Bullying is a hot topic these days. As a nation, we’re grappling with how best to stop bullying and yet more cases are jumping into the public eye. Recently the case of Jamey Rodemeyer has been making headlines, because bullying drove this fourteen-year-old boy to take his own life. At the same time, the case of the Lawrence King shooting by then fourteen-year-old Brandon McInerney may be re-tried because the first trial ended in mistrial.
While I am not a member of the jury, nor did I sit in the courtroom to hear all of the testimony, I’m a little flummoxed by the results of this trial. There is no question as to whether Brandon McInerney shot Larry King. None. There was a roomful of witnesses. My understanding of the situation is that the defense pressed the point that King’s behavior pushed McInerney to the breaking point by wearing feminine attire and via means of sexual harassment with words such as “Love you baby!”. In other words, vilifying the victim.
Wait! We’re leaning toward manslaughter on a charge where the perpetrator had enough forethought to bring the gun to school and shoot the victim execution style twice in the back of the head? It wasn’t his fault because the victim wore high heel boots and make-up to school? I hear echoes of “It wasn’t my fault, your honor. She was asking for it.” in rape cases. Or in this case… it’s not a hate crime because the victim was asking for it. We, as a nation, are running an extreme risk with this type of thought process. While Larry may not have handled the bullying by Brandon in the most appropriate manner, are we really saying that the alleged words “What’s up, baby?” are enough to incite murder?
Middle School and High School are tumultuous times at best. The campus is populated with kids trying to figure out who they are and how they want to express themselves. Larry chose to express himself by wearing make-up and high-heeled boots. This cannot be used as an excuse for deliberately taking his life. Larry dressed that way as an expression of who he was, and that Brandon didn’t like it was… tough — or should have been.
I currently have pink highlights in my hair. There are a few reasons I have done this… most of them personal, but the biggest reason is that it is fun. It is an expression of who I am. I’m sure that there are people who think that it is ridiculous or even worse, it is an expression of underlying deviancy which could lead to horrible things. Should someone be allowed to state as an excuse for shooting me that the pink in my hair incited them to do it? That somehow the pink was taunting them in some way? While this may seem an superfluous example, in my mind it is no different than saying the fact that Larry wore make-up and boots incited Brandon to take action, and therefore we must be lenient toward Brandon.
I do believe that Brandon perpetrated a hate crime. But I also believe that at fourteen-years-old, while he should have known better, there are some extenuating factors in his background which need to be kept in mind. This does not mean I believe the degree of murder should be mitigated down, but I don’t necessarily believe spending the rest of his life in prison is the right answer either. I would like to see Brandon receive intense therapy to help him overcome his past and if determined that he would be able to re-enter the “outside world” as a productive, contributing member of society, then I would like to see that happen. And I would like to see those who abused him dealt with as well.
We have to stop they bullying cycle!