Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Notorious Gay Panic and Trans Panic Legal Defenses Must End, Says American Bar Association

Gwen Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, cradles her portrait. Thanks to the ABA, the so-called Gay and Trans Panic excuses for violence may one day be a thing of the past.

Gwen Araujo’s mother, Sylvia Guerrero, cradles her portrait. Thanks to the ABA, the so-called Gay and Trans Panic excuses for violence may one day be a thing of the past.

San Francisco, California – Gay Panic and Trans Panic legal defenses must go, says the House of  Delegates of the American Bar Association at their annual meeting this past week.  The delegates voted to follow the lead of California legislation calling for the cessation of excuses for violence against gays, lesbians, and transgender persons allegedly because of fear of homosexuals or the identity of transgender persons, according to eNews Park Forest.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the President of the National LGBT Bar Association, D’Arcy Kemnitz, sponsor of the cessation resolution at the ABA convention, called upon lawmakers throughout the United States to frame legislation banning the use of the Gay Panic and Trans Panic defenses, saying, “Legal professionals find no validity in these sham defenses mounted by those who seek to perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes as an excuse for violence.” 

The Resolution, 113A, which had previously been vetted and passed by the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, says in part that the ABA  “urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction,” according to the report of Gay Star News.  The Resolution goes on to say, “Such legislative action should include requiring courts in any criminal trial or proceeding, upon the request of a party, to instruct the jury not to let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence its decision about the victims, witnesses, or defendants based upon sexual orientation or gender identity; and specifying that neither a non-violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person’s sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter, or to mitigate the severity of any non-capital crime.”

Californians passed their 2006 law banning the use of Gay and Trans Panic defenses in response to the infamous 2002 slaying of transwoman Gwen Araujo of Newark, California by four male assailants who claimed that they panicked in “the heat of the moment” when they discovered Araujo’s biological identity.  The trial uncovered the truth, that both main defendants had sexual relations with Araujo for months prior to the gruesome murder, which they perpetrated by bludgeoning her into unconsciousness with a can of tomatoes and an iron frying pan.  Her attackers finished Araujo off by strangling her with a rope and beating her with a shovel.  Gwen’s murderers then drove her body four hours away from the San Francisco Bay area to bury her in a shallow grave in the Sierra Nevado mountains, where her remains lay undiscovered for several days.  All four defendants were found guilty of the killing, and were sentenced to prison after a series of three trials.  The two main defendants were sentenced to 15 years to life for second degree murder.  The consensus of legal opinion is that the Araujo trials went a far distance toward discrediting the Trans Panic defense for perpetrating violence against LGBTQ people.

In 2009, on what would have been Gwen Araujo’s 25th birthday had she lived, her mother Sylvia Guerrero called upon the American public to commemorate her transgender daughter’s life.  Speaking to the Examiner.com, Ms. Guerrero invited everyone to honor her child though acts of joy and service: “Light a candle, release a balloon, or do a good deed for someone less fortunate than yourself.  Thank you for keeping her memory alive.”  Now, Gwen Amber Rose Araujo has an even more lasting legacy with the ABA’s campaign to end the Trans Panic and Gay Panic excuses for violence in the American legal system forever.  Rest in peace, Sister.

August 15, 2013 Posted by | American Bar Association (ABA), anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, California, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Gwen Araujo, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, National LGBT Bar Association, Strangulation, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Notorious Gay Panic and Trans Panic Legal Defenses Must End, Says American Bar Association

Prosecutors To Retry Gay Teen Larry King’s Killer “Immediately”

Floral Tribute for Larry King, 15-year-old hate crime victim

Ventura County, California – Prosecutors in the Brandon McInerney murder trial promised to retry the teen for premeditated murder and a hate crime on Friday, the day after a Superior Court jury deadlocked on a verdict.  The Los Angeles Times reported that the prosecution maintains the evidence in the murder of 15-year-old gender variant Lawrence Fobes “Larry” King by his 14-year-old classmate in February 2008 is still persuasive: When McInerney shot King in an Oxnard middle school classroom, it was nothing less than a homophobic/transphobic hate crime and a clear cut case of premeditated homicide under California law.

The hung jury, who after several votes finally deadlocked at seven for voluntary manslaughter and five split between first- and second-degree murder, presents both a problem and an opportunity to the Ventura County officials.  On the one hand, jurors have suggested that they believe charging McInerney, now 17, for murder as an adult, was an overreach. Had he been convicted of first-degree murder, the defendant would have served better than fifty years in prison, and perhaps life.  Had McInerney been tried and convicted in juvenile court, he would have been released by age 25. Some other jurors have said to defense attorneys that the hate crime charge was not proven in court.  On the other hand, a conviction as a juvenile may be easier to obtain. So, the prosecution will have to determine whether to re-try the defendant as a juvenile this time, even though California law permits 14-year-olds to be charged and tried as adults in cases of capital murder.  Chief Assistant District Attorney Jim Ellison told the Times: “We will consider the fact that this was a very significantly split jury. We will consider everything. There are obviously very strong reactions on both sides, and we will consider all those in how we proceed.”

The murder of Larry King is the most closely watched hate crime murder case in the United States, since the trial of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson for the slaying of University of Wyoming student, 21-year-old Matthew Wayne Shepard in 1998. Of particular importance to LGBTQ advocates and other hate crimes victims throughout the country is the controversial use of the “gay panic defense” by McInerney’s defense team.  Should McInerney receive a lesser sentence for the murder of King because he was disturbed by King’s sexual orientation and gender presentation, or by his bearing, words, and deeds that expressed that dimension of who King was, such as the clothes or cosmetics he wore, or his flirtatiousness, then the implications for other killers perturbed by race, religion, sexuality, or gender characteristics would be immense. Also of note is the success of the defense in minimizing the bullying King, a bi-racial gay boy, endured in schools for over five years, virtually exclusively because of bias against his sexual orientation and gender presentation.

In a second report on Friday, the L.A. Times interviewed long-time former district attorney from Ventura County, Michael Bradbury.  Bradbury contends that even though prosecutors may glean a whole trove of new information from the current jury, re-trying anyone after a deadlocked jury is risky, especially re-trying a youth like McInerney.  Bradbury told the Times, “The public may see a straightforward murder case, but this case is far more complex, firstly, because of the age of the defendant at the time of the act and, secondly, the manner in which he was raised by his parents, which was clearly dysfunctional and by all accounts horrific.” The former D.A. went on to say that the host of strong emotions surrounding the case makes a second trial’s outcome “highly unpredictable.”

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, Character assassination, gay panic defense, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Judge in Larry King Murder Case Declares Mistrial: Jury Hung

No Justice Yet for Hate Murder Victim Larry King

Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California – In breaking news, the judge in the trial of teen Brandon McInerney for the hate crime murder of bi-racial student Larry King has declared a mistrial. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek to retry McInerney, now 17 years old, for the murder of his gender variant classmate in 2008.  Steve Rothaus of Gay South Florida picked up the Associated Press report late this afternoon, detailing how the jury could not come to a unanimous verdict in the case.  Nine women and three men on the jury informed Judge Charles Campbell that they were stalemated over whether to find McInerney, who undisputedly shot 15-year-old Larry King to death with a .22 caliber pistol in first period computer class at E.O. Green Middle School in February 2008, guilty of manslaughter, first-degree murder, or second-degree murder.  Seven jurors declared they were in favor of a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, while the other five were split between first- and second-degree murder.

The defense team appears to have scored something of a victory, convincing a majority of the jury that their client was in some sort of “dissociative state” at the time of the killing.  More disturbingly for LGBTQ legal advocacy observers and hate crime activists is the partial success of the “gay panic defense” that Scott Wippert and the defense team denied was a part of their strategy, but which most sure was.  Defense hammered the jury with claims that teen gay student King was somehow responsible for his fate because of their rendition of “bizarre sexualized behavior” and “sexual aggression.”  The gay panic defense, which blames the victim for the crime, has been discredited for years in American courts, but the special circumstances of a youth like McInerney who came from a dysfunctional family background (both his parents were addicts) successfully clouded what was otherwise a clear cut case of first-degree, premeditated murder.

Under California law, McInerney was old enough to be tried as an adult.  Ventura County Prosecutor Maeve Fox argued that since the defendant told at least six people he was going to kill King, premeditation was clearly established. Further, Fox argued that McInerney was a fervent anti-gay boy, influenced by white supremacist and Neo-Nazi skinhead ideology and teachings.  McInerney was in possession of a trove of Nazi items and symbols, as well as white supremacist literature at the time of the murder.

Nonetheless, the mistrial gives the prosecution pause. As commentator Lisa Bloom, a respected attorney, noted on a CNN panel discussing the trial last week, the jury is not supposed to ignore premeditation or be swayed by sympathy for the sad circumstances of a defendant.  “[The gay panic defense] is not an acceptable defense in an American courtroom,”  she said. Bloom went on to assert that no jury would allow a racist to claim that rage over the acts and speech of a black person altered the consciousness of the defendant enough to push him to murder.  What is the prosecution to do in a situation in which the message that a boy was gay was enough to get him killed, and to hang the jury in his slayer’s murder trial?  McInerney killed King.  Now, whether he will face the justice his actions deserve is up in the air–as well as the memory of his victim, Lawrence Fobes “Larry” King.

September 1, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, California, gay panic defense, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Fate of Larry King’s Teen Murderer Goes to Jury in California

Brandon McInerney (L), and Lawrence Fobes "Larry" King, (R)

Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California – After prosecution’s closing statement yesterday, and defense’s closing statement today, the trial of teen Brandon McInerney goes to the jury.  Long weeks of hard-fought testimony, evidence and counter-evidence have come down to the judgment of twelve citizens over a deadly serious question: Is the victim of a homicide responsible for his own death, or not?  McInerney’s defense team, led by Scott Wippert, has tried mightily to paint 15-year-old Larry King as the aggressor in his own slaying, justifying their client, the confessed killer, somehow for shooting his classmate twice in the head in broad daylight. Bridling at any suggestion by the prosecution that he and his team were using a version of the discredited “gay panic defense,” in which the psychic trauma of encountering perceived harassment by a gay person “ignites” a passion to kill, Wippert nonetheless has consistently used that logic to paint King as a “sexual aggressor” who made all the boys at E.O. Green Middle School in Oxnard feel unsafe.  According to The Advocate, King’s manner of effeminate dress and language “harassed” the boys (most especially his client), and disrupted school life to the point that, as Wippert put it to the jury, “The [E.O. Green] boys didn’t feel safe in the school,” because of the 5-foot 4-inch, 125-pound King.

Prosecutor Maeve Fox sought to counter such an argument, calling the strategy of the defense an appeal to anti-gay sentiments and oppressive anti-feminine stereotypes.  “It’s an attempt to reach somewhere deep down,” she said in her rebuttal to the jury. “To a dark place.”  Fox showed a photo of King taken just days before his execution-style murder, smiling as he held up a green dress given him by his teacher, Dawn Boldrin.  According to The Advocate, King was wearing a school uniform at the time of the picture, not women’s clothing, and had on unobtrusive makeup. Fox asked the jury as she held up the picture, “This is the guy that you are being asked to believe was a sexual predator who tortured the defendant into a state of despair.This [person] is so threatening to the average male psyche of 14 or 44 or 84?”  She reminded the jury that if they bring in a verdict of manslaughter, they would be ignoring the testimony of students who said McInerney told them days before the killing that he was going to end King’s life, and further, the expert psychiatric report in which McInerney said he did not even consider his victim a human being. A manslaughter verdict would mean the jury believed that any average person would have acted in the same way McInerney did on the day he took his teenage classmate’s life.  But premeditation of the sort the defendant exhibited by planning and waiting until first period class was well underway before he pulled out his pistol and shot King in the back of the head dictates a first-degree murder sentence.

Wippert reported referred to the tender age of his client 39 times in his closing statement to the jury.  He contended that King’s quip to McInerney the day before he killed King, “What’s up, baby?”, was “the straw that popped the balloon,” and pushed McInerney to shoot him.  Fox rebutted that King was just giving back something of the stress that he had experienced from McInerney and his clique as they bullied him for being different.

But would an average person take such umbrage at affectations and effeminate ways, even if aimed at such a person, that he would plan and shoot an unarmed person in cold blood?  Prosecutor Fox said no.  McInerney wasn’t acting as an average person.  He was acting out his white supremacist schooling to kill a sub human, as reported by the Associated Press.  He believed, Fox contended, that killing King was doing everyone a favor, and that he would be congratulated for doing it.

The jury will decide soon.  No case of a hate crime killing against a gay person has drawn more attention since the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. If the jury brings in a verdict of manslaughter, McInerney, who is now 17, may be eligible for release before he is forty.  If they decide for first-degree murder, he may not see freedom before he is 57.

August 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, Character assassination, gay bashing, gay panic defense, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Larry King’s Teen Murderer Refuses to Testify in His Own Defense

Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California – Seventeen-year-old Brandon McInerney was not put on the stand by his defense team on Monday, the last day of testimony for the defense, in the closely watched trial of straight-on-gay teen murder.  The Los Angeles Times reports that his chief attorney, Scott Wippert, told the court that McInerney declined to take the stand. Now that the defense has rested, closing arguments are expected to commence immediately.  The facts of the case are not in dispute: McInerney, 14 at the time of the February 2008 homicide, killed his fellow eighth grade student, Lawrence Fobes “Larry” King, a gay, bi-racial 15-year-old, in their first period computer class at E.O. Green Middle School in Oxnard.  McInerney’s defense hinges on a version of the discredited “gay panic” defense that has long been employed by defendants in cases of anti-gay murder.  His defense team is gambling that they can create sympathy for McInerney by claiming he was in a severe “dissociative state” because of King’s gay mannerisms, dress, and affectation–that McInerney interpreted King’s speech, dress, and acts as “sexual harassment,” and killed him because of it.  A psychologist for the defense testified that McInerney “snapped” at the time of the shooting, according to ABC News 7. When employed to justify the violence perpetrated by mature adults, the gay panic defense seeks to play on the latent fears of jury members to cloud the verdict they would otherwise render, or, barring that, to soften the punishment for the crime because of “mitigating circumstances” and “states of mind.”

The prosecution built its case on testimony and physical evidence of skin-head, Neo-Nazi and white supremacist loyalties McInerney held.  The motive for McInerney’s deadly crime, the prosecution contends, was deep-seated hostility toward gays and transgender people.  Prosecutor Maeve Fox pointed repeatedly to the premeditation it took the defendant to plan the slaying, conceal the murder weapon, restrain his attack until first period class was in session, and then shoot his victim not once but twice in the back of the head, execution-style.  McInerney announced his intention to kill King well ahead of the deed, according to testimony rendered in court.  Evidence of premeditation prior to the trial in large part caused a judge to rule that McInerney would be tried under California criminal law as an adult, even given his youth.

If the defense succeeded in convincing the jury that young Larry King was responsible for his own murder at the hands of an innocent, straight boy who snapped under the strain of “unwanted sexual advances,” then the gay panic defense will have a new lease on life in courtrooms throughout the United States where perpetrators will make the argument that their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender victims in some sense “made them do it.”  If, on the other hand, the prosecution turns aside this latest version of the gay panic defense, and convinces the jury that a murdered boy cannot be guilty of his own death, then the venerable and disreputable gay panic defense will be dealt a severe blow in American juris prudence.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, Character assassination, death threats, gay bashing, gay men, gay panic defense, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why is Larry King Put On Trial for His Own Murder? Get the Full Story

Larry King (Newsweek graphic from "Young, Gay and Murdered")

Chatsworth, California – Larry King was murdered in cold blood in his first period computer classroom.  As he unsuspectingly worked on a paper on World War II, his middle school classmate, Brandon McInerney, allegedly moved up behind him and shot him in the back of the head before the unbelieving eyes of dozens of students and Ms. Joy Boldrin, his teacher. Then McInerney, who had been a party to harassing Larry for months about his gender non-conformity, pointed the .22 pistol again and delivered a coup de grace to Larry’s ravaged head.  In his landmark book,Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications 2011) , Dr. Stephen Sprinkle treats the King/McInerney story at length, exploring the backgrounds and struggles of both teenagers. In the chapter, “Baby Boys, You Stay On My Mind,” Sprinkle sets Larry’s murder in the context of other assassinations of femininely presenting boys of color throughout the United States in early 2008.  Larry King fought back with the only power he had: his camp persona.  Half African-American, he was small, gracile, and not nearly as strong as the gang of boys, the “Young Marines,” surrounding Brandon McInerney. Larry learned to flirt in order to push back against his harassers. By the time of his murder, Larry was a five-year veteran of bullying in schools. McInerney, though slightly younger than Larry, was cultivating a “cool” image with middle school girls–an image aided by his overt harassment of Larry, “the little fag.” Underneath the surface of McInerney’s “cool,” though, was a budding white supremacist, whose confused masculinity chose violence as a way to silence the boy who turned the tables on him. Almost from the moment Larry’s murder hit the newswire, journalists started digging for dirt on the young gender outlaw.  Newsweek’s infamous article by Ramin Satoodeh labeled Larry a sexual aggressor in a blaze of controversial hot type. The Gun Lobby sprang into action to defend handguns. Larry’s partisans struck out at McInerney’s character, too. As Sprinkle details the journalistic feeding frenzy in the days following the murder, “these two boys were both abused by a media establishment determined to give a voracious public the news it was hungry to have: digestible pictures of a victim and his alleged killer to feed the insatiable American fascination with teen-on-teen violence.” 

Opening arguments in the McInerney trial, now taking place after three years of legal wrangling over Brandon’s status as a juvenile or an adult, and a critical change of trial venue, are busy following the lead of the media. Larry is being portrayed as a maladjusted predator (at 15? How is this possible?), and McInerney is being painted as a first-degree murderer who planned homicide in large part because of his homophobia and transphobia. The defense is indulging in a what amounts to the gay panic defense that has been discredited in courtrooms throughout the nation. Behind the defense strategy is the amazing idea that any expression of sexuality on the part of a gender non-conforming person makes violence legitimate in response. Just as Sprinkle surmised, the trial is going to turn on whether Larry King can be put on the stand as the chief malefactor instead of the defendant. As Sprinkle says, “There is a stark difference between the boys that no media wizard can resolve.  While Brandon remains alive and able to defend himself against the negative portrayals of his identity, Larry King cannot. He lost his voice in death” (Unfinished Lives, p. 284).

Unfinished Lives recounts in a chapter-length format the backstory of this, the most-publicized anti-LGBTQ hate crime murder since the slaying of Matthew Shepard in 1998. The book also tells the stories of thirteen other gay, lesbian, and transgender lives in these United States cut brutally short by unreasoning violence.  Unfinished Lives will be an indispensable resource for anyone wanting to understand the McInerney murder trial for what it really is.  To explore or purchase the book, go to http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Lives-Reviving-Memories-Victims/dp/1608998118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1310064063&sr=1-1 or to https://wipfandstock.com/store/Unfinished_Lives_Reviving_the_Memories_of_LGBTQ_Hate_Crimes_Victims

July 7, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, Character assassination, Execution, gay bashing, gay panic defense, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teenager Goes On Trial for 1st Degree Murder of Gay Classmate–Finally

Brandon McInerney (l), Lawrence Fobes "Larry" King (r)

San Fernando Valley, California – The notorious execution-style murder of a 15-year-old, mixed race, gender variant student in his computer classroom made national headlines in February 2008–because his alleged murderer was barely 14.  There has been no doubt about the facts of the case. Brandon McInerney allegedly shot his gender non-conforming classmate, Lawrence Fobes “Larry” King in the back of the head while his teacher and dozens of his horrified classmates looked on in disbelief. McInerney had breathed threats against King to other students prior to the shooting, and showed apparent premeditation by bringing his grandfather’s .22 pistol to the E.O. Green Middle School classroom.  What has always been in dispute since the earliest reports of this heinous murder are the circumstances and state of mind that brought McInerney to the point of cold blooded murder.  Students reported that Larry King, who was living at a specialized home for abused and abandoned youth, was blatantly non-conforming in matters of gender and sexual performance.  King dressed in feminine clothing, wore high heels, and used makeup.  He answered the bullying culture of Southern California middle schools with what some have called defiance and others have named authenticity.  Larry King was “out,” and students in the Oxnard school he attended had problems with it.  None had a stronger aversion to King’s being and style than young Brandon McInerney, who displayed irritation and anger around King, and later, when King apparently developed something of a personal attraction to him, decided that extreme violence was the only answer to his rage and fear.  EDGE now reports that opening statements in the long-delayed trial of McInerney began Tuesday in a San Fernando Valley courtroom, rather than in Ventura County where the murder took place three years ago.  McInerney’s attorneys delayed and argued that their client was a juvenile, that the judge was biased, and that McInerney could not get a fair trial in Ventura County.  The defense team failed to keep their client out of court as an adult, and to force the judge to recuse himself or be removed.  But they did convince the court to move the venue of the trial, and by a battery of stalling tactics, to postpone the trial as long as possible so that memories of King’s murder would have the chance to fade.

National media debated the wisdom of trying a 14-year-old from a broken home as an adult, even though California law clearly mandated that a 14-year-old should stand trial as an adult in cases of murder.  Though the Golden State has some of the most progressive laws in the nation protecting LGBTQ residents, the atmosphere in schools throughout the state never has caught up with enlightened legal culture.  Bullying of gender variant youth in elementary, middle, and high schools in California is as rampant as anywhere in the nation, as highly publicized cases like the King-McInerney case demonstrate. King was permitted to come out and live fully as a youth in gender transition. While some gender variant students adopted a cautious demeanor in school, King used his budding femininity as a badge of honor.  Whether he had a genuine crush on McInerney during the Valentine season, or whether his actions and words were meant to make his classmate uncomfortable, we cannot really know. But the brute facts remain.  King is dead. McInerney, who life has been forever changed by this murder, is still alive.

The case will be watched closely by legal experts and LGBTQ youth advocates throughout the United States. If the prosecution succeeds in making the 1st degree murder charge stick, McInerney could serve time in prison until his fifties. If the defense succeeds in minimizing the murder of Larry King, it will be because of a likely combination of delay, genuine reluctance to convict because of the youth of the defendant, and a well-orchestrated defamation of a slain little person with a big gender variant profile, as the Los Angeles Times is already reporting from attorney arguments on the first day of this landmark trial. Unfinished Lives Blog will follow the events of this courtroom drama closely.

July 6, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, Character assassination, death threats, gay bashing, gay panic defense, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jurors in Teen Gay Murder Trial Imported for “Fairness”

Oxnard, CA – The Los Angeles Times reports that jurors must be imported to Ventura County from Santa Barbara County to insure a fair trial for a teenager accused of shooting his gay classmate to death.  Brandon McInerney, now 16, was 14 in February 2008 when he allegedly shot his gay middle school classmate to death during a morning computer class at E.O. Green School in Oxnard.  According to reports from eyewitnesses, McInerney walked up behind Larry King, 15, an openly gay person of color, aimed a pistol at the back of his head, and shot him twice.  King lingered in hospital with no evidence of brain function, and died some time later.  McInerney was charged with felony murder, and a judge in Ventura County determined he would stand trial as an adult.  Though the youth of the defendant made the ruling controversial, there was enough evidence of planning and premeditation on McInerney’s part that justice demanded he stand trial as an adult.  The pistol he allegedly used belonged to his grandfather.  King was a gender non-conforming boy who wore women’s accessories, used make up, and affected a gay demeanor.  He was living in a youth home because of trouble at home with his parents.  McInerney, who also came from a difficult home life, was said by classmates to be macho and troubled by the openness of King’s sexual identity.  Some claim that King had an obvious crush on McInerney, who took the attention badly.  The case has drawn national attention for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the youth of both boys.  Conservative pundits have argued that the shooting was prompted by King’s aggressive sexualized behavior.  LGBTQ activists have countered that no such evidence exists, and in any case nothing warrants the murder of a femininely presenting youth because of the discomfort of a classmate.  Defense attorneys contended that their client could not receive a fair trial in Ventura County because of the extensive media coverage given the case.  The Santa Barbara Independent reports that Ventura County prosecutors agreed that media saturation made it unlikely they could find an unbiased jury in their jurisdiction, but disagreed that the trial should be moved to another venue as the defense wished.  Instead, jurors from Santa Barbara County will be imported to the trial which will still be held in Ventura County Superior Court.  If McInerney is found guilty of first-degree murder with a hate crime sentence enhancement, he could conceivably be in prison for 53 years to life.

September 3, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, California, gay panic defense, gay teens, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jurors in Teen Gay Murder Trial Imported for “Fairness”

Milwaukee Trans Woman “+” Brutally Shot to Death in the Street

Chanel Larkin, FORGE photo

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – A struggle for the assailant’s .357-caliber pistol ended savagely for a Milwaukee trans woman of color on May 7.  Chanel Larkin (née Dana A. Larkin), 26, was shot three times in the head by a man who allegedly picked her up for sex, and offered her $20 to turn a trick.  Authorities contend that Andrew Olacirequi, who was cruising the vicinity for a prostitute, shot Larkin three times in the head when Larkin revealed to him that she was biologically male, according to EDGE Boston. Larkin’s lifeless body was found on the sidewalk along North 23rd Street. Olacirequi was arrested later than night at the scene of the crime when he returned to find a lost cell phone. Law enforcement has charged him with first-degree reckless homicide and use of a deadly weapon.  EDGE reports that he could face up to 65 years in prison for the crimes.  As is so often the situation in transphobic murder cases, law enforcement and media follow the sensational and freakish imaginings of the general public rather than seeking to learn about the real lives lost and the human struggles that trans people face every day of their lives in biased communities.  Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said to EDGE, “The media matters and phrases like ’cross-dressing prostitute’ are loaded terms playing to a victim-blaming stereotype or a ’transgender panic’ defense,” Silverman explained. “These types of stories play into the cultural stereotype of transgender people somehow committing fraud or trying to trick people, none of which is true.” Michael Munson, Executive Director of FORGE, (For Ourselves: Reworking Gender Expression), has worked tirelessly to express Chanel Larkin’s story to the media in a sensitive and meaningful way, pointing out that Ms. Larkin, who had identified as a woman since her mid-teens, was a vital young trans woman of color who never deserved to die at the hands of transphobic violence.  Munson and FORGE decry the way some mainstream media have mis-characterized Ms. Larkin as “a man posing as a woman.”  She was a trans+ person, according to FORGE standards of address.  “People are much more complex than a set of words and labels,” the FORGE website points out. “‘+’ indicates an expansiveness that words cannot capture, recognizing and welcoming the beautiful diversity within our community.” Chanel Larkin was beloved of her family, especially her siblings and her grandmother.  Over 200 people attended her funeral on May 14, and the trans+ community, as well as the African American, LGBT and entertainment communities are bereaved and deeply affected by her passing.  Ms. Larkin’s story is all-to-familiar on the mean streets of America.  She lived at the crossing point of oppressions: female, trans, black, and poor.  At some point, she resorted to sex work to pay her bills and make a living in a down economy that set the background for the violence she had to risk every day of her too-short life. Speaking to EDGE, Brenda Coley, a staff member at Diverse and Resilient who knew Ms. Larkin, said, “We have to stand up as a [LGBT] community and speak out against this. I hope we’ll see how we’re all really connected and how the problems a person or group of people face are not walled off within that group but permeate through the whole society. None of us are free if some of us are not,” Coley added. “These are not throw-away members of our community. These are precious lives.” Chanel Larkin was not responsible for her death. She fought to live when her alleged assailant pulled his gun on her. She also fought to survive as an authentic person amidst an epidemic of anti-trans violence in a state that has never applied its hate crime statute to any LGBT person, according to activists in Milwaukee. Pressure from trans and LGBT advocates is mounting on the district attorney to designate her murder as a hate crime, and to prosecute her alleged murderer as a hate-killer under the law.  But the ongoing struggle for justice in Milwaukee and around the country will continue to be against poverty, racism, sexism, and prejudice against trans people, whether it comes from the straight or the gay community. Chanel Larkin is beyond harm now. It remains for the living to struggle in her name against the fear and injustice that took her life and the lives of  hundreds like her around the world.

May 21, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, funerals, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hope for 2010: A New Year’s Special Comment

As the old year passes, and with it the old decade, those of us who believe in Justice for LGBTQ people have memories to preserve, work to do, thanks to express, and hope to rekindle.  The Unfinished Lives Project was conceived as a visual and verbal resource for the public to use in the on-going struggle for freedom from violence and fear that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer folk face every day in the United States.  Wordpress tallies show that as of this writing nearly 44,000 have visited this site since its first posting in June 2008: to educate themselves about the slow-rolling holocaust facing members of the sexual minority, to bring the stories of so many casualties of homophobia and heterosexism to light who would otherwise be forgotten, and to steel themselves for the long, difficult, painful work of changing the culture of violence against the different in which we must live.  While countless hours of writing and research have gone into creating and maintaining this web site, that is nothing compared to the stress and loss faced by so many families and loved ones who have experienced the horrors of hate crime murder during these years.  The backstory of this blog has been and continues to be the awe-inspiring courage of the bereaved mothers, fathers, lovers and friends who have been thrust into the harsh glare of activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community because they refuse to allow their loved ones to have died in vain.  We owe them, and you, Dear Reader, our thanks and our continuing labor until Justice comes.  It is to that end we at the Unfinished Lives Project keep telling these grim stories of real people who suffer in America for no other “crime” than being who they are.  The past decade, especially the past year, has seen substantive change–not enough, nor comprehensive enough, to be sure–but real change nonetheless.  Cultural, political, and religious attitudes toward LGBTQ people are changing in this country.  The passage of the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first comprehensive hate crimes law in federal history, is now law.  Convictions under state and federal hate crimes statutes, something conservative law makers and law enforcement officers said would never happen, are occurring already in bellweather states like Colorado and New York.   This trend will no doubt continue as the New Year dawns.  The infamous “gay panic” defense, and its evil twin, the “trans panic” defense are increasingly discredited and ineffective in American courts of law. Religious attitudes have thawed slightly, but the progress is real, if spotty.  Religion and Faith offices and activism, once thought to be the “third rail” of human rights politics, have been established in all the major advocacy organizations that lobby for change.  LGBTQ lives and practices are no longer viewed as criminal by the religious leaders of conscience in the United States, and tolerance toward queer folk in congregational life and leadership is on the rise: the Episcopal Church, the Alliance of Baptists, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America are cases in point.  Homophobia in churches, synagogues, mosques and schools is not going unchallenged in American daily life, and that is encouraging.  ENDA, DADT, and many other legislative initiatives are on the horizon for the new decade.  Marriage Equality, which heretofore has been fought for state-by-state (often attended by an alarming hike in anti-LGBT hate crime violence where the issue is most hotly contested), and now advocates are re-evaluating the tactics and strategies of equality.  There is nothing magic about the passage of the Shepard Act.  Every day, in every region of the nation, LGBTQ people and those mistakenly assumed to be like us, are suffering violence and death, and from our researches at the Unfinished Lives Project, these statistics are increasing alarmingly.  One more life lost is one too many.  Fear is no way to live in the Land of the Free.  So, we who believe in Justice will greet the New Year with resolve.  An African American spiritual lyric testifies, “We Ain’t in No Wise Tired,” and that is providential.  We cannot rest until Justice comes.  And, we are glad to be in the fight for true “peace on earth, goodwill to all,” with you.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Colorado, DADT, ENDA, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, military, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Popular Culture, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, trans-panic defense, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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