Murder of Larry King
Lawrence Fobes King, also known as Latisha King (January 13, 1993 – February 13, 2008) was a 15-year-old student at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California, who was shot twice by a fellow student, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, and kept on life support until he died two days later.
Newsweek described the shooting as "the most prominent gay-bias crime since the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard", bringing attention to issues of gun violence as well as gender expression and sexual identity of teenagers.
Following many delays and a change of venue, McInerney's first trial began on July 5, 2011, in the Los Angeles district of Chatsworth. That trial ended on September 1, 2011, when Judge Charles Campbell declared a mistrial because the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Prosecutors decided to try McInerney again, but dropped the hate crime charge. On November 21, 2011, McInerney avoided the scheduled retrial by pleading guilty to second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm. His plea resulted in a sentence of 21 years behind bars.
Lawrence Fobes King was born on January 13, 1993 at the Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, California. King was adopted at age two by Gregory and Dawn King. His biological father had abandoned his wife, and his mother was a drug addict who failed to care for her son properly.
King was prescribed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and, according to Gregory King, had been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, a condition in which a child fails to develop relationships with his or her caregivers. He was also forced to repeat the first grade. By the third grade, King began to be bullied by his fellow students due to his effeminacy and openness about being gay, having come out at ten years old.
At the age of twelve, King was placed on probation for theft and vandalism. In November 2007, he was removed from his adoptive home and placed in a group home and treatment center named Casa Pacifica after he alleged that his adoptive father was physically abusing him, a charge Gregory King denied.
The bullying continued when King transferred to E.O. Green Junior High School in the seventh grade. It intensified when he began attending school wearing women's accessories and clothing, high heels and makeup in January 2008. King's younger brother Rocky also suffered bullying because of Larry's appearance. The school could not legally stop King from dressing as he chose because of a California anti-discrimination law that prevents gender discrimination, although teachers at the school thought that his clothing was clearly in violation of school code, which prevents students from wearing clothing considered distracting.
The school issued a formal notice via email to every teacher on January 29, 2008. Written by eighth-grade assistant principal Sue Parsons, it said, in part:
We have a student on campus who has chosen to express his sexuality by wearing make-up. It is his right to do so. Some kids are finding it amusing, others are bothered by it. As long as it does not cause classroom disruptions he is within his rights. We are asking that you talk to your students about being civil and non-judgmental. They don't have to like it but they need to give him his space. We are also asking you to watch for possible problems. If you wish to talk further about it please see me or Joy Epstein.
Several teachers and King's father accused Joy Epstein, one of the school's assistant principals, of encouraging Larry's flamboyance as part of her "political agenda." King taunted boys in the halls, saying "I know you want me" and was known to make inappropriate comments to boys while they were changing for gym class. Prosecuting attorneys, unusually, later filed court documents claiming King had not been sexually harassing other students in the weeks before the shooting. He also asked to be called Latisha ten days before he was shot. McInerney and King had been in several verbal altercations described as "acrimonious" by the prosecutor.
Brandon David McInerney was born on January 24, 1994 in Ventura, California. His mother, Kendra, had a criminal history and was addicted to methamphetamine. In 1993, Kendra accused her husband William of shooting her in the arm with a .45-caliber pistol. In another incident, William McInerney choked his wife almost to unconsciousness after she accused him of stealing ADHD medication from her older son. He pleaded no contest and served ten days in jail and 36 months probation on a charge of domestic violence. Between August 2000 and February 2001, William McInerney had contacted Child Protective Services at least five times to express concern about his son living with his mother. In 2001, he filed a restraining order against Kendra, and in 2004, Brandon was placed in the custody of his father, as his mother had entered a drug rehabilitation program.
In July 2008, Newsweek reported that a day or two before the shooting, King walked onto the basketball court in the middle of a game and asked McInerney to be his Valentine in front of the team members who then made fun of McInerney. Just after lunchtime on February 11, King passed McInerney in a corridor and called out, "Love you, baby." Later that day King was seen "parading" back and forth in high-heeled boots and makeup in front of McInerney. According to a teacher, a group of boys were laughing at McInerney who was getting visibly upset and assistant principal Joy Epstein, noticing McInerney's reaction, wagged her finger at him. When McInerney endured teasing because of the incident, he attempted to recruit other students to assault King but no one expressed interest. He then told one of King's friends to say goodbye to him "because she would never see him [King] again".
On the morning of February 12, 2008, McInerney was witnessed repeatedly looking at King during a class in a computer laboratory. At approximately 8:15 a.m. local time, McInerney drew from his backpack a .22-caliber revolver belonging to relatives and shot King twice in the back of the head. Following the shooting, McInerney tossed the handgun on the floor and walked from the classroom. He was apprehended by police five blocks away from the school campus about seven minutes later.
King was transported to St. John's Regional Medical Center where he was listed in serious condition. He was declared brain dead on February 13 but kept on life support for two days so that his organs could be donated.
Vigils and marches were organized across the United States following King's death. Condolences were expressed by, among many others, Judy Shepard, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, Senator Hillary Clinton and television host Ellen DeGeneres. A thousand students in the Hueneme School District, where E.O. Green is located, marched to pay tribute to King on February 16, 2008, four days after the shooting.
A new diversity education bill was introduced on behalf of King by California Assemblyperson Mike Eng, saying, "We need to teach young people that there's a curriculum called tolerance education that should be in every school. We should teach young people that diversity is not something to be assaulted, but diversity is something that needs to be embraced because diversity makes California the great state that it is." The bill would require mandatory classes on diversity and tolerance in California school districts.
A local vigil in Ventura, California was organized one year after King's death. The Day of Silence for 2008, which is intended to protest LGBT harassment and occurred on April 25, was specially dedicated to King. King's father, Greg, was reportedly unconvinced his adoptive son was gay as Larry had only recently told him that he was actually bisexual. Greg believes that Larry was sexually harassing McInerney, and has expressed concern that Larry is being made a poster child for gay rights issues.
Teachers also showed some sympathy for McInerney, stating, "We failed Brandon ... We didn't know the bullying was coming from the other side—Larry was pushing as hard as he could, because he liked the attention". Hundreds of children from the school have signed a petition requesting that McInerney be tried as a juvenile.
Criticism of the school
In August 2008, King's family filed a claim against E.O. Green Junior High School at Ventura County Superior Court, alleging that the school's allowing King to wear makeup and feminine clothing was a factor leading to his death. According to the California Attorney General's Office, however, the school could not legally have stopped King from wearing girls' clothes because state law prevents gender discrimination.
According to a Newsweek article published on July 19, 2008, some teachers at E.O. Green alleged that assistant principal Joy Epstein was "encouraging King's flamboyance to help further an 'agenda' ". When Epstein was later promoted to principal at another local public school, King's father described it as a "slap in the face of my family". The superintendent, Jerry Dannenberg, stated that Epstein received the promotion because "she was the most qualified person for the new principal job".
Pretrial legal proceedings
In February 2008, McInerney's lawyer, William Quest, was considering asking for a change of venue. On July 24, 2008, Judge Douglas Daily of Ventura County Superior Court ruled that McInerney would stand trial as an adult, with the decision being appealed. On August 7, 2008, in the same court, McInerney pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder and a hate crime. A preliminary hearing was set for September 23, 2008, which had been rescheduled for October 14, 2008.
On September 23, 2008, the court appointed Willard Wiksell, a lawyer from Ventura, guardian ad litem for McInerney. Previously, McInerney's family took steps to fire his lawyer, William Quest, of the Public Defenders Office and hire the United Defense Group, a criminal defense law firm from Los Angeles. However, the Public Defenders Office filed a petition stating that the United Defense Group might not have McInerney's best interests in mind.
On October 14, 2008, after the court received a report from the appointed guardian ad litem and determined that the defendant had not been coerced into changing representation and knew what he was doing, the Ventura County Superior Court allowed McInerney to fire his Public Defender, William Quest, and the Public Defenders Office, and hire the United Defense Group together with attorney Robyn Bramson as his attorneys. The court also denied a motion to gag the defendant's former representatives from the Public Defenders Office from speaking about the case, especially to the media.
On December 8, 2008, Ventura County Superior Court ruled that McInerney, after being evaluated by a psychiatrist and a psychologist, was competent to stand trial. That same day, Scott S. Wippert, of the United Defense Group, filed a legal motion for discovery, asking the court to order the district attorney to provide documents to uncover whether prosecutors exercised discretion in sending McInerney's case to the adult court system. On December 29, 2008, Judge Rebecca Riley denied the motion, on the grounds that there was no evidence of abuse of discretion in transferring McInerney from juvenile to adult court.
On January 26, 2009, the preliminary hearing was postponed until March 17, to give McInerney's lawyers time to appeal Judge Riley's rejection of the December motion for discovery. On March 18, 2009, the hearing was again postponed, when William McInerney, the father of Brandon, was found dead in his living room in the Silver Strand area near Oxnard after he sustained an accidental head injury in a fall. Judge Riley granted Brandon McInerney permission to leave the juvenile detention facility and attend his father's funeral.
On August 27, 2009, at his arraignment in Ventura County Superior Court, McInerney pleaded not guilty to all charges. The judge, Bruce Young, set the pretrial hearing date for October 23, 2009, and a trial start date for December 1, 2009.
On September 1, 2009, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce ruled that the addition of a lying-in-wait allegation to the list of charges was acceptable. The addition of this allegation would automatically mean that the case must be heard in an adult court. The addition was petitioned, and in November the Ventura 2nd District Appellate Court denied the request to overturn the earlier ruling, finding that the District Attorney's Office did not act vindictively in adding the lying-in-wait allegation to the murder charge.
On January 21, 2010, the State Supreme Court rejected the petition to overturn the earlier ruling by the Ventura County Superior Court judge.
After a postponement from May 14, 2010, McInerney's trial was set to begin on July 14, 2010, in Ventura County Superior Court, but was again postponed. A hearing was scheduled for April 4, 2011, to determine whether McInerney's attorneys would be ready for a trial starting May 2. Previous postponements followed motions from defense attorneys requesting recusal of the district attorney, a change of venue, and more time for fact-finding. In August 2010, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell ruled that the trial would proceed in Ventura County with jurors selected from Santa Barbara County On December 6, 2010, Campbell denied the motion for recusal.
A California appeals court affirmed on May 5, 2011, that the juvenile records of King will remain sealed after a lower court refused the request of the McInerney defense team for the release of said records.
After multiple delays, the trial began on July 5, 2011, with a change of venue to Chatsworth, Los Angeles. Multiple previously scheduled dates were bypassed for various reasons, and plans or requests to move the venue or use jurors from other locations in California were not realized.
On the first day of trial, James Bing, McInerney's half-brother, was admonished by Judge Campbell because it was overheard that Bing went to the jury outside of the courtroom and addressed them. He said: "The fate of my brother is in your hands." Bing was then banned from the courtroom unless he was summoned to testify. The prosecutor depicted McInerney as a popular teenager, who was skilled in martial arts and firing guns as well as being a white supremacist. She went on to describe King as a small guy who had often been picked on, saying that King wore high-heeled boots, makeup and jewelry along with his school uniform to school. Scott Wippert, McInerney's attorney, described King as the aggressor, saying he often was sexually aggressive and often made inappropriate remarks, provoking McInerney.
Witnesses who were students and classmates of McInerney testified on July 7, 2011. One witness said that King told her he had changed his name to Leticia. Another witness said many students made fun of King and called him offensive names behind his back when he came to school wearing makeup and jewelry. A few of the witnesses said that they never noticed King making sexual advances toward other students but that sexual comments he made were "just messing" with McInerney.
The former vice principal of E.O. Green School, Joy Epstein testified on July 11, 2011. She said she had discussed King's behavior with other school officials of the school district and they decided it was, according to the constitutional rights of California, legitimate for King to wear what he wanted unless it violated the school dress code. Joy Epstein said high-heeled boots, makeup and jewelry were all allowed according to the Oxnard school dress policy. She said another administrator within the district said that the school must protect the students' civil and equal rights. Another teacher testified that pupils had told her King would seek them out and follow them into the bathroom, behavior she considered to be sexual harassment. She was told by Epstein the school could do nothing about the behavior.
On July 22, 2011, the jury was shown footage of a video in which McInerney was fighting in the Ventura County Juvenile hall, where he currently lives. One of the corrections officers, testified that the defendant was a "good kid" in the honors program for good behavior and had relationships with people of different backgrounds and origins. He said that within the juvenile hall environment fighting was a routine occurrence and that McInerney was not prone to violence as the prosecution alleged.
Dawn Boldrin, an English teacher, had testified and said she counseled King and told him he should not wear attention-getting clothing if he did not want to receive negative attention. She also gave the teen, who was exploring his sexual and/or gender identity, a strapless, green, chiffon gown. She meant for him to wear it outside school. A photo was shown of Larry King holding up the dress and many people in the courtroom were crying. Greg King, Larry's father became upset and gathered his family to leave, but before doing so, Dawn King, Larry's mother, swore at Boldrin's 13-year-old daughter and a relative. The judge later barred Dawn King from the remainder of the trial. Because the school administrators were allowing King to wear whatever he wanted as long as it did not violate the dress code, the defense was arguing that this allowed King to sexually harass McInerney.
The trial ended without a verdict and was declared a mistrial by the judge, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell, on Thursday, September 1, 2011, after the jury reported that they were hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a unanimous verdict. There were eight weeks of testimony with almost 100 witnesses, and the jury had been deliberating since August 26, 2011. The jury had taken four votes and the last vote was split between seven jurors voting for voluntary manslaughter and five jurors voting for either first-degree or second-degree murder. Later analysis showed defense attorneys had chosen to pursue the gay panic defense strategy, with several jurors later stating on the television program 20/20 that King had been bullying McInerney, leaving McInerney with "no way out".
On September 2, 2011, the district attorney's office announced that they intended to retry McInerney, and a hearing was scheduled for October 5, 2011. For the second trial, the prosecutors dropped the hate crime charge.
On November 21, 2011 McInerney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm. He was sentenced to 21 years behind bars, initially in a juvenile facility and then in prison upon turning 18, with no credit given for time served prior to the trial or for good behavior. He was sentenced on December 19.
Many celebrities commented on the murder of Lawrence King, some like Janet Jackson, Calpernia Adams, Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift used their fame and recognition to create a public service announcement about the murder which ran on LOGO and across MTV networks. Victim of police brutality Rodney King compared the murder to his own experience as a victim of hate crime stating, "What have we learned? What have we changed?"
The murder was a central inspiration for Canadian writer Raziel Reid's award-winning young adult novel When Everything Feels Like the Movies, published in 2014. and Simon Boulerice's novel L'enfant mascara, published in 2016.
- Setoodeh, Ramin (July 19, 2008). "Young, Gay and Murdered". Newsweek. Archived from the original on July 22, 2008. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
- "Youth Now". In The Life. Season 17. Episode 6. June 2009.
- Risling, Greg (November 22, 2011). "Calif. teen faces 21 years after guilty plea". Boston.com. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- Pringle, Paul, Salliant, Catherine (March 8, 2008). "A deadly clash of emotions before Oxnard shooting." Los Angeles Times pg. A1.
- Cathcart, Rebecca (February 23, 2008). "Boy's Killing, Labeled a Hate Crime, Stuns a Town". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Saillant, Catherine (February 12, 2009). "Details in gay student's slaying revealed The youth accused of shooting classmate had experience with guns and". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Saillant, Catherine; Griggs, Gregory W. (February 14, 2008). "Student is declared brain dead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Saillant, Catherine (August 11, 2011). "Oxnard school's handling of gay student's behavior comes under scrutiny". Los Angeles Times.
- "GaySoFla.com remembers Lawrence "Larry" King – A Young Hero". Miami Herald. February 19, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2008.
- "California teen admits killing gay student, to serve 25 years". CNN. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- "Boy, 15, declared brain dead after school shooting". CNN. February 13, 2008. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Organs harvested from Oxnard school shooting victim". San Jose Mercury News. Associated Press. February 15, 2008. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Saillant, Catherine (February 17, 2008). "1,000 gather in tribute to slain Oxnard teen". Los Angeles Times.
- Wilson, Craig (March 11, 2008). "Mom's mission: Stop hate crime; Matthew Shepard Foundation toils to keep momentum", USA Today, p. 11B.
- "Slaying of Gay Oxnard Student Spurs Diversity Education Bill", Gay Wired, February 19, 2008.
- Silverman, Stephen M. (February 29, 2008). "Ellen DeGeneres: The Hate Must Stop". People.com. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
- "Mike Eng announces tolerance-promoting Bill" Archived February 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (streaming video)
- "Students from Record 7,500 K-12 Schools Registered for Today's National Day of Silence". April 25, 2008. Archived from the original on April 29, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
- Charman, Rachel (August 15, 2008). "Family of Lawrence King blame death on school dress code". PinkNews.co.uk. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
- Ventura County Star – "Change of venue in shooting considered", venturacountystar.com; accessed January 11, 2018.
- Hernandez, Raul (July 25, 2008). "Judge OKs adult trial for teen suspect". Ventura County Star. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
- Wilson, Kathleen (August 8, 2008). "McInerney pleads not guilty, lawyer calls charges 'death sentence'". Ventura County Star. Retrieved August 12, 2008.
- Hernandez, Raul (September 24, 2008). "Lawyer named as a guardian for McInerney". Ventura County Star. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
- Hernandez, Raul (October 15, 2008). "Judge rules teen accused of murder may switch lawyers". Ventura County Star. Retrieved October 16, 2008.
- Charman, Rachel (October 16, 2008). "Lawrence King murder suspect fires public defenders". Pink News. Retrieved October 16, 2008.
- Hernandez, Raul. "Judge OKs teen's trial in school shooting", Ventura County Star, December 9, 2008; retrieved 2009-01-31.
- Hernandez, Raul. "Judge denies request for internal standards in juvenile cases", Ventura County Star, December 29, 2008. Retrieved on 2009-01-31.
- Hernandez, Raul. "Hearing delayed in fatal school shooting" Archived February 5, 2013, at Archive.today, Ventura County Star, January 27, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-01-31.
- Saillant, Catherine (March 18, 2009). "Father of teen accused in Oxnard school slaying found dead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
- "School shooting suspect McInerney attends father's funeral". Ventura County Star. April 4, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
- Hernandez, Raul (August 27, 2009). "McInerney pleads not guilty to all charges". Ventura County Star. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
- Hernandez, Raul (January 21, 2010). "State Supreme Court rejects McInerney appeal to be tried in juvenile court". Ventura County Star. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
- Hernandez, Raul (May 7, 2010). "Judge grants delay in murder trial of teen McInerney". Ventura County Star. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
- "Ventura County Trial Of Gay Teen's Shooting Delayed". CBS Los Angeles. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- "Judge Postpones McInerney Trial". Associated Press via Advocate.com. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- Saillant, Catherine (August 25, 2010). "Trial in Oxnard killing of gay teen will use Santa Barbara County jurors". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- Hernandez, Raul (May 7, 2010). "DA removal try in McInerney case fails". Ventura County Star. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- Hernandez, Raul (May 9, 2011). "Brandon McInerney's lawyers lose request for records in Appeals Court". Ventura County Star. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
- "Calif. teen faces trial in gay classmate killing". Associated Press. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
- Barlow, Zeke (May 20, 2011). "McInerney trial set for Chatsworth in July". Ventura County Star. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
- Hernandez, Raul (April 25, 2011). "Brandon McInerney murder trial delayed until June". Ventura County Star. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
- Barlow, Zeke (July 5, 2011). "Attorneys argue over who was the aggressor in Brandon McInerney trial". Ventura County Star.
- Saillant, Catherine (July 6, 2011). "Slaying trial first focuses on the victim". Los Angeles Times.
- Barlow, Zeke (July 6, 2011). "Emotional day as students testify in Brandon McInerney murder trial". Ventura County Star.
- Saillant, Catherine (July 12, 2011). "Oxnard teen, slain in shooting, was allowed to wear women's accessories to school, official testified". Los Angeles Times.
- Barlow, Zeke (July 22, 2011). "McInerney was not involved in gangs or supremacy groups in juvenile hall, officers testified". Ventura County Star.
- Saillant, Catherine (July 30, 2011). "Trial of teen charged with killing gay classmate grows heated". Los Angeles Times.
- "Mistrial declared in CA gay student killing trial". Ventura County Star. Associated Press. September 1, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
- Staff (September 2, 2011). "Mistrial declared in killing of gay California student". CNN. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- Kolker, Robert (March 21, 2016). "Book Review: 'A Murder Over a Girl'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
- "Calif. teen to be retried in gay classmate killing". Associated Press. Associated Press. October 5, 2011. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
- Barlow, Zeke (September 2, 2011). "DA wants to retry Brandon McInerney". Ventura County Star. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
- Dobuzinskis, Alex (November 21, 2011). "Teen pleads guilty to murder charge in slaying of gay student". Reuters. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- Saillant, Catherine (November 21, 2011). "In plea deal, youth gets 21 years for killing gay teen". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- "Brandon McInerney to Serve 21 Years in Gay Classmate Murder". November 21, 2011.
The details of where he will serve his sentence are given at the end of the video segment at the bottom of the page.
- CBS News (December 19, 2011). "Calif. teen Brandon McInerney sentenced to 21 years for point-blank murder of gay classmate". CBS News. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
- "LOGO Airs Celebrity PSA Response to Lawrence King Murder". Towleroad. March 10, 2008. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- King, Rodney (2012). The Riot Within. Harperone. pp. 224–226.
- McNamara, Mary (October 6, 2013). "Review: 'Valentine Road' offers clear-eyed view of Larry King murder". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
- "On Raziel Reid, and when everything feels like a controversy". National Post, January 27, 2015.
- "" L'enfant mascara " de Simon Boulerice – La Presse+". La Presse+ (in French). August 27, 2015. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
- Lawrence King Memorial
- Public Service Announcement sponsored by GLSEN and Logo, in the wake of Lawrence King Tragedy
- E.O. Green Junior High School website