A teenager was today jailed for 21 years for shooting a gay classmate in the back of the head during a computer lesson.
Brandon McInerney, 17, of Oxnard, California, was sentenced and his lawyer said the boy was sorry for killing Larry King, 15, in February 2008.
But Larry’s family could not bring themselves to forgive Brandon at the end of a long case, which has shocked gay rights advocates and parents.
Plea deal: Brandon McInerney, 17, left, of Oxnard, California, has been sentenced and his lawyer said he was sorry for killing Larry King, 15, right, in February 2008
'He feels deeply remorseful and stated repeatedly if he could go back and take back what he did he would do it,’ Scott Wippert, defending, said.
Teachers and students saw a dispute growing between Brandon and Larry, who was shot twice in the head at E.O Green Junior High School.
Brandon, then 14, reached breaking point after Larry made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward him and other boys, his defence said.
The school had allowed Larry to wear heels and makeup to follow federal law allowing students to express their sexual orientation.
A mistrial was declared in September when jurors could not reach a unanimous decision on the degree of Brandon's guilt.
Sketch: Brandon, then 14, reached breaking point after Larry made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward him and other boys, his defence said
Sorry: Prosecutors said the shooting in front of stunned classmates was first-degree murder and that Brandon should be punished as an adult
Several jurors suggested he should not have been tried as an adult. But he eventually reached a deal with Ventura County prosecutors last month.
Brandon agreed to avoid a retrial and plead guilty to second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm.
'You took upon yourself to be a bully and to hate a smaller kid, wanting to be the big man on campus,’ Larry’s father Greg King said.
'You have left a big hole in my heart where Larry was and it can never be filled,’ Mr King said on behalf of his wife.
The case drew attention because of its nature and raised questions about how schools deal with students and sexual identity issues.
Liberal: The shooting took place in 2008 at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California, in front of shocked students in a computer lab class
Lesbian comic Ellen DeGeneres spoke on her talk show after the shooting and said gays should not be treated as second-class citizens.
Prosecutors said the shooting in front of stunned classmates was first-degree murder and that Brandon should be punished as an adult.
They argued the shooting was a hate crime, an aspect jurors rejected, after authorities found white supremacist materials in his home.
Defense lawyers wanted to keep the case in juvenile court and said it was voluntary manslaughter because Brandon lost control of his emotions.
They said the teen was beaten by his father and was described as a bright student who lost his motivation.
Anger: The shooting roiled gay rights advocates and parents in Oxnard, a city about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, California
Larry’s father also blamed the school district for not doing more to address the brewing feud between the two teens and their son's behaviour.
'Instead of protecting him from himself and his poor impulse control, they enabled and encouraged him to become more and more provocative,’ Mr King said.
Larry’s family wore buttons with the teen's face on it, while Brandon’s supporters wore powder blue wristbands that read ‘Save Brandon.’
After serving nearly four years since Larry’s slaying, with the additional 21 years Brandon will be released just before his 39th birthday.
Brandon was given the harshest sentence in California law for voluntary manslaughter - 11 years - and use of a firearm - 10 years.
His murder conviction will be stayed and he is ineligible for time served or good behaviour because he pleaded guilty to murder.
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