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At Teen's Trial, Bullying Of Gays In Focus

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At Teen's Trial, Bullying Of Gays In Focus

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At Teen's Trial, Bullying Of Gays In Focus

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR's Carrie Kahn has more.

CARRIE KAHN: According to prosecutors, he shot King once in the back of the head, looked around the class, made eye contact with several students, then shot King again. Those two shots resonated far beyond the walls of E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard.

ELLEN DEGENERES: I need to talk to you about something that's really serious and really sad.

KAHN: Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, as well as gay rights advocates around the country, took to the airwaves. They started Facebook tributes and held annual vigils. They said gay teens were facing an epidemic of bullying in schools.

DEGENERES: Larry was not a second-class citizen; I am not a second- class citizen. It is okay if you're gay.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

KAHN: Prosecutor Maeve Fox told jurors he is a cold-blooded murderer.

MAEVE FOX: The evidence in this case will prove to you that this killing was an execution.

KAHN: Then, surprisingly, Fox also told jurors that there will not be any evidence in the trial about the victim's sexuality. Fox said that question will never be answered. Prosecutors declined to comment for this story.

LAURIE LEVENSON: I think the prosecutor is trying really hard not to put the victim on trial.

KAHN: Laurie Levenson is a former federal prosecutor.

LEVENSON: It doesn't really matter what the victim's actual sexual orientation was. What matters is what the defendant thought it was and whether the defendant killed him because he was against gays.

KAHN: But clearly, King's sexuality is the central focus of the defense's case. Attorney Scott Wippert told jurors that King was openly gay, wore makeup and girls clothing to school and constantly harassed his client.

SCOTT WIPPERT: He targeted Brandon McInerney. He knew that what he was doing to Brandon was bothering him, and he knew it, and he was doing it over and over again. He was making unwanted sexual advances to a 14-year-old boy.

KAHN: Jay Thomas, who heads the Rainbow Alliance, a local advocacy center, says everyone is anxious to put this case behind them. But he says the issue of bullying and gay teens is still not being adequately addressed in the local schools.

JAY THOMAS: I think that there's a desire within the school system, within certain teachers and educators to learn more and do more. But I do think that the schools here are still uncomfortable and still don't know exactly what to do.

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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