The Brandon McInerney hate crime trial has ended in a hung jur,y voting 7-5 for a manslaughter verdict rather than the first degree murder verdict sought by the prosecution. The good news is that “jurors universally rejected the prosecution’s contention that the shooting was a hate crime carried out by a youth filled with white supremacist beliefs and a hatred for homosexuals.” This was nothing more than an attempt to prejudice the jury against McInerney. If the prosecution goes for another trial, they would be ill-advised to again try to frame this as having something to do with having a White identity.
If there is a villain in this case, it is surely School administrator Joy Epstein. She was criticized “for allegedly being more intent on protecting King’s civil rights than in acknowledging that his dress and behavior were causing problems.” There was also testimony that Epstein is a lesbian. One can imagine that Epstein thought of the victim’s behavior as a teachable moment–an in-your-face assertion of homosexual rights, with no concern about the intense emotions brought on by the victim’s taunting and sexually harassing of McInerney.
The verdict is also a blow against precluding the “gay panic” defense where people claim they victimize someone in an emotional panic when they learn he is gay. As noted previously, gay rights advocates saw McInerney’s defense that he was humiliated and harassed by the victim as a classic “gay panic” defense. The majority of the jury seems to have taken the common sense view that McInerney’s anger was entirely understandable and quite relevant to understanding McInerney’s actions. A first degree murder conviction would have been a travesty of justice. The scary thing is that five jurors thought that first degree murder was the appropriate verdict.