After five days of deliberations, the jury handling the Brandon McInerney murder trial found themselves deadlocked:
A judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the case of California teen accused of murdering a gay classmate at a Ventura County junior high school three years ago.
Jurors told Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell they were unable to reach a unanimous decision on the degree of Brandon McInerney’s guilt for killing 15-year-old Larry King. The nine-woman, three-man panel 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.
This comes as a surprise. While I suspected the jury might go for a lesser charge, I never assumed they would consider voluntary manslaughter, let alone that the jury would split over the charges. The evidence the McInerney thought about killing King was pretty clear, from the boy talking about doing so with several to his bringing a concealed weapon into class and sitting behind King.
If anything, the jury’s deadlock shows that the state’s argument that McInerney was a white supremacist did not fly. It may also show that jury accepted the defense’s position that King sexually harassed McInerney. The prosecutors referred to the defense’s position as a “gay panic” strategy, however, the defense never argued that one instance caused McInerney to snap. They argued that a prolonged harassment that ended with a public flirtation by King finally caused McInerney to “go into a dissociative state”.
The mistrial puts the state in a precarious position. The defense made several complaints about prosecutorial misconduct during the trial. They could bring those issues up again should the prosecutors seek to retry McInerney. At the very least another judge or a higher court may deem the evidence the defense complained about inadmissible, specifically the testimony from the white supremacist expert.
There is also the District Attorney’s decision to charge McInerney as an adult. Had McInerney killed King just a few days earlier, he would have been still been 13-years-old and therefore ineligible to be adjudicated as an adult. It is possible that the defense would have accepted a plea agreement that sent McInerney back to Juvenile Court. Perhaps the prosecutors will consider that deal now rather than go through another trial.
Regardless of what occurs next on the legal side, things need to change on the educational side. Far too many teachers were concerned about their tenure and jobs than preventing a clearly escalating problem. The vice principal was far too concerned about treating King like her pet project than curtailing his obvious problematic behavior. The staff are not just there to teach, but also to control the situation. With so many people in the know, this could have been avoided had just one of them stepped up and said enough. While King’s family is suing the school, someone other than McInerney should also be held criminally responsible.