Brandon McInerney Pleads Not Guilty

The 14 year-old killer of gay teen Lawrence King pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder and a hate crime yesterday in a ploy to have the charges reduced to manslaughter.

Brandon McInerney entered the plea in Ventura County Superior Court on Thursday. McInerney is charged as an adult with first degree murder and a hate crime for the Feb. 12 fatal shooting of 15-year-old Larry King at their junior high school in Oxnard.

Defense attorney William Quest said in court that the charges are “essentially a death sentence” for McInerney, and wants the boy tried on the lesser charge of manslaughter. McInerney faces 51 years to life without the possibility of parole if convicted.

In April, a coalition of 27 LGBT rights groups called on the district attorney not to prosecute McInerney as an adult. “The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression. The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions. But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation,” the groups said in a joint statement.

There were more than 20 witnesses to the shooting. Even if tried for manslaughter, it appears that McInerney will be judged as an adult.