The Hate Crime Charge May Have Helped Derail The Lawrence King Trial

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network said they knew that the Lawrence King murder case would end in a mistrial, but is the prosecution’s decision to try Brandon McInerney for a hate crime to blame?

The entire trial was really over this one question: did McInerney kill Lawrence in a pre-meditated fashion (1st degree murder) because King was gay (a hate crime) or did he commit the murder in the heat of passion (voluntary manslaughter)? Considering that McInerney went home, got and loaded a gun, and then waited until computer class to kill Lawrence, the prosecution had a good case to show his level of premeditation.

But early on into the trial, the prosecution also got the judge to throw out the “gay panic” defense, and the judge instructed the jury not to let biases toward the victim’s sexual identity influence their deliberations.

But for a jury to find Brandon McInerney guilty of first-degree murder with a hate crime, the jury had to consider McInerney’s bias toward the victim’s sexual identity. That is, the prosecution had to prove that McInerney’s bias toward gay people compelled him to target Lawrence.

Hate crimes are hard to prove because attackers rarely admit, “I targeted him because he was gay.” In fact, in 2005 California reported 1,691 hate crimes, prosecuted 330 of them, and scored a conviction in only 137 of the cases—that’s an eight percent success rate.

Adding hate crime charges may have reduced the chances of convicting McInerney of first-degree murder charge to less than one in ten.

It’s interesting because when so many LGBT activist seem to seek hate crimes legislation that would help investigate anti-queer attacks, hate crimes themselves may actually help get anti-gay assailants off with lighter sentences.

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  • Pitou

    Fucking SAD. S.A.D. Sad.
    First the Anthony broad.. Now this little schmuck.

    This countries legal system is seriously fucked!! Good lord.

  • Jillian Weiss

    I disagree, because the judge did NOT throw out the gay panic defense. All he did was to instruct the jury to not take into account the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation in deciding whether the defendant is guilty of the underlying crime. The hate crime charge is a penalty enhancement and is found I believe in a separate jury interrogatory. Thedefense explicitly made a “heat of passion” argument for the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which is what we call the gay panic defense.

  • jj

    This is exactly what the pundits always say when the heteros walk after murdering a homosexual. It’s always because of the “hate crime” issue. Bluntly, I call bullshit. It’s another excuse to excuse murder of gay people.

  • Jewed Law

    Of COURSE the hate crime aspect played into the jurors’ deliberations. People don’t like being told how to feel, and that’s what hate crime legislation does: instructs people how to feel about a crime. I bet this little turd will fry if they retry him without the hate crime angle.

  • Polyboy

    Time to arm up.

  • David Ehrenstein

    How does it instruct them how to feel? If jurors are made aware of the fact that a Hate Crime might be at issue it doesn’t tell them to vote it in.

  • B

    According to 7 jurors thought he was guilty of voluntary manslaugther while 5 wanted to convict him of murder. One juror told the press that McInerney’s age at the time of the crime was ‘a big point of contention’. None of the jurors thought it was a hate crime.

    The most likely reason for the hung jury is that some jurors refused to accept a charge less than murder. If so, having a hung jury, as opposed to getting a conviction for voluntary manslaughter, might indicate progress with respect to public opinion: previously all the jurors might have been willing to go with a lesser charge.

  • Queer Supremacist

    @David Ehrenstein: I knew Danny Lockin was murdered, but I had no idea his murderer got a slap on the wrist. It figures. Breeders are only good for creating gay people, and once science has progressed to do it without them, good riddance.

  • slanty

    Juries are full of pieces of shit who can’t interpret evidence. Hate crime legislation should be scrapped for that reason alone.

  • Interesting

    I know people have an agenda here, but from what I am reading the case, as I said last night, was poorly handled by the prosecution. Even with the case being poorly handle, the mistrial came down to what to convict the defendant of rather than “not guilty,” which if you read the hyperbole here one would think is the issue.

  • TommyOC

    “In fact, in 2005 California reported 1,691 hate crimes, prosecuted 330 of them, and scored a conviction in only 137 of the cases—that’s an eight percent success rate.”

    You’re twisting your numbers to support your conclusion, Queerty.

    California has a 41% success rate when it comes to successfully prosecuting hate crimes charges. Not 8%.

    Choosing not to prosecute a crime as one motivated by hate is not the same as unsuccessfully prosecuting a hate crime. Deciding not to prosecute for a specific crime only means that the state felt it did not have the evidence to gain a conviction. In only 330 cases did the state feel there was substantial evidence to prosecute as a hate crime – and out of those cases, 137 got convictions.

    Stick to writing snark, or at least hire someone to check your numbers and/or logic arguments.

  • delurker

    @TommyOC: right, i was just going to post that. math is hard for queerty.

  • randy

    Yes, the good news is that the jury wasn’t deadlocked over guilty vs. not guilty. That would be the worst scenario. Rather, they all agree he is guilty, but can’t agree to what level. That should give the prosecution lots of leverage for the next trial, or to settle out of court. The kid isn’t going to walk.

  • Interesting

    No, he’s not. The issue really is prosecution over reach. basically, they prosecutor was going for way too much considering the age and apparently the history of indoctrination that the killer received given his age from his fucked up family. I wish they could be put on trial too given their culpability. they essentially created a ticking time bomb in this kid.

    Here’s a link that reinforces what I have been saying were the issues in the case:

    ““These are extremely difficult cases,” said Michael Bradbury, the longtime district attorney in Ventura County.

    “The public may see a straightforward murder case, but this case is far more complex, firstly, because of the age of the defendant at the time of the act and, secondly, the manner in which he was raised by his parents, which was clearly dysfunctional and by all accounts horrific,” Bradbury said.”

    Another statement:

    “The district attorney’s office was criticized in a report last month released by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice that showed cases involving youths under the age of 15 are nearly 14 times more likely to be tried in adult court than anywhere else in California.”

    That does not fit into the arguments that the public wants to hear, but it is important to know. Especially since the vast majority of those kids facing the “14 time more likely” are people of color and low income kids rather than this one white boy. The issue is larger than he is. Its about what is appropriate punishment for a 14 year old. Essentially 20 years with possibility of parole versus life with no possibility of parole. Its not about setting him free.

  • Ginasf


    I disagree with your assessment of his possible sentencing. Firstly, he couldn’t be tried as a minor because he’ll be 18 in January and that would mean that, even if guilty, he would only spend a few more months in jail/prison. This is a young man who was also the member of a white supremacist gang and given the clear premeditation/execution of the murder, they can’t allow him to go free and just have this on his juvenile record.

    As to what the sentence will be, it’s very likely they’ll settle for some kind of plea bargain for voluntary manslaughter (which seems to be the only plea bargain the defense will accept and which is what a clearly premeditated crime of murder is almost always argued down to). In California, that means 3, 6 or 11 years at the judge’s discretion (they could perhaps throw in another year for gun charges). Given that they’ll no doubt subtract the 3 years he’s served (and continues to serve) in the juvenile detention facility and good behavior, that could very well mean McInerney could be out of prison by the time he’s 21.

  • Interesting

    @Ginasf: (a) you are making up stuff about the possible sentencing. I see this a lot. When Americans are challenged about their sense of justice, they make up absurd claims to justify it. Show me where the requirement is that he must leave at 18. I don’t have a problem with disagreement. I do have a problem with inaccurate statements. He has already been incarcerated for 3 years by the way. So its not like he’s walking around free right now.

    (b) the white supremacist gang was something said, but found contradictory evidence for at trial. But its being repeatedly a lot by those who really could careless about the factual circumstances. And not, I don’t believe you are balanced here because you failed to mentioned that there was some doubt about the accuracy of the claim.

    (c) I believe you to also be bullshitting about the setence. I don’t know the numbers for CA, but I do know that I have read everything from 10 to 20 to 25 years. I have also read that much of this comes down to the plea bargaining deal being 25 to life rather than a lower number. My guess- despite the exaggerated drama of those with a poliitical agenda is that somehow we will end upw ith a sentence that makes sense given the age of the defendant.

  • Ginasf


    Read section 4:

    There is no ’15 or 25 to life’ for voluntary manslaughter… that’s 2nd degree murder and that’s not a plea they could go for in this case.

    As to how long he would be in prison if tried under the juvenile system… of course it’s not cut and dried. In California, people can potentially be held within the juvenile system until the age of 24 (but not later). These are almost always gang-bangers and people with clear gang records as juveniles (which McInerney doesn’t have). Your juvenile record isn’t automatically expunged 6 mos. after your release from the juvenile system but you can get a lawyer to petition for it to be sealed and, given proper counsel, it almost always is.

    I have compassion for Brandon for his fucked up family. But most young people who murder are from fucked up families involving some form of abuse and addictive behaviors. If anything King came from an even more difficult history of a drug addict birth mom, background of abandonment, reactive attachment disorder, being kicked out of his adoptive family, being in foster care and group homes and being bullied and teased in school (and King was very tiny for his age) through all of middle school (not to mention being trans). I don’t hear anyone trying to make excuses for King or trying to explain his (supposed) behavior based on his family background. It’s also interesting to note, that in the days after the crime, the interviews with other students at the school who knew King specifically said McInterney was one of his tormentors. It was only when the Newsweek article written by Ramin Satoodeh came out that people started repeating the trope about how King was supposedly “sexually harassing McInerney.”

  • Interesting

    @Ginasf: One of the offered charges was second degree murder. Like I have said, I am not an expert on CA law, but the argument htat they could not go for that plea is bogus. Are you seriously arguing that they can charge him with the crime, but he can not plead to it?

  • Interesting

    @Ginasf: One part o this thatyou don’t mention are the stats. LA county is something like 10 times more likely to charge youth defendants as adults. Most of those are people of color by several times the population make up of the city. So, there are wider issues here than the victim or the criminal about the legal justice system that articles are saying are at play. The background of the criminal by the way is always a factor in criminal cases. Its not going to go away just because you don’t think it should matter. The problem here was that the prosecutor, it seems, asked for an absurd sentence. He should have likely pushed for 15 to life or 10 to life then that would address the issue. Rather he asked for something like 25 to life or some other higher number than that.

  • David Ehrenstein

    Amazing amount of sympathy in here for someone who would kill you all without the slightest hesitation.

    He should be put down like a pit bull.

  • Interesting

    @David Ehrenstein:What do you get out lying?

  • Ginasf

    @Interesting: Wow, a young trans kid of color is executed by a white kid with white power sympathies (if nothing else, he had that literature in his bedroom) and suddenly you’re bringing up how young juveniles of color are being unfairly targeted??!! Yes, I totally agree with you about that general problem (although I’ve still never seen this statistic about it being ’10 times higher’… can you link to it instead of just tossing it out as fact?) but this is a bizarre situation to which to bring it up. If McInerney were of color he would have been convicted in this trial. If King had been a cisgirl shot in this manner, McInerney would have been convicted. It’s extremely rare that the murderers of trans feminine people get prosecuted at all… so why are our murders suddenly the ones which need to break through the issue of minors being tried as adults? How convenient.

  • Little Kiwi

    if LGBT people, who by and large deal with an unparalleled level of mistreatment from family members than almost any other demographic group, killed straight people the way that straights kill gays…well……


    right. yeah. if having a fucked up abusive homelife made people killers then we homos would be running around guns a’blazing.

    Oh, and David Ehrenstein… pitbull is perhaps the most loving, loyal, protective and docile animal on the planet. pitbulls aren’t bad. some pitbull owners are.

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