Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans activists are urging that a 14-year-old boy who is to stand trial for the murder of his classmate be dealt with by a juvenile court.
Lawrence King, 15, who self-identified as gay and wore feminine clothing, was shot in the head during a class on February 12th, allegedly by classmate Brandon McInerney at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California.
McInerney has been charged as an adult and could face up to 24 years to life for the murder charge and an added three years for the hate crime addition.
A coalition of 27 LGBT rights groups is calling on Ventura County prosecutors to try 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in juvenile court.
“We are saddened and outraged by the murder of junior high school student Lawrence King,” groups such as Lambda Legal, the National Centre for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Centre said in a joint statement to Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten.
“At the same time, we call on prosecutors not to compound this tragedy with another wrong, we call on them to treat the suspect as a juvenile, not as an adult.
“The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression.
“The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions.
“But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation.
“California law does not require District Attorneys to prosecute 14 year-olds as adults, even in circumstances such as these, and we oppose them doing so.
“We are issuing this joint statement because we believe so strongly in principles of justice that protect all our young people and know that, even in the face of strong emotions, we should not abandon them.
“We refuse to let our sense of outrage blind us to the fact that the suspect is only 14 years old.”
Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said:
“This incident of senseless violence is truly horrifying, and our hearts go out to the student’s friends, family and the E.O. Green School community.
“As a nation, we’ve had our heads in the sand for far too long. We need to do everything we can to prevent something like this from happening again.”
“With young people coming out at younger ages, our schools, especially our junior highs and middle schools, need to be proactive about teaching respect for diversity based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
“The tragic death of Lawrence King is a wake-up call for our schools to better protect students from harassment at school. As a society, we can prevent this kind of violence from happening.”