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Open Access Publications from the University of California

THE BODY BRANDED: LGBT HATE MURDER, LEGAL PERSONHOOD, AND SOCIAL RESPONSES IN THE OXNARD, CALIFORNIA CASE OF LAWRENCE KING

  • Author(s): Longoria II, Rolando Rene
  • Advisor(s): Bhavnani, Kum-Kum
  • Zamponi, Simonetta F
  • et al.
Abstract

The Ventura County Superior Court declared a mistrial in June, 2011, after three years of litigation against Brandon McInerney for the murder of Lawrence King resulted in a hung jury. This study explores if current legal systems can process cases of hate-motivated murder in which the victim's identity straddles multiple minority statuses simultaneously, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, abuse survivor, and citizenship status. Due to the non-normative gender and sexuality experienced by Lawrence King, the social and legal dynamics of this case require knowledge of how citizenship and legal classification are negotiated at the level of the body. In order to achieve a nuanced understanding of the interplay between legal codes of citizenship and social dynamics of inclusion, the doctorate interrogates theories of "the imaginary body" and "civil personhood and social death" to better comprehend how the law classifies human bodies. This research contextualizes litigation and jurisprudence through a quasi-ethnographic study of Ventura County and by conducting interviews in Oxnard. Courtroom ethnography, media analysis, and archival research revealed histories of structural violence, resistance to racial supremacy, and the life story of a sexual invert expelled from Oxnard in 1945. This study indicates that hate-motivated murder may occur across multiple identity factors simultaneously, although the current legal system can adjudicate hate crimes in relation to a single identity characteristic. Due to legacies of personhood and jurisprudence that inculcate heterosexism and other prejudices into the structure of litigation, hate crime law is conducive to legal arguments claiming the assailant experienced temporary psychosis based on the victim's sexual or gender identity. In addition to tracing the origin and function of homosexual panic defenses, this study investigates the ways in which explicit and implicit panic affected the jury during the trial of Brandon McInerney and the historical case of Lucy Hicks.

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