Regarding: “Reading between the lines: What you should know about Larry King and Brandon McInerney” (Cover story, 8/4)
You are to be commended for one of the first objective, nonprejudicial articles I have read concerning this tragic event. And it is indeed tragic. On both sides. But what I have failed to understand is why the adults — all of them — involved in the lives of both of these boys did not step in to avoid a violent interaction. The school administration and teachers were all aware of what was going on and how troubled and troubling Larry King’s behavior was. The people in charge at Casa Pacifica are supposed to know and understand what drives the behavior of the troubled teens in their care. Did they advise Larry that his behavior might bring adverse reactions? Did they try to find out why Larry was so intent on drawing negative attention to himself? (By “negative” I am referring to his going out of his way to sexually harass other boys in school.) Was anyone aware that Brandon was walking a slippery slope between rage and virtual insanity? And if so, did it occur to anyone to intercede, to talk with him, to try to assuage his anger and help him deal with Larry’s taunts? Were there any educational activities going on at school to try and help students understand what it means to be gay, and that it is not a choice, any more than our skin color or the color of our eyes is a choice? And what is the climate at that school today? You have a new group of students, but you have the same staff. What is the climate at Casa Pacifica?
It is all well and good, necessary in fact, to be understanding and supportive of gay teenagers, but are they attempting to keep them safe, to help them express themselves in ways that are not confrontational to straight students? Are our gay students assisted by anyone (a teacher bringing Larry King a green dress to wear to school is not exactly “assistance”) in learning how to live as a gay person, with pride and respect for oneself and others, regardless of how horrible others may act? There is so much involved in this case; it is a very convoluted situation which requires that all the players look at their respective parts in this tragedy and try to understand what they could have done differently, what they can do in the future, and how they can help both straight and gay students deal with uncomfortable and potentially dangerous confrontations.
Telling a gay student to conform and act like everyone else is not an answer. Telling a straight student to accept a gay student’s harassment is not an answer. There were no answers given to these children, and as a result one of them is dead and the other has virtually lost his life. As for Brandon, I have no idea what is in this boy’s heart and mind, but at 14, he was/is a mere child and to try him as an adult is to make this tragedy even worse than it is, if that is possible. With the trial supposed to end in mid-August, what options do these jurors have in sentencing this boy? His life has already been a hell, so is jail going to be any better — or worse? He will have to live with what he has done for the rest of his life, and at some point a conscience will kick in and he will be horrified at his own actions. Hopefully. When his brain matures.
While the world looks at these two very troubled boys and stands back to watch this tragedy play out. I believe that a criminal should pay for his crime(s). But arresting and treating a 14-year-old boy as an adult is not justice; it is revenge. This is so very, very sad. And nobody has stepped up to the plate.
Jan Richman Schulman
An open mind
Although the circumstances are very sad and tragic, I appreciate you showing the entire picture.
That is part of some people’s problems, they are so closed-minded and media-coerced.
I went to school in the early ’80s. I never witnessed any gay bashing or issues. The gay people at our school were just like everyone else. I will never understand this mentality of making a point out of the differences between one human being and another.
Thank you for the great write.
Thinking it through
I enjoyed and learned from your incisive article on a difficult issue. You took an unpopular view in a liberal publication, but a balanced one. These issues are a lot more complicated than we imagine at first blush. As a fellow liberal and writer, I try to avoid the doctrinaire liberal line, and to think through issues, something you obviously did.
One human life has already been destroyed. I’m afraid our system is bent on destroying another, instead of trying to save it. As a society and as heterosexual individuals, we do not understand gays, even if we try. We can’t stand in the shoes of another, especially on such a fundamental human characteristic, but we can have compassion for both gays and heterosexuals, and we should. Thank you again for a fine, well-thought-out and well-written article.
The Brandon I knew
I read your article and understand your viewpoint from your experiences in Oxnard Shores and Pierpont. I was a resident of Silver Strand for more than 15 years when this occurred. A property owner, not a renter, and a parent observing what is going on in this neighborhood. If you had been a resident like myself, you would have seen the behavior of young Brandon and his group of friends. The presence of so many like Brandon is why I had to sell my house in Silver Strand so my child wouldn’t be influenced. Please take your blinders off. I gave up surfing my favorite beach break, the reason I actually bought a house there, so my child could grow up safely, not around kids like Brandon. He not only killed a young man, but he and his friends also intimidated folks like myself to the point where we had to move for our own safety. I am not prejudiced; I unfortunately actually have had contact with this young man prior to his murder of another.
Formerly of Silver Strand
In the wrong hands
Your article about Amnesty International, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” was neat. (News, 8/4)
Even better was the article by Michael Sullivan, “Reading between the lines” (Brandon McInerney/Larry King). It contained an insight about a massive national circumstance all over the United States regarding the criminal justice system.
At page 12, the article notes that the PROSECUTION and not the PRESIDING judge had the discretion to try as an adult Brandon McInerney (a 13-year-old boy who turn 14 a few days before he shot Larry King). If convicted as an adult Brandon McInerney could spend more than 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Judges, and not prosecutors, should be making the decision about who should be tried as an adult. All over the United States, the district attorneys (prosecutors) file charges which contain the larger sentence times. Prosecutors, in effect by their selection of charges, are controlling the types of sentencing and how long a convicted defendant must spend in jail.
I have heard that in California the cost of the corrections system is annually $20 billion compared to the $10 billion spent on the UC university system. The numbers should be just the reverse. Twice as many dollars should be spent on education.
One way to deal with that would be to return to judges the discretion to decide who should be tried as an adult and what the sentence should be after they have heard all the evidence.
Keep up the good work.