Teen Gets 21 Years for Murdering Gay Student

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A California teenager who pleaded guilty to killing a gay classmate is headed to prison. Brandon McInerney was sentenced to 21 years for the crime that drew national attention to bullying and the plight of gay students.

McInerney, 17, was sentenced according to a plea agreement after a hung jury failed to reach a verdict in September, the Associated Press reports. McInerney agreed to plead guilty, and prosecutors promised not to pursue a retrial that could have led to a life sentence.

McInerney was 14 when a gay junior-high classmate, Larry King, made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward McInerney and other boys, the AP reports.

King had worn women's clothes and makeup to school. School administrators told teachers to give King space, but encouraged them to report safety problems, the AP reports.

After weeks of alleged harassment by King, McInerney brought a gun to school and shot King in the back of his head in a school computer lab. McInerney was tried as an adult.

Prior to Brandon McInerney's sentencing, defense lawyers said the killing was triggered by King's sexual advances, which caused McInerney to snap.

Jurors at McInerney's trial rejected classifying the killing as a hate crime -- but they couldn't decide between murder or manslaughter. Murder requires intent to kill, while manslaughter can describe a "heat of passion" killing in which the offender had no prior intent.

In his plea agreement, McInerney pleaded guilty to both second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

King's father, who has been critical of school officials for inaction, said his family could not forgive McInerney.

"You took upon yourself to be a bully and to hate a smaller kid, wanting to be the big man on campus," Greg King said at Brandon McInerney's sentencing. McInerney is set to remain in prison until just before his 39th birthday.

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