Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

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”

Judge Puts Off Murder Trial of Gay Puerto Rican Teen’s Confessed Killer

San Juan, Puerto Rico – In a controversial move, a Puerto Rican judge has postponed the murder trial of Juan José Martínez Matos (pictured at left) who confessed to the grisly decapitation, dismemberment, and immolation of the body of 19-year-old Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009.  In the intervening months since his arrest, Martínez Matos has claimed gay panic and childhood sexual abuse as rationalizations for the murder he says he committed when he “discovered” that the gay teen was homosexual during a tryst.  A psychiatric examination has deemed Martínez Matos competent to stand trial for the crime. EDGE reports that Judge Myriam Camila Justino announced on March 8th Juan José Martínez Matos’ trial would begin in Caguas on April 14th, not on March 30th as previously announced.  No reason was given in the press for the postponement.  López Mercado’s horrific murder, arguably the worst anti-LGBT hate crime in Puerto Rico’s history, has served as a magnet both for homophobic/heterosexist prejudice and for social justice advocacy on behalf of the LGBT population on the island.  Law enforcement officers intimated to the press that the gay teen somehow got what he had coming to him because of his sexual orientation, comments that ignited a firestorm of protest both in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland.  Attempts to besmirch the slain teenager’s character, thereby lessening the sympathy of the public for his killing, were made early on in the reportage surrounding the case.  Most recently, details of López Mercado’s alleged drug use and sex work have been brandished in the press.  Social action advocates for human rights such as Pedro Julio Serrano have repeatedly beaten back such character attacking tactics by reminding the public that the slain teenager is not on trial here–his alleged murderer is.  Politicians in the United States from the U.S. Congress and from New York city and state governments have traveled to Puerto Rico in recent months to focus attention on the plight of LGBT people in the U.S. Territory, and to express solidarity with the victim’s family.  Large protests have been staged in San Juan and in cities around that nation such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, and Washington, D.C.  The passage of the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October has set the stage for violence against LGBT people in Puerto Rico to be investigated in more effective ways than ever before.  Though a Puerto Rican law made violence against LGBT people there illegal, no one has ever been prosecuted under the provisions of the law until this case.  It remains to be seen if the power of cultural phobias and traditional religious antipathy to LGBT people will significantly impact the outcome of this trial.  But first the defendant must have his day in court, barring his petition to avoid a jury trial altogether.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay panic defense, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, U.S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Judge Puts Off Murder Trial of Gay Puerto Rican Teen’s Confessed Killer

Larry King Remembered: Too Young To Die

Lawrence “Larry” Fobes King was murdered by two gunshots to the back of the head on February 12, 2008, and died two days later.  He was only 15 years old.  His assailant, Brandon McInerney, was only 14.  Larry died because he was gender non-conforming–a gay youth who would not, could not conceal who he was from his classmates at E.O. Green Middle School, Oxnard, California.  McInerney remains in custody in Ventura County pending his trial as an adult for allegedly slaughtering King with his grandfather’s pistol during morning computer class.  McInerney has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and hate crime charges.  His trial is slated to begin in May 2010.  Today, two years since the fatal shooting, we remember Larry, and mourn for Brandon, too.  Two young lives have been lost to unreasoning homophobia.  The message of Larry’s death is as clear on the second anniversary of his murder as it was when it occurred: violence and hatred against gender non-conforming youth–gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender–has got to stop.  This weekend, vigils and memorial services are being held in Larry’s memory  by Gay & Straight Alliances throughout the nation–in California, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, and Virginia, according to a GLSEN-endorsed site dedicated to him, www.rememberinglawrence.org. The Ventura County Star commemorated the anniversary with an article highlighting GSA efforts in Southern California, dedicated to bringing the terror of homophobic teen-on-teen violence to an end.  J.T. Mendoza, a high school senior from Simi Valley and a member in the local Gay and Straight Alliance there, spoke for all who seek to honor Larry: “There needs to be more awareness that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, need to be safe in schools.  It’s not just a LGBT issue, but an everyone issue.”

February 12, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullying in schools, California, gay teens, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, School and church shootings, Social Justice Advocacy, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Larry King Remembered: Too Young To Die

Dustin Lance Black & Neil Patrick Harris Elected to Trevor Project Board

Dustin Lance Black, Neil Patrick Harris, The Advocate photo

The Trevor Project, founded a decade ago to prevent LGBT teen suicide, announced Tuesday that Dustin Lance Black, 2008 Academy Award Winner for the screenplay of Milk, and Golden Globe nominee Neil Patrick Harris have joined the Board of Directors of the non-profit corporation.  The Advocate reports that Charles Robbins, executive director and CEO of the Trevor Project hailed the news that these two prominent gay men have accepted spots on the board in a prepared statement to the press:  “Because Dustin Lance Black and Neil Patrick Harris have already demonstrated their tireless commitment to LGBTQ youth and The Trevor Project, we are thrilled to welcome them to our leadership team,” Robbins said.  “As prominent members of the entertainment community, they will certainly help raise awareness about The Trevor Project’s programs and their insight will be invaluable as we work to empower young people with the crisis intervention skills and suicide prevention resources they need.”  The bios posted on non-profit’s Board of Directors web page chronicled the qualifications each of them brings to the work of LGBT teen suicide prevention.  Black, the bio notes, was honored in 2008 with The Trevor Hero Award, which annually honors an individual who, through his or her example, support, volunteerism and/or occupation, is an inspiration to LGBTQ youth.  Black, who was the motive force behind the Oscar-winning movie on the life of slain gay rights leader, Harvey Milk,  said, “All of the work we’re doing today to win LGBT equality is for these young people’s futures. So it is vital that we insure they survive today’s challenges so they might know tomorrow’s freedoms. I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue and expand my involvement with this lifesaving organization as a member of the Board of Directors.”  Neil Patrick Harris, star of Dougie Howser, M.D., Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and successful host of recent Emmy Awards and Tony Awards ceremonies, was given the 2009 Trevor Life Award, based on his efforts to support and inspire LGBT youth around the world.  Harris expressed his enthusiasm for being elected to the Board of Directors, saying, “I’ve been a longtime supporter of The Trevor Project, and I’m excited to become even more actively involved in raising awareness of its unique and vital mission. I hope that my involvement with The Trevor Project will help bring attention to the need for effective crisis and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth nationwide.”  The addition of these two important figures in the entertainment industry will continue to life the profile of the Trevor Project.  LGBT teens are three to seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Bullying in schools is the largest single cause of gay teens taking their own lives in America.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Bullying in schools, gay men, gay teens, LGBT teen suicide prevention, Popular Culture, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dustin Lance Black & Neil Patrick Harris Elected to Trevor Project Board


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