VENTURA, Calif. (AP) - A 14-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty
to the murder of his gay classmate.
Brandon McInerney entered the plea Thursday in a Ventura County
Superior Court. McInerney is charged as an adult with first degree
murder and a hate crime for the Feb. 12 fatal shooting of 15-year-old Larry King at their junior high school in Oxnard.
King sometimes wore makeup and told friends he was gay.
Defense attorney William Quest said in court Thursday that he
expected his client would die in prison if convicted on the severe
"This is essentially a death sentence for Brandon McInerney," said Quest, who is asking that the boy be tried on a lesser charge of manslaughter. "That is the only way Brandon does not die in prison."
McInerney faces 51 years to life without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Prosecutors said they had no plans to change the charge.
"We believe the crime is charged appropriately," Chief Assistant District Attorney James Ellison said. "If we thought it was manslaughter, we would have filed it as manslaughter."
A jury can convict McInerney of manslaughter instead of murder unless the judge instructs them not to, Quest said.
McInerney has been held at county juvenile hall since his arrest. He told Judge Edward Brodie "Yes, sir," when asked if he understood his rights.
His divorced parents sat in the front of the courtroom, his mother Kendra McInerney visibly upset.
The arraignment had been delayed several times as Quest and McInerney challenged a California initiative giving prosecutors the exclusive authority to charge defendants as adults.
Two weeks ago a different superior court judge declared the initiative constitutional, clearing the way for McInerney's adult prosecution. The decision is under appeal.
King's parents said after court Thursday they support the adult charge.
"He went into a classroom in front of other students and shot my son in the back of the head twice," father Greg King said. "For his age to be taken into consideration - he didn't take my son's age into consideration."
Quest said his client is remorseful, and doesn't grasp the gravity of his situation.
"Going from being on the beach to being locked in a cage until he dies, it's hard for anyone to contemplate that, much less a 14-year-old," Quest said.
Information from: Ventura County Star,
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)