VENTURA, Calif. – A Southern California teenager faces 21 years in state prison when he’s sentenced for killing a gay student during a computer lab class three years ago.
In a deal reached with Ventura County prosecutors last month, 17-year-old Brandon McInerney agreed to avoid a retrial and plead guilty to second-degree murder, as well as one count each of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm.
McInerney had just turned 14 when he shot and killed 15-year-old Larry King at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard.
A mistrial was declared in September when jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the degree of guilty.
The panel took a series of votes, the last one with seven jurors in favor of voluntary manslaughter and five supporting either first-degree or second-degree murder. The trial had been moved from Ventura County to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity.
Several jurors said after McInerney’s trial that he shouldn’t have been tried as an adult.
Leading up to the February 2008 killing, teachers and students saw a feud growing between King and McInerney, who would shoot King in the head before stunned classmates in a computer lab.
McInerney had reached an emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward him and other boys, defense lawyers said. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, school administrators allowed King to wear heels and makeup because federal law provides the right of students to express their sexual orientation.
Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley said prosecutors agreed to the plea deal because of uncertainty about what might result from a second trial.
Frawley said at the time that prosecutors took into account how much time in jail for McInerney would protect the community.
“The total time in custody for 25 years will do that,” he said.
After serving nearly four years since King’s slaying, with the additional 21 years McInerney will be released just before his 39th birthday.
His murder conviction will be stayed, and the plea deal calls for McInerney to be given the harshest sentence under California law for voluntary manslaughter- 11 years- and use of a firearm- 10 years, Frawley said. McInerney is ineligible for time served or good behavior because he pleaded guilty to murder.