Defense: teen who shot gay classmate snapped

August 26, 2011 - 4:10 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A teen who shot a gay classmate to death in a school classroom reached an emotional breaking point after weeks of being sexually harassed by the boy, a defense attorney said.

In his closing argument Thursday, lawyer Scott Wippert said his client Brandon McInerney didn't have problems with Larry King until King started wearing makeup, high heels and began sexually harassing him in the weeks leading up to the shooting. Wippert also blamed school administrators for not addressing the simmering feud between the boys.

"We're not saying Larry King is a terror, a bad kid, but the adults should have stopped this behavior," Wippert said.

Wippert spoke for about 90 minutes before court was adjourned. He will continue his closing argument Friday.

Calling the shooting of 15-year-old King a "shocking and unforgettable murder," Ventura County Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox earlier implored jurors to find McInerney guilty of first-degree murder, the severest penalty he faces.

Using McInerney's own words via an interview with a psychologist, Fox said during closing arguments that the teen became enraged after Larry passed him in the hallway in February 2008 and made what he believed was the ultimate insult, saying "What's up baby?"

McInerney, then 14, made a conscious decision to kill King the next day, telling a friend he planned to shoot his classmate, she said. He hid a gun in his backpack and brought it to E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, where he shot King twice in the back of the head, a "cold-blooded execution," the prosecutor said.

"He intentionally got that gun; he told people what he was going to do," Fox said. "He shot and killed an innocent person."

The brazen shooting in front of stunned classmates in a computer classroom gained wide attention when authorities dubbed it a hate crime because King was gay and evidence suggested McInerney had white supremacy leanings. Extensive news coverage persuaded a judge to move the case from Ventura County to neighboring Los Angeles County.

Defense attorneys do not deny McInerney killed King, but they contend their client came from a violent upbringing. They say he snapped when he heard moments before the shooting that King wanted to change his first name to Latisha.

McInerney has pleaded not guilty to one count each of murder and a hate crime. If convicted, he faces more than 50 years in prison. Jurors also can consider a conviction of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 21-year term.

In her arguments that the slaying was premeditated, Fox said one student testified she overheard McInerney say he was going to shoot King four days before it occurred. She said McInerney believed most of the school didn't like King and killing him would make him a hero.

"He thought he was doing everyone a favor," she said.

Fox also pointed out McInerney's actions in the hours and minutes leading up to the shooting: Nearly forgetting to grab the .22-caliber handgun from his house, hiding it in his backpack and then contemplating not shooting King.

She said all of those factors, told to the psychologist, show McInerney did not kill King in the heat of passion, which is required for a voluntary manslaughter conviction.

"It's stunning in its clarity," she said. "He's completely aware of what he did."