Judge Charles Campbell declared a mistrial Thursday in the nine-week trial of Brandon McInerney, who is accused of murdering an openly gay 15-year old classmate in Oxnard, CA. The District Attorney's office now has the opportunity to re-file charges or offer a plea deal.
The jury told Judge Campbell this morning that they had taken three votes without being able to reach a unanimous verdict. The jurors indicated that seven of them were leaning toward finding McInerney, who was 14 years old at the time, guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Five others were leaning toward murder, Ventura County Star reporter Zeke Barlow told KPCC.
The jury began its discussions Friday. Jurors were told beforehand by Campbell that failure to reach a verdict could result in a mistrial, but after four different votes, they were unable to come to a decision.
"There's jury instructions that go out. This is how you make your decisions," Barlow said. "One of those questions was how any reasonable person would have reacted. The other question was whether or not [McInerney] acted rationally."
McInerney is accused of first degree murder in the slaying of openly gay classmate Larry King at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard. The charges carry the potential of 50 years to life in prison. Jurors were also allowed to consider a conviction of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 21-year term.
Jill Ekman, King's English teacher, said. King wore make up to school and actively flirted with male students
"I explained to him that what he was doing was inappropriate and he laughed and said that he could go into the boys' bathroom and he liked to see them squirm," she said.
Douglas Hoagland, a defense witness and psychologist told the jury in August that McInerney acted without thinking and was unaware of this actions. Prosecutors said the shooting was premeditated and fueled by white supremacist, anti-gay beliefs.
The D.A. now as the opportunity to re-charge McInerney for the crime or offer a plea bargain. Barlow said that a 25-to-life plea offer that was on the table before the trial began was unacceptable to the defense team.
"They wanted a determinate sentence of 25 years," Barlow said. "They don't think a parole board would ever let him out. So they kept hashing over the fact that he was a 14 year-old kid and he wants to get out of jail at some point in his life."
"Brandon, who has been stoic throughout the whole thing, had a light smile and blew a kiss to his girlfriend," after the mistrial was declared, Barlow said. King's family left the courtroom quickly afterwards, clearly disappointed.
The trial was moved from Ventura County to Los Angeles because of pre-trial publicity.
This story incorporates information from the Associated Press.