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.