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California teen to be retried in gay student murder

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 11:13 PM EDT, Wed October 5, 2011
Brandon McInerney is pictured in this courtroom sketch from his August 25 trial. He's being retried for the 2008 murder of a gay classmate.
Brandon McInerney is pictured in this courtroom sketch from his August 25 trial. He's being retried for the 2008 murder of a gay classmate.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brandon McInerney, now 17, continues to plead not guilty
  • He will again be tried as an adult for the murder of a 15-year-old gay classmate
  • A jury this summer was deadlocked, resulting in a mistrial
  • Prosecutors have dropped a hate crime allegation

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A teenager accused of gunning down a gay classmate execution-style in their Southern California junior high school classroom in 2008 will be retried on murder charges, the Ventura County district attorney's office said Wednesday.

But Brandon McInerney, now 17, won't be charged with a hate crime as before, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley said Wednesday.

McInerney was arraigned Wednesday in Ventura County Superior Court, and he continued to plead not guilty to murder and other charges, Frawley said.

Last month, a judge declared a mistrial after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked in the eight-week murder trial of McInerney, who was 14 at the time of the shooting. Prosecutors again will try him as an adult, Frawley said.

He said McInerney will face a first-degree murder charge, a special allegation of use of a handgun, and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait.

In refiling the charges Wednesday, prosecutors dropped the hate crime count because "we just decided to slim the case down a bit and narrow the focus," Frawley said.

If convicted of all the new charges, McInerney would face a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison. Under the charges in the first trial, he faced a maximum sentence of 53 years to life in prison, Frawley said.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for November 21, he said.

Last month, the nine-woman, three-man jury said its final vote resulted in seven in favor of finding the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter, CNN affiliates reported.

McInerney allegedly shot 15-year-old Lawrence King, an eighth grader at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, twice while both were typing papers in a computer lab for their English class, authorities said.

This summer's trial was held in Chatsworth, in neighboring Los Angeles County, because the defendant successfully sought a change of venue in the high-profile case, according to Frawley.

Prosecutors will seek to hold the second trial in Ventura County, but defense attorneys will have the option of requesting another change of venue, Frawley said.

King, an openly gay teenager, was seated in the middle of the classroom with two dozen students and their teacher when McInerney allegedly shot him in the back of the head, authorities said.

During the trial, the prosecution alleged McInerney had white-supremacist leanings and had planned to shoot King over unwanted sexual advances, according to CNN affiliate KABC.

Friends said King was proud of being openly gay. He liked wearing jewelry and makeup to school, and he often wore high-heeled boots with the school uniform. He asked his teachers to call him Leticia instead of Larry. Some students bullied him, pupils said.

King lived in a group home called Casa Pacifica, where workers said he started dressing like a girl.

Other students said McInerney was also subject to some harassment because King had a crush on him and made it publicly known.

The defense contended McInerney had a violent upbringing. It also argued that King taunted and flirted with McInerney, ultimately sparking the fatal confrontation, KTLA reported.

McInerney managed to bring a handgun belonging to relatives inside the school, Frawley said.

After the first shot, King fell to the ground, and McInerney allegedly stood over him and shot again -- a coup de grace shot -- according to Frawley.

Both shots were at point-blank range, Frawley said.

CNN's Carey Bodenheimer contributed to this report.

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