|Born||Matthew Wayne Shepard
December 1, 1976
Casper, Wyoming, US
|Died||October 12, 1998
Fort Collins, Colorado
|Cause of death||Torture (officially, homicide)|
|Parents||Judy Peck and Dennis Shepard|
Matthew Wayne Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998) was an American student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998. He was attacked on the night of October 6–7, and died a few days later at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12 from severe head injuries.
During the trial it was widely reported that Shepard was targeted because he was gay. Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.
In 2009, his mother Judy Shepard authored a book The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed. In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (Matthew Shepard Act for short), and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.
Shepard was born in Casper, Wyoming, the first of two sons born to Judy Peck and Dennis Shepard. His younger brother Logan was born in 1981. He attended Crest Hill Elementary School, Dean Morgan Junior High School, and Natrona County High School for his freshman through junior years. Saudi Aramco hired his father in the summer of 1994, and his parents subsequently resided at the Saudi Aramco Residential Camp in Dhahran. During that time, Shepard attended The American School In Switzerland (TASIS), from which he graduated in May 1995. Shepard then attended Catawba College in North Carolina and Casper College in Wyoming, before settling in Denver, Colorado. Shepard became a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and was chosen as the student representative for the Wyoming Environmental Council.
He was described by his father 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."
In February 1995, during a high school trip to Morocco, Shepard was beaten and raped, causing him to experience depression and panic attacks, according to his mother. One of Shepard's friends feared that his depression had driven him to become involved with drugs during his time in college.
Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Shepard met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson for the first time at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming. It was decided that McKinney and Henderson would give Shepard a ride home. McKinney and Henderson subsequently drove the car to a remote, rural area and proceeded to rob, pistol-whip, and torture Shepard, tying him to a fence and leaving him to die. According to their court testimony, McKinney and Henderson also discovered his address and intended to steal from his home. Still tied to the fence, Shepard, who was still alive but in a coma, was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, a cyclist who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow.
Shepard had suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He experienced severe brainstem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature, and other vital functions. 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. While he lay in intensive care, candlelight vigils were held by the people of Laramie.
Funeral protests 
Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, took his church's "God Hates Fags" message to the funeral of Matthew Shepard, held in Casper, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 17, 1998. Two of his picket signs read: "No Tears for Queers" and "Fag Matt in Hell."
Arrests and trial 
Police arrested Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson shortly after the attack, finding the bloody gun and Shepard's shoes and wallet in their truck. Henderson and McKinney later tried to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis for them.
At trial, McKinney offered various rationales to justify his actions. He originally pleaded the gay panic defense, arguing that he and Henderson were driven to temporary insanity by alleged sexual advances by Shepard. At another point, McKinney's lawyer stated that they had wanted to rob Shepard but never intended to kill him.
The prosecutor in the case alleged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard's trust. During the trial, Kristen Price, girlfriend of McKinney, testified that Henderson and McKinney had "pretended they were gay to get [Shepard] in the truck and rob him". McKinney and Henderson went to the Fireside Lounge and selected Shepard after he arrived. McKinney alleged that Shepard asked them for a ride home.
After befriending him, they took him to a remote area outside of Laramie where they robbed him, assaulted him severely, and tied him to a fence with a rope from McKinney's truck while Shepard pleaded for his life. Media reports often contained the graphic account of the pistol whipping and his fractured skull. It was reported that Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was completely covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears. Both girlfriends also testified that neither McKinney nor Henderson were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.
Henderson pleaded guilty on April 5, 1999 and agreed to testify against McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he received two consecutive life sentences. The jury in McKinney's trial found him guilty of felony murder. As they 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.
Hate crime legislation 
Henderson and McKinney were not charged with a hate crime, because no Wyoming criminal statute provided for such a charge. The nature of Shepard's murder led to requests for new legislation addressing hate crime, urged particularly by those who believed that Shepard was targeted on the basis of his sexual orientation. Under then United States federal law and Wyoming state law, crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation were not prosecutable as hate crimes.
In the following session of the Wyoming Legislature, a bill was introduced defining certain attacks motivated by victim identity as hate crimes, however the measure failed on a 30-30 tie in the Wyoming House of Representatives.
At the federal level, then-President Bill Clinton renewed attempts to extend federal hate crime legislation to include homosexual individuals, women, and people with disabilities. These efforts were rejected by the United States House of Representatives in 1999. In September 2000, both houses of Congress passed such legislation; however it was stripped out in conference committee.
On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1592) was introduced as federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors. Shepard's parents were present at the introduction ceremony. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007. Similar legislation passed in the Senate on September 27, 2007 (S. 1105), however then-President George W. Bush indicated he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk. The amendment was dropped by the Democratic leadership because of opposition from conservative groups and President George Bush, and due to the measure being attached to a defense bill there was a lack of support from antiwar Democrats.
On December 10, 2007, congressional powers attached bipartisan hate crimes legislation to a Department of Defense Authorization bill, though failed to get it passed. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said she "is still committed to getting the Matthew Shepard Act passed." Pelosi planned to get the bill passed in early 2008 though did not succeed in that plan. Following his election as President, Barack Obama stated that he was committed to passing the Act.
The U.S. House of Representatives debated expansion of hate crimes legislation on April 29, 2009. During the debate, Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina called the "hate crime" labeling of Shepard's murder a "hoax". Shepard's mother was said to be in the House gallery when the congresswoman made this comment. Foxx later called her comments "a poor choice of words". The House passed the act, designated H.R. 1913, by a vote of 249 to 175. The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28 by Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and a bipartisan coalition; it had 43 cosponsors as of June 17, 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act was adopted as an amendment to S.1390 by a vote of 63-28 on July 15, 2009. On October 22, 2009, the act was passed by the Senate by a vote of 68-29. President Obama signed the measure into law on October 28, 2009.
Public reaction and aftermath 
Romaine Patterson, a friend of Shepard, organized a group of individuals who assembled in a circle around an anti-gay 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.
While the organization had no name in the initial demonstration, it has since been ascribed various titles, including 'Angels of Peace' and 'Angel Action'. 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.
The murder continued to attract public attention and media coverage long after the trial was over. ABC 20/20 ran a story in 2004 suggesting that Shepard had been HIV positive and quoting claims by McKinney, Henderson, and Kristen Price, the prosecutor and a lead investigator that the murder had not been motivated by Shepard's sexuality, but rather was a drug-related robbery that had turned violent. The 20/20 story was widely criticized.
Retired Laramie Police Chief Dave O'Malley stated that the murderers' claims were not credible, but the prosecutor in the case stated that there was ample evidence that drugs were at least a factor in the murder. Other coverage focused on how these more recent statements contradicted those made at and near the trial.
Many musicians have written and recorded songs about the murder, including the Melissa Etheridge song "Scarecrow" on her 1999 album Breakdown. Elton John's 2001 album Songs from the West Coast included "American Triangle" (originally titled "American Tragedy"), a song about Shepard's murder. The American metal band Trivium also composed and recorded "And Sadness Will Sear" on their third album, The Crusade, in honor of Shepard and in protest of closed-mindedness and prejudice.
The American rock band Thursday recorded a song named after Shepard, "M. Shepard", on their 2003 album War All the Time. Lady Gaga performed John Lennon's "Imagine" at the Human Rights Campaign's annual National Dinner in 2009 and changed the lyrics from "above us only sky" to "with only Matthew in the sky".
A play, three narrative films, and a documentary were made about Shepard: The Laramie Project, The Matthew Shepard Story, Anatomy of a Hate Crime, and Laramie Inside Out, and Moral Obligations, a fictionalized account of the night of the murder. The Laramie Project (a play, later turned into a film by HBO) compiles dozens of interviews with citizens of the town of Laramie ranging from a few months after the attack to a few years after. The play is designed to display the town's reaction to the crime.
Ten years later, The Laramie Project created a second play, based on interviews with members of the town, Shepard's mother, and his incarcerated murderer.
The first openly homosexual NBA Player, Jason Collins, wore the jersey number "98" in honor of Shepard during the 2012-2013 season with the Boston Celtics. 
Matthew Shepard Foundation 
His mother is a prime force behind the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which supports diversity and tolerance in youth organizations. The group was founded in December 1998 by Dennis and Judy Shepard in memory of Matthew.
The Foundation focuses on three primary areas: erasing what it considers to be hate in society; putting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth first; and ensuring equality for all LGBT Americans.
Book: The Meaning of Matthew 
The Meaning of Matthew, full title The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed is a 2009 biographical book by Judy Shepard about her son Matthew Shepard. Judy Shepard speaks about her loss, her family memories of Matthew, and the tragic event that changed the Shepards' lives and America. The Meaning of Matthew follows the Shepard family in the days immediately after the crime to see their incapacitated son, kept alive by life support machines; how the Shepards learned of the big response, candlelit vigils and memorial services for their child; how they struggled to navigate the legal system as Matthew's murderers were on trial.
In the book, Judy Shepard explains why she became a gay rights activist, and the challenges and rewards of raising a gay child in America today.
See also 
- Brooke, James (November 21, 1998). "Witnesses Trace Brutal Killing of Gay Student". The New York Times.
- "Matthew Shepard Foundation webpage". Matthew Shepard Foundation. Archived from the original on July 29, 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
- "Obama signs hate-crimes law rooted in crimes of 1998". USA Today. October 28, 2009.
- Julie Cart (September 14, 1999). "Matthew Shepard's Mother Aims to Speak With His Voice". Los Angeles Times.
- Bevacqua, Jillian; Paone, Torie (July 5, 2011). "Judy Shepard speaks out against anti-gay violence". Muhlenberg Weekly.
- "New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder". ABC News. November 26, 2004.
- "New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder".
- "Killer: Shepard Didn't Make Advances". Salon.com. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- Hughes, Jim (15 October 1998). "Wyo. cyclist recalls tragic discovery". The Denver Post (Denver: The Denver Post).
- "University of Wyoming Matthew Shepard Resource Site". University of Wyoming. Retrieved 2006-11-01.
- "Murder charges planned in beating death of gay student". CNN. October 12, 1998. Archived from the original on August 22, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-01.
- Lacayo, Richard (October 26, 1998). "The New Struggle". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2006-11-01.
- "Beaten gay student dies; murder charges planned". CNN. October 12, 1998. Archived from the original on June 20, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "Matthew Shepard Medical Update" (PDF). PVHS. October 12, 1998. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "Top Story". Gay Today. Retrieved 2012-01-03.
- "New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder". ABC News Internet Ventures. November 26, 2004. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "New details emerge about suspects in gay attack". CNN.com (Cable News Network). 13 October 1998. Archived from the original on 2008-05-08. Retrieved 21 January 2007.
- Tuma, Clara, and The Associated Press (April 5, 1999). "Henderson pleads guilty to felony murder in Matthew Shepard case". Court TV. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved 2006-04-06.
- Ramsland, Katherine. "Psychiatry, the Law, and Depravity: Profile of Michael Welner, M.D. Chairman, The Forensic Panel". truTV.
- Cullen, Dave (November 1, 1999). "Quiet bombshell in Matthew Shepard trial". Salon. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
- Loffreda, Beth (2000). Losing Matt Shepard: life and politics in the aftermath of anti-gay murder. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11858-9.
- Chiasson, Lloyd (November 30, 2003). Illusive Shadows: Justice, Media, and Socially Significant American Trials. Praeger. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-275-97507-4.
- "The Daily Camera:Matthew Shepard Murder". Archived from the original on 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2006-04-06.
- Black, Robert W. (October 29, 1999). "Girlfriend: McKinney told of killing". The Daily Camera.
- Cart, Julie (November 5, 1999). "Killer of Gay Student Is Spared Death Penalty; Courts: Matthew Shepard's father says life in prison shows 'mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy.'". Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
- Torkelson, Jean (3 October 2008). "Mother's mission: Matthew Shepard's death changes things". Rocky Mountain News (The E.W. Scripps Co.). Retrieved 16 November 2008.
- Kimball, Emily (June 13, 2009). "Hate-crimes bill would expand federal jurisdiction". Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- Colby College (March 7, 2006). "Mother of Hate-Crime Victim to Speak at Colby". Retrieved 2006-04-06. Press release.
- "Open phones". Talk of the Nation (National Public Radio). October 12, 1998. Retrieved 2006-04-06. "Denounced nationwide as a hate crime" at 1:40 elapsed time.
- "Investigative Programs: Civil Rights: Hate Crimes". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2006-04-06.
- "Map of State Statutes". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 2006-04-06.
- Blanchard, Robert O. (May 1999). "The "Hate State" Myth". Reason. Archived from the original on April 5, 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-06.
- Barrett, Ted, and The Associated Press (September 13, 2000). "President Clinton urges Congress to pass hate crimes bill: GOP aides predict legislation will pass House, but will not become law". CNN. Archived from the original on May 26, 2008. Retrieved 2006-04-07.
- Office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (October 7, 2004). "House Democrats Condemn GOP Rejection of Hate Crimes Legislation". Archived from the original on April 1, 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-07. Press release.
- Simon, R. Bush threatens to veto expansion of hate-crime law, Los Angeles Times, 2007-05-03. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.
- Stout, D. House Votes to Expand Hate Crime Protection, New York Times, 2007-05-03. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
- Wooten, Amy (January 1, 2008). "Congress Drops Hate-Crimes Bill". Windy City Times. Retrieved 2008-07-31.
- Caving in on Hate Crimes, New York Times, 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
- Lynsen, Joshua (13 June 2008). "Obama renews commitment to gay issues". Washington Blade (Window Media LLC Productions). Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
- Grim, Ryan (April 29, 2009). "Virginia Foxx: Story of Matthew Shepard's Murder A "Hoax"". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
- "Congresswoman calls gay death case a `hoax'". Retrieved 2009-04-29.
- Stout, David (April 29, 2009). "House Passes Hate-Crimes Bill". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
- "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Introduced in Senate". Feminist.org. 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2010-03-05.
- "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote:". Retrieved 2009-07-17.
- Roxana Tiron, "Senate OKs defense bill, 68-29," The Hill, found at The Hill website. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
- Pershing, Ben (23 October 2009). "Senate passes measure that would protect gays". The Washington Post.
- Geen, Jessica (October 28, 2009). "Mother of Matthew Shepard welcomes U.S. hate crimes bill". Pink News. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
- "Suspect pleads guilty in beating death of gay college student". CNN. April 5, 1999. Archived from the original on January 2, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- "The Whole World Was Watching". Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- Knittel, Shaun. "The Matthew Shepard paradox: How one U.S. Representative opened hate's old wounds". sgn.org. Seattle Gay News. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
- "Rewriting the Motives Behind Matthew Shepard’s Murder". Recount (New York University). December 8, 2004. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- Carter, Nicole (2009-12-10). "Lady Gaga performs her version of 'Imagine' at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington D.C.". Daily News. News Corporation. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- Hart, Dave (November 12, 2008). "The Laramie Project". The Chapel Hill News. The News & Observer Publishing Company. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- Hugenberg, Jenny (February 14, 2008). "Gay-themed high school play draws protest, support". Kalamazoo Gazette. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Remembering a Cruel Murder: Laramie Revisited". Thefastertimes.com. 2009-10-04. Retrieved 2010-03-05.
- "Writing October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard: An 11-Year Journey". Retrieved 2012-09-26.
Further reading 
- Shepard, Judy; (2009). The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed. New York, NY: Penguin Group USA. ISBN 978-1-59463-057-6.
- Campbell, Shannon; Laura Castaneda (2005). News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, Inc. ISBN 1-4129-0998-8.
- Fondakowski, Leigh; Kaufman, Moises (2001). The Laramie project. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-375-72719-1.
- Garceau, Dee; Basso, Matthew; McCall, Laura (2001). Across the Great Divide: cultures of manhood in the American West. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92471-5.
- Hinds, Patrick; Romaine Patterson (2005). The Whole World Was Watching: Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard. Advocate Books. ISBN 1-55583-901-0.
- Loffreda, Beth (2000). Losing Matt Shepard: life and politics in the aftermath of anti-gay murder. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11859-7.
- Swigonski, Mary E.; Mama, Robin S.; Ward, Kelly (2001). From Hate Crimes to Human Rights: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard. New York: Routledge. ISBN 1-56023-256-0.
- McConnell, David; (2013). American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men. Akashic Books. ISBN 978-1617751325.
- "The Laramie project" by Moises Kaufman
- The Matthew Shepard Foundation
- Matthew Shepard Resource Site at the University of Wyoming
- Matthew Shepard collection at the University of Wyoming - American Heritage Center