A judge in California on Thursday declared a mistrial in the case of an Oxnard teenager accused of the execution-style murder of openly gay classmate Lawrence King.
Jurors, unable to reach a verdict, deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of finding Brandon McInerney guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
McInerney had been charged with fatally shooting 15-year-old King in a junior high school computer lab at E.O. Green School in Oxnard, Calif., on Feb. 12, 2008.
McInerney was stoic as the judge declared a mistrial, but after jurors left he smiled at his family members, some of whom he hadn’t seen in three years, and blew a kiss to his girlfriend. King’s family did not react and left the courtroom without commenting.
The mistrial brings to a close a trial that has been followed closely by gay-rights groups that have fought hard to protect gay and transgendered students from campus bullying.
But as the weeks of testimony continued and a more nuanced portrait emerged of what was happening at E.O. Green Junior High before the shooting, it also raised a host of thorny questions.
The prosecution says it was a calculated murder carried out in part because McInerney was exploring white supremacist ideology and didn’t like homosexuals. Defense attorneys painted a different picture, that of a bright but abused 14-year-old who snapped after being sexually harassed by King.
Both sides, however, agreed that McInerney, then 14, took a .22-caliber handgun to school, and shot King twice in the back of the head — up to 30 students reportedly witnessed the shooting.
The jury, consisting of nine women and three men, said they took a series of votes with the last one being seven in favor of voluntary manslaughter, while five others supported either first-degree or second-degree murder.
McInerney, now 17, was tried as an adult, and declined to testify in his own defense.
Prosecutors must now decide whether to re-file murder and hate crime charges against McInerney.