Monday, November 28, 2011

GSA Monday: Tough Questions About The Lawrence King Murder Trial

Here's what you need to know to get caught up:

In February of 2008, 15 year old Larry (Lawrence) King was an 8th grader who had come out as gay earlier that year.

He told a classmate that he had a crush on him.

That classmate brought a gun to their Oxnard, California middle school the next day and shot Larry in the head.

Larry died later that week.

The trial of Larry's killer recently ended in a mistrial, because the jury couldn't agree on the degree of guilt. And now just this past week, it was announced that to avoid a second trial, a plea bargain has been struck, where Larry's killer will be in jail for 21 years.

And I think this raises a lot of hard questions:

1.  The defense didn't dispute that their at-the-time-14-year-old client was the shooter, but said that he reached an "emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances."  He was "sexually harassed" by King.  Is this blaming the victim?

2.  Does it make sense to try a 14-year-old as an adult?  Or is killing someone on purpose an adult crime no matter how old you are?

3.  Hate crimes laws increases penalties, so the jury couldn't agree on calling this a hate crime.  Lawyers had been discussing re-trying the case without the hate crime charges, thinking it would be easier to get a conviction.  What does this case say about hate crime laws?

4. What's the worst thing that could have happened to the boy Larry liked after Larry expressed interest in him? Maybe that other kids would have thought he was gay, too. He could have just said, no thanks, I'm not interested. But what does it say about our culture when the response of a boy to another boy's expressing interest in him is murder?

5.  Does it make a difference knowing that the guy who killed Larry had suffered abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual) at home?

6. Is the plea bargain deal the right decision for everyone involved? 

7.  What would be justice in this case?

Lisa Bloom, a lawyer and legal analyst is quoted in the Advocate's "System Failure" article on the mistrial by Neal Broverman (print issue, November 2011, pg. 13) as saying:

"This case was a heartbreaking intersection of our policy failures, ...our lack of effort to keep guns out of the hands of angry teenagers, our failure to intervene to protect abused kids, our refusal to adequately teach tolerance and respect for LGBT kids in schools, our culture's relentless message to boys that violence is a satisfying resolution to their problems, and our willingness to then put all the blame on a child by trying him as an adult."

Hard questions. But they're easier to tackle in a safe environment, and hopefully you can discuss them with your GSA. Or, leave a comment here in our virtual Gay-Straight Alliance.


1 comment:

ivanova said...

I don't think a child should be tried as an adult, especially not in the US which is one of the few countries that executes juveniles. The "gay panic" defense is ridiculous, and in this case reaches a new low in blaming the victim. To me it makes a difference knowing the shooter suffered abuse at home. This case is so depressing in so many ways. This poor poor kid Larry.

I know this is an unusual opinion for a queer person, but I'm not super-excited about hate crimes laws. I feel like all victims of crimes should be in the same protected class, and people should be judged on what they did, not what they were thinking which is hard to know. If victims were treated equally by courts, we wouldn't need hate crime laws to get justice for LGBT people and people of color. In the US we already have some of the harshest, longest sentences and the highest incarceration rate in the world. Queer and especially trans people are disproportionately represented in jail, and I think laws that create longer prison terms ultimately harm queer people. This is just one opinion.