More light was shed on Brandon McInerney's abusive childhood when his aunt testified on Thursday about the physical and verbal abuse that his father leveled at him.
Brandon, 17, is on trial for the murder of a fellow gay classmate in 2008.
Megan Zorba, Brandon's paternal aunt, told jurors that Brandon's father physically abused him as a child. William McInerney would sit on his son until he couldn't breathe, pull his thumb back until he screamed and punch him in the face, said Zorba. Brandon looked angry as his aunt described his abusive childhood.
William first punched Brandon when he was seven, testified Zorba. He would also verbally abuse his son, rebuking him and calling him names. The abuse was especially bad when William was drunk or on drugs, said Zorba. William died in 2009. Brandon's mother smoked crystal methamphetamine when she was pregnant with him, added Zorba.
Brandon is charged with murder and hate-crime enhancement for the 2008 shooting death of 8th-grade classmate, Larry King, in a classroom at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard.
Prosecutors allege that Brandon was a white supremacist who killed Larry because he was gay. However Defense is arguing that Brandon's troubled childhood was part of the reason he shot Larry. Defense attorneys, Scott Wippert and Robym Bramson, are calling on family and friends to testify to the violent and abusive home that Brandon grew up in.
On Wednesday, Brandon's older half brother, James Bing, told jurors that Brandon was molested by a relative when he was 9. James said that he learned of the incident from Brandon's father two weeks after Brandon shot Larry. The incident was not reported to the police at the time. Brandon's father felt that the molestation drove Brandon to kill Larry, testified James.
James also told jurors about how Brandon's father would abuse his sons. William McInerney poured tabasco sauce down's the boys' throats when they were sleeping and would pull down their pants in front of their friends, disparaging the size of their genitals, James said, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Besides testimonies of Brandon's troubled childhood from relatives, teachers from the school have also told jurors about the behavior of the murdered victim, Larry.
Jill Ekman, an English teacher said that Larry continued to wear makeup even after she told him to stop drawing attention to himself. Ekman said that she even took the matter to the school's assistant vice-principal, Joy Epstein. However Epstein said that the 15-year-old had constitutional rights to dress as he pleased and that teachers should try to teach students tolerance, Ekman testified. Despite incorporating the message of tolerance in her lessons, the problem continued. Ekman said that the boys complained to her that Larry was chasing them into the bathroom.
"I explained to him that what he was doing was inappropriate and he laughed and said that he could go into the boys' bathroom and he liked to see them squirm," she said.
Four days after Ekman went to Epstein again and received the same answer, Larry was shot in the head in the classroom.
Epstein also testified and said that Larry had made sexually inappropriate comments to other students, weeks before the shooting. She added that teachers did not discourage him from dressing differently as it didn't violate the school's dress code.
Susan Crowley, Larry's seventh-grade special education teacher said that she did not think Joy Epstein was being truthful when she testified that Larry's behavior was being adequately addressed by school administrators and that very few people had complained about Larry's clothing. She said that Larry was sweet, caring and endeared himself to certain teachers, but had trouble making friends.
'He couldn't distinguish between positive and negative attention. He just wanted people to pay attention to him,' she said.
Crowley also said that Larry was extremely immature for his age and didn't have a firm grasp of his sexuality.
I think Larry was probably gay, but I don't think he knew that. He had a lot of years before he could figure it out.'
The trial has raked up a lot of intolerance, abuse and freedom of expression issues. Prosecutors are trying to prove that Brandon disliked gays and committed premeditated murder. However defense say that Brandon came from an abusive home and was driven to kill Larry when he made too many unwelcome advances and is only guilty of manslaughter.
Due to the extensive pretrial publicity in Ventura County, the trial is now being held in Chatsworth.