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.