VENTURA, Calif. – A teen accused of killing a gay classmate at a Ventura County junior high school will be retried on a murder charge after a first trial in which jurors could not decide on the degree of guilt.
Prosecutors on Wednesday announced their intention to pursue a murder charge in adult court against 17-year-old Brandon McInerney. However, a hate crime charge will be dropped, Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox said.
Last month, a judge declared a mistrial after a nine-woman, three-man panel couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the degree of McInerney’s guilt for killing 15-year-old Larry King. After a series of votes, seven jurors were in favor of a voluntary manslaughter conviction, while five others supported either first-degree or second-degree murder.
Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell set a Nov. 21 trial date, according to Fox, but it’s unclear if it will be held in Ventura County. The first trial was moved to Los Angeles County due to pretrial publicity.
McInerney was 14 in February 2008, when he is accused of killing King at E.O. Green Junior High School during a computer lab class.
Prosecutors contend McInerney embraced a white supremacist philosophy that sees homosexuality as an abomination. Police found Nazi-inspired drawings and artifacts at his house, and a white supremacist expert testified at trial the hate-filled ideology was the reason for the killing.
Authorities maintained the shooting was premeditated and deserving of a murder conviction. During the trial, Fox noted at least six people heard McInerney make threats against King in the days leading to the shooting.
Defense attorneys acknowledged that McInerney was the shooter but explained that he had reached an emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances. They also have argued that juvenile court would be the best venue to try their client.
In a statement, Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, said the organization “had hoped for a plea deal with appropriate terms that would hold Brandon fully accountable.”
“Placing Brandon in jail is necessary, but will not fully address the problem,” the statement said.
“The systems in place to support Oxnard students failed to avert disaster two years ago and resulted in this incredible loss. There is much to be done to fix these broken systems and hold adults accountable for their part in avoiding future tragedy,” Byard said.