The murder of Matthew Shepard - revisited
September 15, 2013 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Matthew Shepard's murder in 1998 became a symbol of hate crime that helped to drive anti-hate crime legislation. But "what if nearly everything you thought you knew about Matthew Shepard’s murder was wrong?"

The thoughtful re-examination of Shepard's life and death comes courtesy of journalist Stephen Jimenez, whose upcoming book The Book of Matt delves into the secrets surrounding Shepard's murder. The Dish interviewed him about his involvement with the story and why it's taken so long for the complexities to come out.
posted by Athanassiel (70 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
But "what if nearly everything you thought you knew about Matthew Shepard’s murder was wrong?"

I'll level with you, I think I'd still be OK with laws against hate crimes.
posted by mhoye at 6:35 PM on September 15, 2013 [88 favorites]


Hmmm, he says, the genesis of his argument came from an anonymous letter that never showed up during the case or anything written after it for years?

I don't know, I'm inclined to subscribe to the Matthew Shephard's take, even if they have an interest: “Attempts now to rewrite the story of this hate crime appear to be based on untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo rather than the actual evidence gathered by law enforcement and presented in a court of law."
posted by smoke at 6:40 PM on September 15, 2013


a drug influenced self hate hate crime is still a hate crime. the argument that when high they fucked around and that mckinney denies being anything but straight seems consistent with the brutality of the crime.
posted by nadawi at 6:41 PM on September 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


If McKinney killed Shepard because he was gay, does it mater if McKinney was gay or bisexual himself?

On preview: Agreed with nadawi.
posted by maryr at 6:43 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you provide meth users with an unlimited supply of meth, does their violence level remain high or drop down close to the level of alcoholics? In other words: is this a drug war problem or is meth just an inherently violent drug?
I'll level with you, I think I'd still be OK with laws against hate crimes.
I have difficulty with the concept of hate crimes for two reasons. First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking. Second, I'm not convinced that committing a horrible violent crime for some reason is any worse then just committing a random act of violent crime.

If our criminal justice system was really about rehabilitation, then it would make sense to sentence people differently based on their motivation. Someone who commits absolutely random crime probably has very different issues than someone who targets, say, particular minorities.

As I was reading the article, I found myself thinking "oh, it was just a drug crime," followed by "WTF, self?!" I don't like the fact that I'm more OK with a horrible crime that is the result of a drug issue than one that targets homosexuals.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:43 PM on September 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


This is why our society shouldn't martyr people without their prior consent. See also Anne Frank.
posted by meadowlark lime at 6:44 PM on September 15, 2013


Hey, remember, intent matters in all cases, b1tr0t, Intent is thought.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:45 PM on September 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


I really don't see how this changes anything.

And how does it color our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?

Um, it doesn't? Doesn't this sound like blaming the victim? "Well, they partied together, so it was unlikely that the guy secretly hated himself and his activities because nobody ever takes out their own self-hate violently on someone who reminds them of it, especially if they're on a drug fueled rampage?"
posted by bleep at 6:46 PM on September 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


...Pretty sure Anne Frank was killed because she was Jewish.
posted by maryr at 6:46 PM on September 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


I have difficulty with the concept of hate crimes for two reasons. First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking. Second, I'm not convinced that committing a horrible violent crime for some reason is any worse then just committing a random act of violent crime.

Hate crimes have more victims than just the one. Killing Shepard for no reason is only targeting Shepard, but killing him for being gay is a threat against every other homosexual in the community. That's why they're judged more harshly. It's not a matter of thoughtcrime at all.
posted by kafziel at 6:47 PM on September 15, 2013 [73 favorites]


b1tr0t: "I have difficulty with the concept of hate crimes for two reasons. First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking. Second, I'm not convinced that committing a horrible violent crime for some reason is any worse then just committing a random act of violent crime."

I don't think your viewpoint on this is consistent unless you have a problem with things like degrees of murder. Motivation figures into a whole lot of criminal law, and, as with those laws, you can't be guilty of a hate crime if you have the thought but don't commit the act.
posted by invitapriore at 6:50 PM on September 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


there's a reason there are different degrees of criminal charges. it confuses me that people seemingly only have a problem with this when it comes to hate crimes, but have no road blocks to understanding something like murder vs homicide.
posted by nadawi at 6:50 PM on September 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


A thought crime is just something you think about without actually doing. If you go ahead and take an action, whatever thoughts you had that caused you to do it is relevant to figuring out your punishment.
posted by bleep at 6:55 PM on September 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Hate crime is viewed differently for the same reason terrorism is. The victims are not just those who die, but the groups the attacks intend to make live in fear.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:55 PM on September 15, 2013 [34 favorites]


Hate crimes have more victims than just the one. Killing Shepard for no reason is only targeting Shepard, but killing him for being gay is a threat against every other homosexual in the community. That's why they're judged more harshly. It's not a matter of thoughtcrime at all.
I hadn't thought of it as a punishment for "tribal" warfare, but that does make more sense.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:56 PM on September 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is a really interesting article, and I'm glad it was posted.

There are valuable reasons for telling certain stories in a certain way at pivotal times, but that doesn’t mean we have to hold on to them once they’ve outlived their usefulness.

There's a lot more depth to ponder here than just the same ol' "hate crime/thought crime" argument, and it would be unfortunate if the thread went that direction just because an early commenter went favorite-bobbing instead of bothering to read the article.
posted by cribcage at 6:56 PM on September 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking.

No, it's not. It's using a crime to terrorise a class.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:57 PM on September 15, 2013 [27 favorites]


There's a lot more depth to ponder here than just the same ol' "hate crime/thought crime" argument, and it would be unfortunate if the thread went that direction just because an early commenter went favorite-bobbing instead of bothering to read the article.
I wouldn't mind at all if a mod deleted the hate-crime part of my initial comment.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:57 PM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gosh, there's never been a fake letter written and sent in regarding a famous murder case, has there?
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:07 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is why our society shouldn't martyr people without their prior consent. See also Anne Frank.

So, you think a minor who'd been stripped of her citizenship before dying in a concentration camp where she'd been imprisoned for being Jewish should... what, fill out a form or something?
posted by mhoye at 7:07 PM on September 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


[We're not going to redact part of a comment that people have reacted to already - y'all just go ahead and have the conversation you want to have.]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:09 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I possibly should have chosen a different quote from the article to go with, because it is actually very interesting and thoughtful. Like this:
Whether it was a hate crime, a drug crime, or a combination of the two, it’s hard to shake the suspicion that self-hate and a misguided culture of masculinity, which taught McKinney to abhor in himself what Shepard had learned to embrace, was as complicit as anything else in the murder of Matthew Shepard.

That is, of course, a kind of hate crime — just not as straightforward as the one we’ve embraced all these years.
I don't think anyone's arguing that hate crime is ok, or even that Shepard's murder wasn't a hate crime. But there is more to be gained from investigating the incident, including more understanding of how much society needs to change for this not to happen again.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:09 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yea, the framing of the FPP is unnecessarily provocative but the article has some nuance there.
posted by sweetkid at 7:12 PM on September 15, 2013


The thoughtful re-examination of Shepard's life and death

You're kidding, right?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:14 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking.

There's an easy distinction between a thought crime and a hate crime: hate crimes have victims.
posted by mhoye at 7:15 PM on September 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


One of the most baffling components of the coverage of this book has been the folks essentially saying "this book can't be wrong--it was written by a gay man!" What a weird claim to stake. Not to say I have any opinion on its relative merit--I haven't read the book. But it seems to pop up in a lot of what I've read about this.

Breitbart is absolutely salivating over this book, by the way.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 7:20 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is kind of tangential, but since people are expressing disbelief that anyone could articulate a position against hate crime legislation, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project's explanation seems relevant, as it's the only detailed explanation of that position I've seen. (Though there's a link to an AFSC publication at the bottom of the page, suggesting it's an idea that's been kicked around in certain, uh, social justice-y circles.)
posted by hoyland at 7:21 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The article insinuates a counter-factual history that hate crime laws would not have come into existence if this information had come out sooner, but I believe this reading of the case would have created not only hate crime laws, but actual reform to our drug laws, *and* could have potentially thrust of the horrific realities of meth use in midwestern america onto the national spotlight a decade earlier.

If true, this was a spectacular failure of journalism, namely, assuming the american people are too ill-informed to understand anything beyond 8th grade levels of nuance.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:22 PM on September 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


[We are not doing a nitpicky Anne Frank derail, sorry. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:30 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]



If you provide meth users with an unlimited supply of meth, does their violence level remain high or drop down close to the level of alcoholics? In other words: is this a drug war problem or is meth just an inherently violent drug?


Anecdotally, I'd say it was the former. Without the paranoia that comes with fear of prosecution and desperation that comes with a lack of supply, meth use and meth users tend to be a generally mild, enjoyable group. Of course, both of those two things are pretty fucking unlikely in this world we live in, which is why I'd never recommend trying it and why I'm watching football instead of another program instead of the one on AMC tearing up my Twitter feed tonight.

There's never been any doubt in my mind that the Matthew Shepherd killing was more complicated than many portrayed it. There's drugs and class issues galore I'm sure. But it doesn't make stringing someone up the way he was any less horrific.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:32 PM on September 15, 2013


what if nearly everything you thought you knew about Matthew Shepard’s murder was wrong?

The idea that I know anything about the Matthew Shepard murder compared to the jury that heard the evidence is ridiculous.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:37 PM on September 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Mens rea is an element in most crimes. I've never understood the argument that bigotry should get a special pass.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking.

Its called mens rea. Its at the core of every murder case ever.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:42 PM on September 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


On preview, what Navelgazer said.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:42 PM on September 15, 2013


I wouldn't mind at all if a mod deleted the hate-crime part of my initial comment.

Oh, don’t do that or worry about it. It’s a discussion, that’s how we learn things. It’s not a forum to show everyone how smart and righteous you are. We’ve both thinking about things differently because of your comment.
posted by bongo_x at 7:54 PM on September 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've heard variations of this spin on the Shepard murder for years, and what has stood out for me is how often these claims were made during the long battle to get hate crime legislation passed by opponents of such laws.
posted by DrMew at 8:10 PM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh, I thought I read this theory about 5 years ago or more. Does anyone else recall an article postulating a similar theory?
posted by latkes at 8:44 PM on September 15, 2013


Also want to weigh-in that I am a queer and oppose hate crimes legislation.
posted by latkes at 8:47 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind at all if a mod deleted the hate-crime part of my initial comment.

No! I find it admirable in the extreme that you seem to have changed your mind based on new viewpoints. That is so incredibly rare. Especially on the Internet. Even on Metafilter.
posted by zardoz at 8:54 PM on September 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also want to weigh-in that I am a queer and oppose hate crimes legislation.

The idea of hate crimes as 'threats to a community' is a useful and illuminating way of putting it, but I still think it's treacherous ground.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:00 PM on September 15, 2013


I can't think of a less cutesy way of saying it, so I'll just go ahead:

Some of us are already still on a pretty treacherous ground.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:14 PM on September 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Huh, I thought I read this theory about 5 years ago or more. Does anyone else recall an article postulating a similar theory?

I vaguely remember something similar on 60 minutes back when I was in high school-- I think that would've been around 2005, give or take. I only remember because we performed The Laramie Project that year and I found a lot of the sensationalism around it as opposed to the focus on the humanity that you got from The Laramie Project really... squicky, I guess, at the time.
posted by NoraReed at 9:16 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hate crime laws make sense, but only in the cases where you are taking an institution to task.

Killing a person because he's gay isn't any worse than killing him because he's a Lithuanian, unless you are a governor or sheriff or president, and you decide to kill all Lithuanians (or gays) in your area to make room for the immigrants you hope to attract from wherever. Then it's genocide, and people of conscience ought to condemn it.

The idea that killing gays has a chilling effect on other gays is valid, especially if the prevailing mood in a certain area seems to condone it. But getting mugged on the way home from a movie has a certain chilling effect, too. That doesn't mean it's okay to pass a law making it a special crime to mug movie goers. Or, for that matter, women. Assault is assault, whether it's committed on a gay, a straight, a woman, or, for that matter, even a police officer. I support recognizing degrees of assault, even various types of homicide. I agree that the intent of the actor ought to be a factor. I also support the legal distinctions that notice torture. As for the penalties, I dunno.

This is where logic runs into reality. Our legal system doesn't seem to be able to service the laws we have with any equitable results. The law ought to see shades of gray, but it also ought to be able to distinguish between black and white issues, a thing it doesn't seem to be able to do. The poor are under-represented, the wealthy get a better deal. I could rant on about that part, but I don't think it's necessary to do that to make my point. Which is: it's actually hard to write a good law. It's harder to figure how to write a fair law, and impossible to write a law that insures either justice or fairness.

Laws ought to address our outrage, but they shouldn't be inspired by it.
posted by mule98J at 9:28 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, back in 2004 Jimenez worked with the ABC news show 20/20 on this stuff. ABC published an article, New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder, that ran with the episode, reporting some of this same stuff - Shepard was involved with Laramie's meth scene, he'd been seen by witnesses hanging out with McKinney, McKinney was at least bisexual, the two had been lovers, etc. It's mentioned in the 2nd link, along with the objections from GLAAD at the time.

It looks like this book more clearly fills out details and sources for that information, which is good, right? Truth is good.

McKinney's "gay panic" defense almost certainly did at least as much to spread the Hate Crime wave as Shepard's friends' initial push to make sure his sexuality wasn't covered up like in so many previous cases. If McKinney and Shepard had been lovers the "gay panic" defense looks like nothing but a legal ruse, but it's still not difficult to imagine a scenario in which homophobia played a role in the violence - McKinney was conflicted and freaked out, or was still mostly closeted and didn't want Henderson in particular to know he was gay/that he and Matthew had been sex partners, etc.

Whatever the truth, it's kind of a jaw-dropping irony that McKinney's apparent fear of being out did so much to help raise awareness of anti-gay violence.
posted by mediareport at 9:38 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Meant to add: For anyone paying even a bit of attention to this story over the years, the "EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT MATTHEW SHEPARD'S MURDER IS A LIE!" framing is pretty overblown.
posted by mediareport at 9:39 PM on September 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


The idea that killing gays has a chilling effect on other gays is valid, especially if the prevailing mood in a certain area seems to condone it. But getting mugged on the way home from a movie has a certain chilling effect, too. That doesn't mean it's okay to pass a law making it a special crime to mug movie goers.

"Chilling" is kind of underselling what living in fear for your life is like, I suspect.

Anyway, if movie goer targeted murder was common, it would be entirely appropriate to create a law to address that issue specifically and increase penalties as a deterrent.

It's not a question of which group deserves more protection though, it's a question of who is being targeted. A lot of this legislation is based on a model the ADL helped propagate which covers a wide variety of potentially targeted groups. These aren't laws just created for one group.

"A person commits a Bias-Motivated Crime if, by reason of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender of another individual or group of individuals, he violates Section ____ of the Penal Code (insert code provisions for criminal trespass, criminal mischief, harassment, menacing. intimidation, assault, battery and or other appropriate statutorily proscribed criminal conduct)."

It's not that murdering a straight white guy for money is less of a tragedy, just that crimes that target groups are of a different nature and suggest an additional detterent as penalty because they harm so many victims beyond those directly attacked.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:47 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


The old example of why some crimes are hate crimes is that of graffiti: normally obnoxious at worst, but daub some swastikas on a synagoge wall and suddenly you hit the evening news.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:51 PM on September 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh, that's a great way to put it.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:11 PM on September 15, 2013


Interesting to see this brought up. This past June , four arrests were made in the case of the shooting at a gay youth club in Tel Aviv in 2009.
To make a very long, still very unclear story short, it appears that one of the counselors was having sexual relations with a minor (whether consensual or not is currently in heated debate), and his brother is the man accused of committing the shooting spree.
This sprouted a national discussion questioning the legitimacy of the phrase hate crime in this context, and actually gave the homophobic public fuel to raise the question of entrusting youth to be counseled by gay adults, posing a greater risk of sexual abuse.

I honestly believe both these murders to be hate crimes. We have some black and white concept of hate crimes, as if it only counts if it's as straightforward as the KKK. Self-hatred, lies and mistrust based on sexuality, or religion, or color of one's skin - that's hatred in my book.
posted by alona at 11:11 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Should have added: explanation of the Bar-Noar arrests.
posted by alona at 11:17 PM on September 15, 2013


Hate crimes are difficult to identify at the middle because people swear before and during an assault. I've been called a nigger a bitch and a faggot on separate occasions in the course of being assaulted. Probably some I don't remember too.

Some hate crimes are easily identified. Sometimes the guy punching you [have the self-respect to run away yo] is using common epithets as another means of assault - the words reflect more accurately on society than it does on him really.
posted by vapidave at 12:06 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Article's pretty squooshy after "what if everything you thought you knew...."

The phrase "Sunday-morning quarterbacking" seems apt enough.
posted by Twang at 12:49 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I marched when Shepherd died, though I was a young thing myself. It's a strange thing to look back on something like this and think about it in this way.

The article talks about how the misshaping of the Shepherd case was necessary for gay rights - I wonder at that, myself, at how moral the distortion of crimes or killings in order to make them politically useful is. I think some people were honestly misled - in a world where bias killings are common, everything looks like a bias killing, rather than a domestic dispute.

I also wonder - I obviously haven't read the book. But it notes that Shepherd was HIV positive. I wonder if that, more than anything else, might have been what caused the turn towards violence...at a time when HIV was a death sentence rather than a totally treatable disease (which still boggles my mind).
posted by corb at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2013



Mens rea is an element in most crimes.

the distinguishing feature of hate crime laws is motive, not mens rea. the latter is "did you intend to do the act," and the former is "why did you do the act."
posted by jpe at 4:49 AM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


mckinney's refusal to portray himself as anything besides straight (and his insistence that gay panic was the cause) paints a different picture than a domestic dispute or hiv panic. from this telling it seems like mckinney's part in the murder was because he was angry that someone was gay - it just happened to be two someones and one of those was himself. what doesn't seem to change here (at least with the info provided) is henderson's role. the fact that they were high and looking for drug money is really just another sad detail.
posted by nadawi at 6:28 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


jpe, I don't think that's true.

A person that's driving recklessly for fun and accidentally kills someone is guilty of criminal vehicular homicide.

A person that has an unpredictable medical problem while driving and kills someone is not guilty of criminal vehicular homicide.

In neither case did they intend to kill anyone, the distinguishing element is their motivation.

Similarly, degrees of murder all require intent to kill, but the underlying "why" affects the harshness of the sentencing.
posted by kavasa at 7:09 AM on September 16, 2013


The salient fact about the Matthew Shepard murder isn't that it was a hate crime, but that it was so plausible that it could have been one that nobody doubted it at the time. People being beaten up or killed for being gay was not at all an unusual occurance at the time. That one particular incident of it was more complicated doesnt change that fact.
posted by empath at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not that murdering a straight white guy for money is less of a tragedy, just that crimes that target groups are of a different nature and suggest an additional detterent as penalty because they harm so many victims beyond those directly attacked.

Fair enough. I must agree with you, in that the psychology of this type of person is scarier than the simple druggie who gets caught up in a gunfight during a robbery. I'm not so sure I go along with you in minimizing the chilling effect of living in a neighborhood where you may get gunned down from a passing car just for being on the sidewalk. I don't mean, by this, to dismiss the dehumanizing of any individual as some vague eccentricity. It's not okay. It ought not to be tolerated in any of our institutions. My vision is that we all are equally valuable under the law. I can't argue that some folks are not better than others: that's a value judgment that I can defend at length. But by that I mean that some are better guitar players, better mothers, better drivers. If you press me, I can give examples of lousy human beings.

But to get to the crux of my concern: If first degree murder in your state is punishable by life in prison (or even the death penalty), what would you think should be the penalty if the murdered person were gay? To go on, I don't see our laws in this regard as being effective deterrents. I can see how a speed limit sign might cause a person to think about whether to press the pedal to the metal or just trundle along with the other cars--perhaps willing to risk a $50 fine for doing 15mph over the limit, but not willing to go for the big bucks and jail time attached to the 120mph that he knows his machine can do, if only he dared. Violent criminals don't seem to respond to incremental penalties in any useful way.

In too many ways, our legal system already is so convoluted--Byzantine, even--that it's almost unworkable. Redundancy isn't helping. The end product would be to have a legal penalty for murdering every individual in the country. If your name's not on the list, some lawyer will get your killer off.

I don't have the answer to this problem. Maybe everyone should put flowers in their hair or come to Jesus. Well, no, none of that has worked in he past. If you look back into our murky past, some societies had basically only one punishment for crimes: death. Didn't work there, either.
posted by mule98J at 9:04 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mule98J: I think you are being too reductive. At one time I thought the same way, but after years in large systems development and integration I have come to understand that all systems, nature, tech, social, legal, ALL of them, move from simple to complex the longer they stand; the complexity arrived at due to "bug fixes" and discovering new edge cases over time. To me, hate crime laws are fixing a bug in our culture system and supporting misrepresented minority edge cases within society that need extra protections from the tyranny of the majority.

I guess it's a worldview thing. Me personally, I'm trying not to think so big to believe that "the problem" is solvable, I think we are managing a pretty damn complicated world in all senses and barely managing "the problem" is about the best can hope for at this point.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:42 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is evidence that increased rates of penile tumescence among putatively heterosexual males upon viewing male homosexual pornography-- whether or not that can be said to indicate "latent homosexuality"-- is associated with homophobia, and when I worked as a crisis counselor in an ER (almost two generations ago, now) it was virtually received wisdom that 'gay panic' was one of the principal presenting features of a "schizophrenic break."

The association of schizophrenia with gay panic and homophobia seems less clear cut these days, but I still think it's very interesting in light of the striking resemblance of paranoid schizophrenic ideation to states of mind resulting from prolonged use of Meth, that the prime mover in Shephard's murder was supposedly on a seven day Meth jag at the time of the killing.

And if Meth can push some significant percentage of males toward hating gay people, that might go a ways in explaining the current demographics of homophobia in the US.
posted by jamjam at 11:02 AM on September 16, 2013


"First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking."

There's an easy distinction between a thought crime and a hate crime: hate crimes have victims.


Responding to the general discussion, not solely these pull quotes.

It seems to me that assailant motivation is often what is considered the distinguishing feature of a hate crime, but secondary effects on a whole class of people is often cited as motivation for having hate crime legislation. It might be useful to separate the two? Motivation, for example, may affect recidivism. It certainly affects what would be an effective rehanilitation program, were the US justice system oriented toward rehabilitation. Criminal sentencing in the US seems to be primarily putative rather than rehabilitative, however; in this case it seems to me that if we define hate crimes by motivation, we are in effect saying that they are more-bad actions than the same crimes committed without a bias element, and thus deserve to be putatively punished more harshly. That stems from a moral judgement. On the other hand, if we worry about hate crimes because of their harmful secondary effects on an entire class of people, it might make more sense to define a hate crime by its effect rather than by motivation. Kind of like "that's a racist thing to say" comes from considering the effect on the listener, as opposed to "you're a racist" which focuses on motivation.

I see value in both viewpoints. I think the US should have a justice system focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and I think a consideration of motivation is quite relevant in designing appropriate rehabilitation strategies. Depending on the crime, I would, personally, think some crimes are more morally bad if they include a hate motivation component than otherwise. I'm not sure how my or others' personal judgements of that sort should factor into criminal sentencing though. Mainly, though, I support the viewpoint that we should distinguish hate crimes because of their differential effects from non-bias crimes. I don't know if redefining bias crimes based on effect rather than motivation would make much of a practical difference, given what I understand of current legal standards for showing bias motivation. But it might help make our metafilter discussion of the topic more clear?
posted by eviemath at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2013


...enough anecdotal evidence...

That's where I stopped reading.
posted by Chuffy at 2:32 PM on September 16, 2013


It's really re-evaluate big cases week on the internet...
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:27 PM on September 16, 2013


it notes that Shepherd was HIV positive. I wonder if that, more than anything else, might have been what caused the turn towards violence...at a time when HIV was a death sentence rather than a totally treatable disease

If that, "more than anything else," was responsible for the turn towards violence "at a time when HIV was a death sentence," don't you think McKinney's lawyers might have tried to make that part of his defense?

I get that there's still room for speculation remaining here, but I think you can safely stop wondering on that one, corb.
posted by mediareport at 10:05 PM on September 16, 2013


I don't know - it's a good question, mediareport, but others properly note that McKinney refused to include any information at trial about his own sexuality or activity, even at the cost of his defense.
posted by corb at 4:20 AM on September 17, 2013


corb - they were already using gay panic as a defense. adding aids panic wouldn't have changed very much.
posted by nadawi at 6:23 AM on September 17, 2013


Possibly fair - but if they said that they knew he had HIV, they would have to admit that they were pretty intimate with him, since it's not like people are forced to wear a scarlet letter or anything like that, and nobody has naturally occurring AIDS-dar.
posted by corb at 7:11 AM on September 17, 2013


It seems worth noting that HAART was announced in 1996. Combivir got FDA approval in 1997. My vague memories of 1997 and 1998 health class was that the idea that HAART worked had penetrated even to fairly conservative suburban Chicago districts (though I had remarkably good sex ed in junior high; high school was crap, but sixth and seventh grade was good). Obviously, it hadn't been long enough to know that HIV+ people would be suriving to old age, but I think there was understanding that a corner was being turned/had been turned (though obviously those of you who were adults will remember better than me).
posted by hoyland at 7:14 AM on September 17, 2013


b1tr0t: "First, a hate crime is necessarily a thought crime, and I'm uncomfortable with criminalizing modes of thinking. "

I disagree, assuming the "hate crime" involves what would actually be crime in the first place.

Making a murder more legally serious is nothing new. Killing a child is typically considered by juries and the penal system more heinous than killing a peer.

Killing a person while committing a sex crime - and especially if the killing can be shown to provide sexual stimulation to the killer - puts the killer on the sex predator lists. Would you prefer such a killer be treated exactly the same as any other murderer? I wouldn't.

Motivation is important.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:33 PM on September 21, 2013




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