Brandon McInerney, a Southern California teenager, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of a gay classmate in a deal that will land him in prison for 21 years.
Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley says the plea deal was reached Monday in the case of Brandon McInerney, the teenager who gunned down 15-year-old Larry King at a school in Oxnard in February 2008.
McInerney was 14 when he pulled a gun out of his backpack in the middle of a crowded classroom and shot King twice in the back of the head.
The case had been expected to go to retrial following a September deadlock when jurors couldn't reach a unanimous decision on the degree of guilt.
Zeke Barlow, a reporter for the Ventura County Star, says that the surprise was not McInerney’s guilty plea but that the DA was willing to offer it.
“They were very firm that this was a very clear-cut case of first degree murder,” said Barlow.
But, he added, many were simply happy to bring the case to a close—including Larry’s father, Gregory King.
“Brandon’s mom was crying,” said Barlow of the courtroom atmosphere as the plea was issued. “But afterward, Larry’s dad stood by the DA. He said, ‘Brandon admitted to murder, which is what we wanted. He said he shot our son.’”
Prosecutors contended that McInerney embraced a white supremacist philosophy that sees homosexuality as an abomination. Defense attorneys claimed he reached an emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances.
The September trial ended without a verdict and was declared a mistrial after the jury reported that they were hopelessly deadlocked. Seven jurors voted for a ruling of voluntary manslaughter, while five jurors were devoted to either first- or second-degree murder.
Prosecutors initially had decided bring McInerney to retrial, this time dropping a key allegation that the shooting's motivation was a hatred of homosexuals. Several jurors of the September trial had later expressed skepticism that the murder was a hate crime.