A defence lawyer has spoken out about the treatment of a 14-year-old accused of the murder of a gay classmate.
Brandon McInerney will face a pre-trial hearing on January 26th.
He is accused of first degree murder.
Lawrence King, 15, who self-identified as gay and wore feminine clothing, was shot in the head on February 12th during a lesson, allegedly by McInerney, his classmate at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California.
The shooting allegedly took place after the deceased asked McInerney to be his valentine.
The accused is also facing trial for committing a hate crime.
As he is being prosecuted as an adult he could be sentenced to 50 years in jail if convicted.
His lawyer, Scott Whippert, has challenged legislation that allows prosecutors to decide to try people as young as 14 as adults.
“Someone like Brandon, who was barely 14 and had no juvenile record, should have gone before a juvenile judge, who would look at certain factors to determine whether he is suitable for rehabilitation,” Mr Wippert said.
”But the District Attorney is saying, ‘I don’t have to explain myself to anyone.’ That’s too much power. We as a community should be able to make sure what they are doing is right.”
The Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act of 1998 was approved by California voters in a ballot measure.
Mr Whippert claims that prosecutors did not investigate McInerney’s school or family life, which violates the defendant’s constitutional right to due process.
In April a coalition of 27 LGBT rights groups called for him to be treated as a juvenile.
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.”
Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network, said:
“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.
“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.”
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