Over 27 LGBT groups from around the country have signed on to a joint statement urging the Ventura County, CA, district attorney to try the 14-year old killer of Lawrence King as a juvenile. Some of the groups include the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLSEN, and The Transgender Law Center.
Brandon McInerney has been charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime as an adult in connection with the Feb. 12 fatal shooting of Lawrence King.
Read the full statement after the jump...
We are saddened and outraged by the murder of junior high school student Lawrence King. At the same time, we call on prosecutors not to compound this tragedy with another wrong, we call on them to treat the suspect as a juvenile, not as an adult.
The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression. The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions.
But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation. California law does not require District Attorneys to prosecute 14 year-olds as adults, even in circumstances such as these, and we oppose them doing so.
We are issuing this joint statement because we believe so strongly in principles of justice that protect all our young people and know that, even in the face of strong emotions, we should not abandon them.
We refuse to let our sense of outrage blind us to the fact that the suspect is only 14 years old.
I share the anger and outrage over the senseless murder of King. I also see the need to not let that outrage cloud our judgment of the other child involved in this case.
I hope that something can be salvaged from McInerney's life. I hope that lessons can be learned and perhaps passed on to stop something like this from happening again. I fear that with our broken justice system that has no focus on rehabilitation may not be up to the task, but we cannot fault McInerney for that.
It is times like this that our community shines. It would be understandable that we ask for blood. Few would fault us if we vent our anger and hurt on this other young man. But we do not live by the dangerous adage of our enemies: "an eye for an eye."
Instead, we should focus our anger and drive on changing those things that contributed to this tragedy: a school system without the support for King, the adults in the life of McInerney that taught this type of hate, the ease in which a 14 year-old got a gun... All these are places that we can focus our energy and fight for change. That is how we can honor the life of Lawrence King without destroying another youth's life.
Our community sees the tragedy of all of this. We see the need to educate, to try and change. As the statement said, we see the need to not abandon any of our children.
That is a lesson that those that fight against us would do well to learn. Perhaps if they held the same views, this tragedy would never have happened.