Friday, July 17, 2009

Episode 33 Matthew Shepard

Episode 33

Matthew Shepard

Hello and welcome to episode 33 of Jay Wont darts podcast, where I learn life lessons, and talk about them into a USB microphone.

This episode of my podcast, I'll talk about Matthew Shepard, a young man in America, killed for the crime of being gay.

I felt pretty moved by Matthews story, told by his parents mostly, and it made me think about how people use homosexuality as a negative term, its a put down to say "you're gay" for example. Researching this episode, I found this Public Service Announcement featuring Matthews mother

And it made me think of the words I use, and that I hear other people use, and do nothing about. Recently at work I heard people walking out and talking about something that they didnt like , they said "that was gay". I felt like I should say something, maybe confront the couple "what, you have a problem with gay people?", as if I were gay myself. Im not gay, but they wouldnt know that, would they? Instead, I just pretended not to hear them, I dont like to cause trouble while I work, the "customer is always right" and all that. In future I dont want to ever use terms like "gay" to mean a bad thing, and will bring it up if people use the word Gay as a negative slander.

Matthew Wayne Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998) was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and subsequently murdered near Laramie, Wyoming. He was attacked on the night of October 6–7, 1998 and died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12, from severe head injuries.

"Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, 21-year-old Shepard met McKinney and Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car.[4] Subsequently, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die. McKinney and Henderson also found out his address and intended to rob his home. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered eighteen hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who at first thought that Shepard was a scarecrow. At the time of discovery, Shepard was still alive, but in a coma.

Shepard suffered a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. As he lay in intensive care, candlelight vigils were held by the people of Laramie.[5]

He was pronounced dead at 12:53 A.M. on October 12, 1998, at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.[6][7][8][9] Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and wallet in their truck.[3]


The two attackers tried to defend what they did to Matthew as saying that as a gay man, Matthew had made a sexual advance on them, and in their disgust, shock and panic, they had killed him to defend themselves, they had lost control of what they were doing because they were so shocked. Its called the Gay Panic Defense. I hadnt heard of this before, but there have been two well known New Zealand cases in recent times.

New Zealand examples.

* In 2003, a gay interior designer, David McNee, was killed[8] by a homeless drug user and part time prostitute, Phillip Layton Edwards. Edwards said at his trial that he told McNee he was not gay, but would masturbate in front of him on a "no-touch" basis for money. The defence successfully argued that Edwards, who had 56 previous convictions and had been on parole for 11 days, was provoked into beating McNee after the former television host violated their "no touching" agreement. Edwards was jailed for nine years for manslaughter.[9][10]

* In July 2009, Ferdinand Ambach, 32, a Hungarian tourist, was convicted of killing Ronald Brown, 69, by hitting him with a banjo and shoving the instrument's neck down Brown's throat. Ambach was initially charged with murder, but the charge was downgraded to manslaughter after Ambach's lawyer successfully invoked the gay panic defence.

The prosecutor in the case charged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard's trust to rob him.[11] During the trial, Chastity Pasley and Kristen Price (the respective girlfriends of McKinney and Henderson at the time of the event) testified under oath that Henderson and McKinney both plotted beforehand to rob a gay man. McKinney and Henderson then went to the Fireside Lounge and selected Shepard as their target. McKinney alleged that Shepard asked them for a ride home. After befriending him, they took him to a remote area of Laramie where they robbed him, beat him severely, and tied him to a fence with a rope from McKinney's truck while Shepard begged for his life. Media reports often contained the graphic account of the pistol whipping and his smashed skull. It was reported that Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears.[12][13] Both girlfriends also testified that neither McKinney nor Henderson was under the influence of drugs at the time.[14][15]

Henderson pleaded guilty on April 5, 1999, and agreed to testify against McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he received two life sentences. The jury in McKinney's trial found him guilty of felony murder. As it began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.[2]

Henderson and McKinney were incarcerated in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins but were transferred to other prisons due to overcrowding.[16]


There had been other attacks on Matthew during his short life.

Because of his sexuality, Shepard faced physical and verbal abuse. During a high school trip to Morocco he was beaten and raped, causing him to withdraw and experience bouts of depression and panic attacks, according to his mother. One of Shepard's friends feared his depression caused him to become involved with drugs during his time in college.

The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, led by Fred Phelps, picketed Shepard's funeral as well as the trial of his assailants,[34][35] displaying signs with slogans such as "Matt Shepard rots in Hell", "AIDS Kills Fags Dead" and "God Hates Fags".[36] When the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that it was legal to display any sort of religious message on city property if it was legal for Casper's Ten Commandments display to remain, Phelps attempted and failed to gain city permits in Cheyenne and Casper to build a monument "of marble or granite 5 or 6 feet (1.8 m) in height on which will be a bronze plaque bearing Shepard's picture and the words: "MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22."[37][38][39][40]

Fred Phelps is well known for being homophobic, hes often in american media protesting gay rights. Phelps and his church claim to have protested over 30,000 events.

As a counterprotest during Henderson's trial, Romaine Patterson, a friend of Shepard's, organized a group of individuals who assembled in a circle around the Phelps group wearing white robes and gigantic wings (resembling angels) that blocked the protesters. Police had to create a human barrier between the two protest groups.[41] While the organization had no name in the initial demonstration, it has since been ascribed various titles, including 'Angels of Peace' and 'Angel Action'.[34][35] The fence to which Shepard was tied and left to die became an impromptu shrine for visitors, who left notes, flowers, and other mementos. It has since been removed by the land owner.

I found this clip of Matthews father talking about the death of his son.

I was pretty moved by what Matthews father said.

Under the current United States federal law[21] and Wyoming state law,[22] crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation were not prosecutable as hate crimes.

A bill was proposed, The Matthew Shepard act, that would serve to protect future victims of attacks on them because they were gay, percieved to be gay, or disabled, it would count as a Hate Crime just as if someone were attacked for being a certain race, now gay people would be protected. Some conservatives, such as James Dobson from Focus on the Family (a group mentioned in GTA Vice City) said that religious people would be forced to accept homosexual people, many religions are strongly against homosexuals, and they felt protecting gay people from attack, under a hate crime offense, that would be basically legalising homosexuality. I'm sad that people still feel so strongly against gay people being granted equal rights.

< press release hoping bill would pass>

Finally, in 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act almost got passed, before the Democrats dropped it before it was approved, President George W Bush had said he might veto it if it came to his desk, George Bush didnt want the bill passed, and most republicans seemed to be against the Matthew Shepard Act.

Before becoming President, Obama had said he was for the bill being passed into law.

On the 2nd of April, 2009 the bill passed, The Matthew Shepard Act became law. Future victims attacked for being gay will be able to class the offense as a Hate Crime, just as attacks based on race, religion or nationality were previously protected.

A play has been made about Matthews story, called The Laramie Project, after Laramie Wyoming near where Matthew was attacked.

Its sad to believe that there are still people out there who feel strongly against gay people. Matthews death was tragic, and has gained a high profile for injustices against homosexuals, I decided to make this podcast episode so that anyone listening would be reminded of Matthew Shepard.

In the years following Shepard's death, his mother Judy has become a well-known advocate for LGBT rights, particularly issues relating to gay youth. She's a prime force behind the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which supports diversity and tolerance in youth organizations.

Created to honor Matthew in a manner that was appropriate to his dreams, beliefs and aspirations, the Foundation seeks to "Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion & Acceptance" through its varied educational, outreach and advocacy programs and by continuing to tell Matthew's story.

The Foundation focuses on three primary areas: erasing hate in society; putting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth first; and ensuring equality for all LGBT Americans.

Matthew was described by his parents as "an optimistic and accepting young man [who] had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."[1]

Thank you for listening to this episode of my podcast.

If you want to contact me, even just to say you listened, send an email to, j a y w o n t d a r t @, I'd appreciate it.

Have a super happy day, bye.



dad talks video


press release years later

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