(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - A judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the case of 17-year-old Brandon McInerney, accused of murdering his gay classmate 15-year-old Larry King, after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on the degree of McInerney's guilt.
The nine-woman, three-man panel said they took a series of votes. The last vote was tallied with seven in favor of voluntary manslaughter and five jurors supporting either first-degree or second-degree murder.
Prosecutors now have to decide whether to re-file murder and hate crime charges against McInerney who is now age 17 but was 14 at the time of the killing. He was tried as an adult. They had offered a deal of 25 years to life if he pleaded guilty, but his lawyers passed. A first-degree murder conviction carried a maximum sentenced of more than 50 years in prison.
One juror, who identified himself only as juror no. 10, told The Associated Press that several members of the panel thought McInerney should never have been tried as an adult.
"I don't think so," the juror said, when asked if the district attorney should have pursued an adult prosecution. "He was 14. Just trying to get in the head of a 14-year-old (is hard.)"
Ventura County prosecutor Maeve Fox did not comment after the trial. She contended McInerney embraced a white supremacist philosophy that sees homosexuality as an abomination. Police found Nazi-inspired drawings and artifacts at his house. A white supremacist expert also testified the hate-filled ideology was the reason for the killing.
Fox also argued the attack was premeditated, noting at least six people heard McInerney make threats against King in the days leading to the shooting.
The defense psychologist said he was in a dissociative state - acting without thinking - when he pulled the trigger at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, a city about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
McInerney's lawyers also said he suffered physical abuse at home from his father, who has since died, and didn't receive the proper supervision that would have kept him out of trouble. They said the Nazi imagery was part of a school project on tolerance.
McInerney did not take the stand during the nine-week trial.
King's family sued the school district for failing to protect their son. The lawsuit is pending.