Lethal egos of legal eagles

February 11, 2009

A colleague of mine commented in their blog yesterday that the lack of respect for, and derision towards, the local gay and lesbian community in the year following Oxnard teen Larry King’s murder is on par with the childish antics of a fifth grader.

I’d like to say today that the attorneys handling the trial of King’s alleged killer are just as childish, if not more. I’m not a lawyer, so maybe someone can chime in here, but to my eyes, I’ve seen too many high-profile courtroom cases that end up becoming more of a spectacle for preening attorneys and judges, than they are about serving justice.

The murder trial against Brandon McInerney, the 15-year-old being tried as an adult for the classroom shooting death of the openly-gay King, is the perfect example. Firstly, it begs the question: should a teen be tried as an adult?

Secondly: does a teen even understand the very adult charges and the very adult atmosphere that a court of law demands from people?

The lawyers in this case are articulate and top notch, yet manipulative. In today’s daily paper, the prosecutor is quoted as saying McInerney’s second round fired into King’s head was the “coup de grace” shot, in line with the boy’s “Racist, skinhead philosophies.”

If I was 15, I don’t think I would have understood half of what was being said here, much less the gravity of the charges. An attorney’s job, yes, is to persuade a jury to go down one of two paths: guilty or innocent. But would any conscionable juror, though, ever consider that the grandstanding and deliberation and legal posturing are really more about the lawyers’ images than the person on trial?

I would, and that’s why I would probably never make it past the first round of jury selection.

I’m reminded of the late judge Laurence Rittenband, who presided over Roman Polanski’s sex crime trial in the late 1970s. It became more of a sideshow about the judge’s self-important, Hollywood image than it did about bringing justice to the fore.

Where’s the real childishness on display here? Is it from the ego-stroking legal side? Or is it from the underage minor who committed a very adult act?

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