Jurors told a judge Thursday that they have not been able to reach a verdict in the case of California teen accused of fatally shooting a gay classmate in 2008.
The defendant, 17-year-old Brandon McInerney, is accused of shooting his classmate,15-year-old Lawrence King, in the back of head in a school computer lab on Feb. 12 2008. The prosecution said the act was a calculated murder that occurred because McInerney did not like homosexuals and was exploring white supremacist ideology.
The jury began deliberating Friday, after listening to eight weeks of testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, the Los Angeles Times reports. Many of the witnesses were students and teachers at E.O. Green Junior High School, where the incident occurred, and claim tensions began arising after King began going to school wearing makeup and girl's boots.
Although McInerney was 14 at the time of the murder, he is being tried as an adult. However, in a twist, his lawyer, Scott Wippert, argued that McInerney himself was a victim who suffered years of abuse at the hands of his drug-addicted father and snapped after he was sexually harassed by King.
Several of McInerney's relatives reportedly testified on behalf of the teen, voucher for the terror he experienced while living with his father, who passed away from a fall while McInerney was incarcerated.
While Wippert acknowledged that McInerney did in fact kill King, he told jurors his client should be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and not first degree murder, due to his age at the time of the crime and the details surrounding the situation.
Use your common sense, use your heart, use your soul, he told the jury. Remember this is a 14-year-old child, and you're going to do what's right.
The prosecution said the facts constitute a clear case of premeditated murder and asked the jury to categorize the killing as a hate crime.
The judge reportedly ordered jurors to resume deliberations on Thursday afternoon. It is likely a mistrial will be declared if no decision is reached.
In the past, multiple hate-crime trials involving a gay victim have ended in mistrial. In May 2010, a judge declared a mistrial in the trial of Keith Phoenix, a New York man charged with murdering an Ecuadoran immigrant whom he thought was gay after seeing him walk arm-in-arm with his brother. Moreover, in 2008 a mistrial was declared in the murder trial of Aleksandr Shevchenko, who reportedly beat his victim, Satendar Singh, to death while using racial and anti-gay slurs.