A Murder Over a Girl: A Seminar with Ken Corbett
On February 12, 2008, fourteen-year-old Brandon McInerney shot fifteen-year-old Larry King twice in the back of the head during their first period English class at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California. Larry was a slight boy, barely five feet tall, of mixed racial heritage. He was a special education student, born addicted to crack and alcohol. He began speaking of himself as gay when he was ten years old. Nine days prior to his death, he started wearing women’s boots, earrings, and nail polish. Brandon a popular, tall, blue-eyed white boy, thought to be a promising but underachieving student, alleged after the murder that Larry had “come on” to him the day before the shooting. During the trial it was, however, made clear that what Larry had done by way of “coming on” was say something like “What’s up baby?” Or “What’s wrong baby?” Or “Don’t be a baby.” No one heard it clearly. During the course of the trial, both boys were portrayed as bullies. It was alleged that Brandon had teased and humiliated Larry for months. But Larry too was portrayed as a provocative bully, whose seductive aggression precipitated Brandon’s ire, rage, and persecutory panic.
Attending the trial from the beginning to the end, as well as several of the pretrial hearings and interviewing many of the principle characters, Ken Corbett’s paper unfolds a story of adolescence, civil rights, culpability, mercy, addiction, neglect, localism, a failing school system, sexuality, gender, race, class, and trauma. Emblematic of 21st century America, this story may turn out to be a founding story of gay and transgender civil rights.