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A judge overseeing the trial of a teen accused of killing a classmate because he was gay has rejected defense lawyers' appeal for more time to prepare their case.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell surprised many observers Wednesday by denying the request for more time submitted by lawyers for Brandon McInerney, 16.
McInerney, who is being tried as an adult, faces life in prison if convicted of the 2008 murder of 15-year-old Larry King.
His attorneys had sought a delay of several months to allow them to finish interviewing witnesses.
They argued that rejecting the delay would deny McInerney a fair trial.
But Campbell accused the defense of wasting time, pointing out that McInerney's lawyers were well aware that the trial would open shortly after they refused plea deal offer made by the district attorney.
"I don't think there has been appropriate diligence. Once the DA offer was made and you rejected it, you knew that the case was going to go to trial," the judge said.
Prosecutor Maeve Fox earlier warned the judge that additional delays to the trial risked compromising the prosecution's ability to proceed with the case.
"It's becoming a game. We are going to lose witnesses who are going to get fed up with all this," she said.
Scott Wippert, McInerney's lawyer, said he was outraged by the judge's refusal to grant a delay and criticized prosecutors for trying to move to trial.
"It's a scary proposition for a DA to be pushing forward a trial of a 16-year-old boy risking life in prison when, in fact, it's clear, and it's been made clear since at least a month, that we are not going to be ready for a trial," he said.
Fox was unsympathetic and noted that the trial has been years in the making.
"The defense team has had almost two years to prepare for this, and the investigation is probably what they should have been doing at the beginning," she said.
If the defense chooses not to appeal Campbell's decision, the trial will move to jury selection on Monday.
Witnesses to King's murder, which is being treated as a hate crime and sparked outrage in the United States, say McInerney had threatened King on multiple occasions before shooting him in a classroom in front of fellow students on February 12, 2008. King died a day later.
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