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King shooter to be tried as adult


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Judge OKs adult trial for teen suspect

Attorney sought juvenile court for fatal shooting case

By Raul Hernandez, Ventura County Star

Relying on past court decisions, a judge ruled Thursday that trying a 14-year-old boy accused of murder in an adult court does not violate the constitution, swatting down legal arguments raised by the boy's attorney that it was cruel and unusual punishment to do so.

"I cannot say that this is unconstitutional," said Ventura County Superior Court Judge Douglas Daily.

Teenage defendant Brandon McInerney of Oxnard is charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime in connection with the Feb. 12 killing of classmate Larry King, 15, who sometimes wore makeup and told friends he was gay.

McInerney is accused of shooting the Oxnard youth as students worked on English assignments in a classroom at E.O. Green School in Oxnard.

Before making his ruling, Daily heard legal arguments for about 30 minutes from McInerney's lawyer, William "Willy" Quest, and from a prosecutor, Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox, on whether the teen can be tried in adult court rather than juvenile court.

In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 21, which widened prosecutors' authority to file charges in adult court against juveniles 14 and older without having to go to a judge.

Before he made his findings, the judge called for a 20-minute break to go back to his chambers to read the California Supreme Court cases cited by Quest and Fox in their legal petitions.

After his ruling, Daily set McInerney's arraignment for Aug. 7.

Outside the courtroom, Fox said: "The judge followed the law so I wasn't really surprised. I am just relieved."

Fox said Daily's ruling on the constitutionality of the state law "pretty much" eliminated the possibility of the district attorney sending McInerney's case to the juvenile justice system, where penalties are generally less severe than adult court.

"So, per the law of California, the (case) is going to stay in adult court," she said.

Quest said the district attorney took only a couple of days to file charges against his client in adult court without knowing all the facts about McInerney, King and the circumstances surrounding this case.

"The problem is their office, once they make a decision, it's hard for them to change course," said Quest.

He said this is the first he's heard that the district attorney has decided that McInerney will be tried in adult court.

During a previous courtroom hearing, Fox had indicated that the District Attorney's Office could decide to send the case to the juvenile criminal justice system after more facts came to light.

McInerney was in court wearing a white T-shirt and dark blue pants. He sat quietly, much of the time looking directly at the judge.

His mother, who has appeared at all his hearings, was sitting nearby and left in tears after the court proceedings.

Quest told the judge that he might file a writ of mandate with the Court of Appeal, 2nd District, Division Six in Ventura.

In an interview, Quest said he was disappointed by the judge's rapid decision.

"I just wished he would have spent a little more time thinking about it," said the attorney.

In the courtroom, Quest spent much of the time attacking the constitutionality of Proposition 21. He said it gives prosecutors the power to send a juvenile offender into the adult criminal justice system, where a sentence of 51 years to life, such as the one McInerney is facing if found guilty, can be given because state law mandates it.

Also, the attorney said, Proposition 21 prevents judges from looking at the facts surrounding the criminal cases of juveniles such as McInerney.

In addition, Quest said, jurors who find a juvenile guilty have no say about the sentencing.

McInerney's case, Quest told the judge, could be the first of its kind that challenges Proposition 21 based on the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the state and federal constitutions.

"It's a case of first impression. It's a very important case," Quest told the judge.

Fox told Daily that a judge already sits as the "13th juror" in a courtroom and can throw out a jury verdict, for example by lowering a first-degree murder to second-degree. She said this changing of a jury's verdict has been done before by judges at the Ventura courthouse.

"The law does not allow you to murder anyone at any age," Fox told the judge. She said that while she might feel "sympathy" toward McInerney because of his age, there is no legal defense for not trying him in adult court, she said.

During the hearing, Quest relied primarily on the People v. Dillon, a 1983 California Supreme Court case, to shore up his legal arguments.

In that case, a jury convicted a 17-year-old defendant of first-degree murder with gun enhancement for shooting the victim at least nine times during an attempted marijuana theft, according to Quest. After hearing all the evidence, the jury sent a letter to the trial court stating that it appeared that the "juvenile acted like a minor."

Quest stated in his legal petition, "Only after being instructed not to speculate as to why defendant was being tried as an adult did the jury reach a verdict."

In that case, the judge concurred with the jury and believed that life imprisonment was much too harsh, given the lack of maturity of the 17-year-old. The judge sentenced the defendant to the California Youth Authority.

Later, however, an appeals court ruled that the judge had no jurisdiction to sentence the defendant to the California Youth Authority. The 17-year-old received life in prison with eligibility for parole in 20 years.

Still later, the California Supreme Court reversed the appeals court and reduced the sentence to second-degree murder and ordered the trial court to sentence the defendant to the Youth Authority.

Fox told the judge that state law mandates that if there are special circumstances in a murder case involving juvenile defendants, the district attorney is required to file in adult court.

So, even if the judge sided with Quest's legal arguments, Fox said she could, hypothetically, go back and file a "lying in wait" special circumstance against McInerney and by law, the case would have to be transferred back to adult court.

? 2008 The E.W. Scripps Co.

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As much as I would like to see the world fall upon a person who commits anti-gay violence/murder, as a matter of conscious I am against anyone below the age of 17 being tried as an adult.

There are good reasons that children are protected by law. As much as it is an inconvenience for a society that seems less and less concerned for the good of its citizens or their civil rights, I believe that history judges a society by the treatment of its most vulnerable citizens.

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As much as I would like to see the world fall upon a person who commits anti-gay violence/murder, as a matter of conscious I am against anyone below the age of 17 being tried as an adult.

Normally, James, I would agree with you, but this is a sad, strange world we live in nowadays.

Given that the murderer did these three things:

1) he plotted this well in advance, to the point of getting a gun and loading it the night before, then concealing it for hours before the class at school

2) he shot an unarmed victim once in the head, and then again in the head after he fell to the ground

3) and he did the murder in front of 30+ other children, traumatizing them all forever

These are not the acts of an innocent child. Now, if he had slugged the kid and the kid fell down, then accidentally hit his head and died, I think it'd be a totally different story. Then I'd say, give him manslaughter and 4 years in the CYA, followed by 3 years in the big house after he turns 18.

But from the facts above, I say fry him. I wouldn't blink if they gave him 51 years. At least he'll be out at 65, just in time to retire and collect social security.

I have zero sympathy for this monster. Yet I'm still fascinated to learn why he did it. Not that it would exonerate him, but just to help us understand how something this horrible could ever happen.

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