The Lawrence King murder is back in the press again as the trial began only last week. For those of you who don’t remember, 15-year-old Lawrence King was shot point blank in front of his entire computer lab class by 14-year-old Brandon McInerney. King was often teased and bullied by his classmates for being gay and so how did he defend himself against such hallway torment? By flirting with his bullies. That alone apparently was the reason for McInerney shooting the boy. His lawyer is now claiming that King’s actions constitute sexual harassment.
Brandon’s trial has gotten off to very an emotional start according to TIME, recounting sobs from both witnesses and King’s parents. The case is very layered given that McInerney is being charged with committing a hate crime which the prosecution must now prove. In addition to telling a student that he was going to kill King for his flirtations, the prosecution has also uncovered Nazi drawings from McInerney’s notebook indicating that he “
influenced by an ideology of hatred that includes despising homosexuals.”
But McInerney’s lawyers are stooping to a new low, arguing that because King often wore “feminine accessories,” he made himself a victim. No, seriously:
Scott Wippert is pulling out all the stops to convince the jury that it was manslaughter…he’s blaming school officials for not doing more to prevent King from wearing feminine attire and taunting other boys, arguing that such behavior pushed McInerney to an emotional breaking point. Third, he says the defendant’s extreme emotional state made him unaware of his actions. Finally, Wippert says King’s advances amounted to sexual harassment and were partly responsible for the shooting. Witnesses have said King came to school wearing women’s accessories like make-up and high-heeled boots and made flirtatious comments to McInerney such as “Love you baby!”
If this type of logic is vaguely familiar to you, it’s because it is often applied to young girls and adult women who are victims of rape. What these victims wear or how they “behave” somehow become credible factoids in laying responsibility at the feet of victims. The tired insistence is often that if the victims weren’t “a certain way,” than they would have successfully avoided such crimes. What gets young girls and women raped is being in the presence of a rapist — end of story. And just as no one asks to be raped, neither do LGBTQ children ask to be shot.
In the case of Lawrence King, prosecutor Maeve Fox agrees with me:
“This entire defense is built on a bias against the victim, and this hope that people will buy into the fact that the way he was and they way he dressed was so provoking that a reasonable person would have reacted the way the defendant did,” Fox said in court. “It’s tragic and nauseating at the same time.”
This type of reasoning sets a poor precedent for the protection of all children if the reigning mentality is that differences in style, appearance, and manner are permissible grounds for an attack. Of course bullies will always lash out at those who are visibly different, but that doesn’t make such reasoning lawful.