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Press ReleaseHate Crimes
ADL Welcomes Guilty Verdict Against Second Defendant in Matthew Shepard Case

New York, NY, November 3, 1999 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the verdict in the trial of Aaron McKinney, who was found guilty by a Laramie, Wyo. jury of second-degree murder and felony murder in the brutal slaying of gay college student Matthew Shepard.

"This judgment sends a powerful message that people who act out their hate against others because of their race, religion or sexual orientation will find no leniency in the courts," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "We commend the prosecution team, and we are gratified that the jury handed down a verdict reflecting the heinous nature of this crime."

The jury found McKinney, 22, guilty of felony murder and two counts of second-degree murder. He also was convicted on charges of aggravated robbery and kidnapping. McKinney’s accomplice, Russell Henderson, previously pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping charges.

Mr. Foxman commended the judge’s decision to reject the defense’s attempt to explain McKinney’s actions as a manifestation of so-called "gay panic," saying the defense theory was "a weak excuse for someone who acted without compassion in violently bludgeoning an innocent victim."

While applauding the McKinney verdict, Mr. Foxman noted, "This crime should underscore for legislators in Wyoming and around the country the risks we face when hate erupts in criminal conduct. Not every hate crime will carry with it a death sentence, and yet we should take all hate crimes seriously, not just the high profile ones. Hate crimes warrant tough penalties not only because they impact on broad communities, but also because such penalties have the potential to deter bigots from committing more serious crimes down the road."

The League has urged legislators in Wyoming to pass a hate crimes law based on model ADL legislation that would provide enhanced penalties for lesser crimes motivated by bias. To date, 40 states have enacted tough hate crimes laws, many based on the ADL model.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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