Lawyers of Lawrence King’s alleged killer denied access to files

December 30, 2008

An update on the Lawrence King murder trial: according to the Ventura County Star, the lawyers of Brandon McInerney (accused of the murder of 15-year old Lawrence King in February 2008) have been refused permission to see documents showing how prosecutors decide when juvenile offenders will be tried in adult court.

The defendant, 14-year old Brandon McInerney, is being tried as an adult.

McInerney’s lawyers, Scott Wippert of United Defense Group of Studio City and Robyn Bramson of North Hollywood, recently filed the discovery motion, seeking notes, communications, correspondence, internal memos and other documents they say will give them insight in to how prosecutors made the decision.

Wippert said prosecutors never looked into such things as McInerney’s school or family situations.

Wippert argued in court that the District Attorney’s Office didn’t use discretion, failing to look at such things as the circumstances surrounding the case or McInerney’s school or home life. That violated the defendant’s constitutional right to due process, he said.

He said he doesn’t understand why prosecutors refuse to give defense lawyers information about the decision-making process.

“It’s a scary world to think that a DA has unfettered discretion to do whatever they want,” Wippert said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox said defense attorneys, by law, aren’t entitled to what the lawyers were requesting, including discussions that prosecutors had in making the decision.

“Guess what? They aren’t entitled to know what is mulling around in the DA’s mind,” Fox said. “They have zero, no, legal basis for getting this material.”

McInerney, of Oxnard, is charged with murder and a hate crime in connection with the classroom shooting.

King, an eighth-grader from Oxnard, dressed in a feminine manner and told friends he was gay.

McInerney faces a sentence of 51 years to life if convicted of all the charges. He is in custody, with bail set at $770,000.

Earlier in the hearing Monday, the judge denied a motion by Wippert to dismiss the criminal case against McInerney on grounds that prosecutors abused their discretion.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Rebecca Riley said case law, cited by prosecutors, supports the district attorney’s position.

She said defense lawyers made no showing of “specific evidence” that there had been abuse of discretion by prosecutors.

Wippert disagreed and told the judge that his law firm plans to petition the Court of Appeal.

Fox described Wippert’s legal argument to get the documents as “really strange” with no legal foundation.

The law, she told the judge, says that the district attorney “has total discretion to do, basically, the right thing.” Fox described the killing of King as “brutal and premeditated” and “execution style.”

In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 21, which widened prosecutors’ authority to charge a juvenile 14 years of age and older as an adult without having to go to a judge.

Bramson said Proposition 21 was written for hard-core juvenile criminals, especially gang members.

“That process, clearly, is not being undertaken by the District Attorney’s Office in this county,” she said.

Fox said California Youth Authority experts told her if McInerney were a model inmate in the juvenile justice system and got all his “rewards” and “every single possible” good-time credit, he could serve little time for a murder conviction, a minimum of three years and eight months, she said. The baseline in the juvenile justice system for murder is seven years, according to Fox.

Wippert said that would be possible only if McInerney goes to a Youth Authority facility and authorities determine that he has been rehabilitated.

“Otherwise, he would serve the complete amount of time”

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

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