Lawrence King, two years before his murder

Opening arguments were heard today in the case of Brandon McInerney, who is accused of shooting his classmate Lawrence King in Oxnard, Calif., in February 2008. The murder took place in a computer classroom in front of 24 classmates.

King, 15, was openly gay.

McInerney’s attorney is using gay panic as a defense. They said their witnesses will testify that King showed romantic interest in McInerney, which humiliated the shooter.

The prosecution will try to show that the two students argued days before the murder but that a gay kid who was bullied in school wasn’t stalking skinhead bullies around campus. King, who had begun wearing makeup and jewelry to school, became the target of bullying. Even if King had expressed interest in McInerney, it wouldn’t be a justification for murder.

According to the LA Times, one student will testify that the day before the murder, McInerney said he was going to shoot King. That would prove premeditation.

After McInerney shot King in the head, he ran from the school and was caught several blocks away. He has not denied killing King.

At the courthouse today, McInerney’s older brother was found talking to jurors, telling them that his brother’s fate was in their hands. The judge banned him from the courthouse unless called to testify.

Although he was only 14 at the time, McInerney is being tried as an adult. He faces hate crime penalty enhancements that could result in a sentence of 53 years to life in prison if convicted.