Despite the agreed facts, jurors couldn't agree on what the killing meant. Seven jurors thought this was a case of voluntary manslaughter -- a crime of impulsive passion; five that this was murder, either first-degree (premeditated; hate motivated) or second-degree (still murder, but less culpable). A mistrial, meaning the possibility of another trial, was declared.
The slain boy, Larry King, was gay and not shy about flaunting it. In fact, he sounds like many a teenage boy whose new feelings of potency make him ready to get in the face of his schoolmates. The defense brought testimony about this before the jury.
Larry King wouldn't or couldn't play by the rules that gay boys are supposed to hide their feelings. This evidence was used by the defense to appeal to whatever horror might exist in the jurors at publicly expressed gay sexuality.
I have to ask, would the jurors have been as horrified if some football jock claimed his right to comment on female classmates and taunt them with how much he wanted to get in their pants? Though I can imagine as a girl wanting to do it, I don't think that sort of affront would give a girl a right to shoot the offender.
I'm a huge fan of juries. It doesn't always work this way, but I think they often bring wisdom from life experience to the circumstances they are shown -- wisdom that is invisible to the practitioners of criminal "justice." See for example this.
This case -- if news accounts are fairly accurate, always an "if" -- seems to have become a contest between prosecution and defense as to who was a child. The prosecution insisted that the shooter be tried as an adult; after all, if he'd been found guilty as a juvenile, he'd be free by age 25. Yet the crime had the elements of premeditation and the shooter also possessed hate literature. The defense, properly doing their job, humanized the killer as the victim himself of a violent home.
Most adults are easily distressed by how early in life kids come into their sexual feelings. We've forgotten or repressed that period when we were tossed about like flotsam by our hormones. If the members of the jury were straight -- were they? the news coverage doesn't say and we shy away from such questions -- gay hormonally-induced stupidity can seem alien, maybe diabolic, certainly threatening. For some, a Larry King can't have been a child. Children don't express those feelings.
On the other hand, children don't hide a gun in their back pack and slip past security in order to shoot a classmate in the back of the head. At least I am not ready to think that is childish behavior.It's hard for me to consider Brian McInerney a child.
The prosecutors were probably unwise to try the shooter as an adult, no matter how much some gay rights advocates, including me, would have felt that Larry King was being done an injustice by the short sentence that was all he could receive in the juvenile court. There's a reason that we used to have juvenile justice system that tried to do something besides just lock criminals up and throw away the key. Kids just aren't adults, yet.
Though I don't like the success of what amounts to a homophobic "gay panic" defense in this trial, I think I'm willing to admit that the jury did it's best with the choices they had. They needed better options. That's not the children's job -- that's our job.