Prosecutors have confirmed that they will retry Brandon McInerney for the murder of his gay middle school classmate Lawrence King in 2008, reports the Los Angeles Times and Ventura County Star. Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision in the case, even after considering the options of convicting McInerney of murder, second degree murder or the less serious offense of voluntary manslaughter. A judge declared a mistrial on Friday.
McInerney shot his 15-year-old classmate twice in the head at point-blank range in an Oxnard classroom in February 2008. More than 30 students witnessed the shooting. McInerney was 14-years-old at the time. McInerney was tried as an adult.
Jurors reportedly took issue with the adult charges, reports the Star.
Jurors were apparently torn over how severe McInerney's sentence should be. The nine-woman, three-man panel said they took a series of votes - the last one with seven in favor of voluntary manslaughter and five jurors supporting either first-degree or second-degree murder.
Prosecutors said Friday that they planned to ask Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell for a new trial during a hearing scheduled for Oct. 5. Over the next month, prosecutors will decide whether to pursue the same set of charges or drop some of them, said James Ellison, the chief assistant district attorney.
"We don't know at this point if we will modify the charges," Ellison said. "The jury's inability to reach a verdict in this case will be a factor. We'll consider everything."
The district attorney's office was criticized in a report last month released by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice that showed cases involving youths under the age of 15 are nearly 14 times more likely to be tried in adult court than anywhere else in California.
One option could be returning the case to juvenile court. If convicted in juvenile court of murder, McInerney would be released "no later than his 25th birthday." In the criminal court system, the teen shooter faced up to 53 years to life in prison if convicted of first degree murder.
Witnesses have testified that King's "feminine attire" and gender identity was upsetting some students and faculty at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard. The defense has portrayed King as sexually "aggressive" and suggested that McInerney was "provoked." Prosecutors sought to quash McInerney's "gay panic" defense.
Will there ever be justice for Lawrence King?