“What’s Up, Baby?”

The Brandon McInerney trial ended with a hung jury, resulting in a mistrial. Brandon McInerney was charged with murdering his classmate, 14 year-old student Lawrence King. Seven jurors thought McInerney was guilty of only voluntary manslaughter, whereas five jurors wanted a murder conviction.

McInerney put on a gay panic defense, asserting that he was taunted by King and provoked into the killing. Jillian Weiss has a very good piece up at Bilerico about it:

Some jurors must have felt that McInerney was acting “in the heat of passion” based upon the alleged taunts of Lawrence King, in which King allegedly blew McInerney kisses, said “what’s up, baby?”, and suggested to others that McInerney was his boyfriend. Perhaps they did not credit the testimony that these were a response by King to McInerney’s bullying, or felt that, nonetheless, it was reasonable for McInerney to feel harassed. . . . [But] there is no reasonable argument here for “heat of passion,” unless one is homophobic. . . . [T]he “gay panic” defense is alive and well and living in California.

Elsewhere, Weiss has pointed out the sexist double-standard at work in this kind of defense. She makes an important point. Women are harassed all the time with taunts of “what’s up, baby?,” leers and catcalls. I am unaware of an instance in which such harassment has been considered a legitimate defense to first degree murder. If it were, I suspect there wouldn’t be many straight men left alive in this world.


Liz Newcomb is an attorney by day and committed LGBT activist by night and weekend. She has worked as a researcher at the Williams Institute. While in law school at UCLA, she was Articles Editor of the LGBT law journal. Liz lives in West Hollywood with her wife, Lynne. They are one of the 18,000 California same-sex couples who got married during the summer before proposition 8 passed. Liz has lived in California for over 20 years and brings a left coast perspective to AMERICAblog.

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