and locked away. We need to be the ones acting like fuckin’ adults and recognize the role of how we socialize children into such gruesomeness.

    P.s. Capitalizing TWICE does nothing but betray that the only argument on your side is emotional dramatics.

  35. Robert says

    Although, I believe that the person who committed this crime, if he were a rational adult should be convicted of first degree murder. But considering that the accused was only fourteen at the time, I do not believe that he can be held to the same standards as an adult, and that proper premeditation requires adult judgement, including a due consideration of the consequences and ramifications of his actions, things that I believe a fourteen year old is not capable of. But I do believe that he must be held to account and punished appropriately, things that a conviction of voluntary manslaughter will effectively do. Remember also that a life sentence, or even a fifty year sentence, is less of a sentence for an adult, considering the adult’s lifetime remaining, than that of a fourteen year old with the possibility of serving a sentence twice as long or longer than an adult’s life sentence.
    An exceptionally long sentence will do little other than satisfy some people’s desire for revenge and political agendas. If all we want is simple justice, then a manslaughter conviction will satisfy that.

  36. Dan says

    All of you who think you know what McInerney’s sentence should be are overlooking the real issue here. The judge is the one who can, will, and should decide the sentence. But angry voters who think they know better than a judge and jury have tied the hands of the judge, the jury, and the prosecutors by enacting mandatory minimum sentence laws, forcing those actually involved in the case to choose between putting a teenager away for life or convicting him of a sentence that doesn’t fully encompass the heinousness of his crime. Maybe if we weren’t all so gung-ho on personally deciding every criminal’s sentence for ourselves and deriving a sense of victimhood from every crime that disproportionately affects our own demographic, we could get rid of the laws that create these dilemmas and let the justice system do its job.

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