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Matthew Shepard story on 20/20
November 28, 2004 3:41 PM   Subscribe

New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder The piece on 20/20 Fridaynight about new "revelations" in the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard supposedly tries to prove he was not murdered because he was gay. The family responds to the broadcast.
posted by livingsanctuary (68 comments total)

 
Is this part of the media realizing that they need to start catering to the views of the new republican majority?
posted by Space Coyote at 3:51 PM on November 28, 2004


I think it was just sensationalism, plain and simple. I did not find any views particularly "right-wing" -- it was just an attempt to rewrite history. What was particularly infuriating is that I believe as part of the plea bargain agreements, the convicted murderers were not allowed to talk publicly about the crime.
posted by livingsanctuary at 3:56 PM on November 28, 2004


ratings
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 3:58 PM on November 28, 2004


Feh...it was pure "sweeps month" programming.

And I don't care if Shepard was gay, or if the killers were gay, or if they did it with llamas, or were trying to score meth, or whatever -- they committed MURDER, no mitigating circumstances, and should be locked up for life -- or executed. I'm a bit baffled over how the "gay" angle is particularly relevant.
posted by davidmsc at 3:59 PM on November 28, 2004


The "gay angle" has been important to Shepard's family and the worldwide gay community because it is a hate crime -- and a particularly brutal one at that.
posted by livingsanctuary at 4:17 PM on November 28, 2004


Up until about five minutes ago, I had no idea what the Thursday song M. Shepard was about. Now I know.
posted by hughbot at 4:18 PM on November 28, 2004


Money & drugs does not negate that homophobia might also have been a motive. There's a lot of homophobic invective (read Scalia's opinion in the Romer v. Evans case) about how gays earn more money than straights. Thugs who want money may be disproportionately likely to choose gays as their target, because they believe the homophobic rhetoric that gays are easy targets with a lot more money than they have. In addition, the amount of "overkill" in the Matthew Shepard case suggests that, while robbery may have been a motive, it probably wasn't the only motive.
posted by jonp72 at 4:22 PM on November 28, 2004


davidmsc: Becuase a hate crime is different than a mugging. It's still a senseless tragedy, but. You know, different. It's like denying that homophobia is an issue.
I don't think anyone needs to be reminded how much it clearly still is.

Even worse, the interviews violated the killers' plea agreements with the Shepard family.
posted by SoftRain at 4:39 PM on November 28, 2004


One clarification: if I understand correctly, the plea agreements were not--and could not be--with the Shepard family. The agreements were with the prosecutor, who agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for, inter alia, the murderers' promise not to speak with the press about the case. While I have not seen the plea agreements in question, this kind of agreement would routinely contain a clause providing that in the case of a violation of the agreement by the defendant, the prosecutor may revoke the plea agreement, charge the defendant with offense underlying the original indictment, and seek appropriate penalties. In other words, if these plea agreements are similar, the prosecutor may be within his or her rights in withdrawing the agreement, trying the murderers for their crime, and seeking the death penalty. However, as I noted supra, I have not seen the agreements in this case, and I am not a criminal lawyer.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:53 PM on November 28, 2004


People are lying.

McKinney - now to be taken seriously for saying he killed him because he wanted Matthew's wallet for a drugs binge - also denies knowing Matthew beforehand, despite witnesses saying they were acquaintances. So who's lying? Why should we believe a stinking lyng murderer?

It is possible that it wasn't homophobia - though this is evidence of such:
"All three got in the front seat of McKinney's pickup, and Henderson took the wheel. McKinney told police that at some point Shepard reached over and grabbed his leg. In response, McKinney said, he hit him with his pistol. "I was getting ready to pull it on him anyway," he said."
Either way, 2 murderers are now retracting their motives. No reason to rewrite history, and cases like this (where there is NO doubt of guilt) are why I do support the death penalty.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:56 PM on November 28, 2004


drugs, eh?

Just goes to show, a well-lit Denny's parking lot is a lot safer for such, uh, transactions.
posted by telstar at 5:27 PM on November 28, 2004


So, does this mean Fox will be presenting "the other side" of all the civil rights killings?
I can hardly wait until we hear the "other side" of MLK's assassination!
F*ckwads!
posted by nofundy at 5:40 PM on November 28, 2004


I'm gratified to know that ABC News builds its Breaking News Scoop Journalism News Magazine Exclusive around the mendacious self-justifications of a convicted murderer (and drug addict) who broke a bargain he made with the court that originally convicted him never to speak to the media about the crime he committed.

Wait a minute. What am I saying? It's network news. QED.

I'd like to see Elizabeth Vargas go get Charles Manson's side of the Sharon Tate murder. Was she strung out on meth too?
posted by blucevalo at 5:58 PM on November 28, 2004


I agree with all of you. This case is entirely too important to the cause for Vargas to try to dredge up contrary view points. She is just way out of line here.
posted by esquire at 6:05 PM on November 28, 2004


Oh, this is delightful! See, McKinney is actually bisexual. He wasn't really homophobic, he just used the "gay panic" defense because he thought catering to hate and fear would be a better plan than arguing he was on speed and not of his right mind, which could have brought his charge down to manslaughter and gotten rid of the hate crime charge.

Roiiiiight.

Somehow, this new revelation about being attracted to men doesn't surprise me, what with homophobia having just a bit to do with self-loathing . . .
posted by schroedinger at 6:11 PM on November 28, 2004


People, this is "20/20". Their standards are very, very low. Even before newstainment got big (think Hard Copy), they were doing it. John Stossel is just so annoying, too.
posted by e40 at 6:13 PM on November 28, 2004


I lived in Laramie during the Shepard incident and during the trials that followed. Nothing in the 20/20 report was news to anyone living in the region.
posted by split atom at 6:27 PM on November 28, 2004


I'm with esquire on this one. The storyline has been established, so we can just cover our eyes and ears and move along.

/sarcasm

I don't know if there's any merit to the 20/20 piece or not. I didn't see it, and even if I did, I'm not sure I'd feel qualified to judge it. But I do know that I'm uncomfortable with a chorus of voices shouting down alternative evidence and theories, as though any discussion or debate would be unacceptably dangerous.
posted by pmurray63 at 6:32 PM on November 28, 2004


The first thing that bothered me about the 20/20 report was that the reporter kept referring to the 'mythology' surrounding the case, the fact that we don't know the full story about the case: that details indicate it was not really an anti-gay hate crime, but a meth-fueled mugging gone too far. I mean, really, she seemed to be chiding us for not knowing the full story. The problem with this is that this 'mythology' was none other than the story as reported by ABC News and 20/20 and not corrected until now. The 'new' information (that Shepard may have known his killers prior, that they were all involved in the local meth scene) was made up of details that a decent media investigation could have uncovered when the case first broke. She made it seem that everyone in town knew what was going on all along--why couldn't a reporter asking some simple questions find that out at the time?

Add to that the fact that days after the murder, it was the girlfriend of one of the killers who said that Shepard was killed because he made unwanted advances toward the men. The reporter tried to make it seem that it was gay friends of Shepard's who kicked off the whole rumor that it was an anti-gay hate crime, as if the misinformation were the fault of the 'gay agenda' (being gay, i'm biased...but am i the only one who noticed that the way these guys were filmed, with their computers, seemed rather menacing? like they were internet rumor-terrorists or something?)...and are we to be blamed for believing them when the killers themselves echoed these accusations?

I think it is possible that the murder was caused by drug use and not anti-gay sentiment...even though in that context it served an important purpose in bringing attention to anti-gay crime (as discussed later in the 20/20 report). However, if this is true, then the way I see it personally, an anti-gay hate crime still occured--first by the girlfriend who said it was an anti-gay attack, and then by the killers who made the same claim in court. Here, I think the crime lies in the fact that these parties thought a lighter sentence could be attained by saying it was because the victim was gay. Becuase killing a guy who is coming onto you is more acceptable than killing a guy because you're an enraged thief on drugs? The reporter was remiss in not challenging the girlfriend or the killers to explain the ethical difference. (on preview: echoing schroedinger's better post, above)

I think 20/20 made poor judgment in the timing of this report, as in the current political context it pretty much serves only the anti-gay conservatives, who already think they've attained some kind of mandate on morality, and who now get to resuscitate the old evils-of-the-gay-agenda specter.
posted by troybob at 6:48 PM on November 28, 2004


The whole idea of there being such a thing as a "hate crime"
makes me feel kind of sad inside.
If a person kills another, that the first hated the second is of no more importance than if the second hated the first. Someone is dead at someone else's hand.
posted by nightchrome at 6:51 PM on November 28, 2004


I'd like to hear nospecialfx's informed opinion on how this changes his views on Christianity, because it seems pretty evident this filth from 20/20 has poisoned our airwaves with the its-okay-to-murder-gays agenda even further, and I'd really like to hear what Jesus Christ would think about his minions encouraging this evil.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:01 PM on November 28, 2004


I've lived in Laramie for the last couple of years, and I heard a rumor that the killing was over a drug deal more than a year ago.

The version of the rumor I heard was that Shepherd owed them money over meth deals ($10,000, the same amount listed in the story, interestingly enough), and they killed him over that, then concocted the other story when they were caught, so their dealer wasn't exposed (and didn't try to kill them.)

I have no idea whatsoever about the accuracy of it, but at least the idea that this killing was over money and drugs isn't new. It's almost certainly been floating around since it happened, like Split Atom said.

In any case, the city is a friendly, easygoing place, and is an excellent and safe place to live. Don't judge us all by the actions of a couple of psychos who in no way represent the attitude or character of the people here.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:02 PM on November 28, 2004


I'm with davidmsc. No matter why they did it, these fuckheads are right where they belong. Sociopaths always try to come up with half-assed justifications for their crimes. I vaguely recall Charles Manson claiming that the LaBianca killing was mob related. Whatever.

Let them rot.
posted by jonmc at 7:16 PM on November 28, 2004


I've gotta ask a question, and I swear I'm not trolling or picking a fight. If someone willfully with malice aforethought takes an innocent life, does the motive really matter?

Kill someone cause they're gay, kill someone because they owe you 20 bucks, kill someone cause they looked at your girlfriend, kill someone cause they didn't have enough money in the register, worse, better, what?

I loathe homophobia and racism as much as anyone possibly could, but ultimately, murder is murder.
posted by jonmc at 7:25 PM on November 28, 2004


Kill someone cause they're gay, kill someone because they owe you 20 bucks, kill someone cause they looked at your girlfriend, kill someone cause they didn't have enough money in the register, worse, better, what?

Equal in judgement. Different in the sense that knowing why someone was killed shines light on one particularly ugly part of American culture, and perhaps motivates the rest of us to address that ugliness, so hopefully no one else suffers the same fate for that same reason.

Hate crimes are not about judgement. They are about compelling a society to look at itself in the mirror.

Judicial systems are less about punishing people and more about how we should all conduct our behavior.

I doubt any reasonable human being comes to the conclusion that murder is okay over $20 but not okay because of homophobia, just because of hate crime legislation.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:35 PM on November 28, 2004


jonmc, that's basically what I was getting at as well.
Judge someone's actions, certainly. The moment we get into judging someone's thoughts and feelings...that muddies the water a bit where the law and punishment are concerned.
posted by nightchrome at 7:36 PM on November 28, 2004


The moment we get into judging someone's thoughts and feelings...that muddies the water a bit where the law and punishment are concerned.

Hate crime legislation does not judge thoughts and feelings but actions. There is a clear line between a thought and acting upon it.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:40 PM on November 28, 2004


Hate crimes are not about judgement. They are about compelling a society to look at itself in the mirror.


Alex, I'm with you as far as using hate crimes as a way to force society to look at it's prejudices. But, by applying harsher penalties to hate crimes (as hate crimes laws have said we should) aren't we de facto elevating one kind of murder over another? Again, just a consideration. I'm fully happy to let the killers of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd rot in prison or fry in the electric chair. But I am somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of elevating the "seriousness" of such crimes above the crimes of say this guy, when as far as I'm concerned both acts are as equally rephensible s to make no difference. Evin in the abstract, if that makes any sense.
posted by jonmc at 7:47 PM on November 28, 2004


I don't think a person should get a harsher sentence for killing a gay person (or someone in any particular group) than for killing anyone else, for whatever reason.

My (weak) understanding is that hate crimes laws are intended to prevent a judge or jury from giving lighter sentences to criminals based on a prejudice against the victim. Not a lawyer, I would think the ideal would be that in cases classified as hate crimes, there would simply be some judicial review of the sentence to be sure it is consistent with crimes not classified as hate crimes. Can anyone speak to how they are actually applied?
posted by troybob at 7:49 PM on November 28, 2004


Okay, let me ask it this way:

Do you honestly believe someone thinks murdering someone over $20 would be okay, but murdering someone who's gay is not okay, if hate crime legislation was in place?

That's the argument against HCL and I'm afraid that I just don't see it.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:50 PM on November 28, 2004


to clarify, i think the legislation is an attempt to overcome prejudice on the part of the judge or jury in the case...for instance, a racist judge giving a lighter sentence for the killing of a black man
posted by troybob at 7:52 PM on November 28, 2004


No, I don't believe that, Alex. And obviously that was an extreme example. And I'm certainly in favor of HCL on lesser crimes than murder, if only to discourage people acting on hatred. It's more of the abstract implication that murder out of hatred is more reprehensible than murder oout of greed or perversion or just plain bloody mindedness that made me uncomfortable. And gays and other minorities can be killed in domestic disturbances and robberies gone wrong as easily as the rest of us, just to be fair. It's more a philosophical question than a legalistic one.

And to be honest, my compliments on answering my question so wel, to both you and troybob.
posted by jonmc at 7:57 PM on November 28, 2004


he was not murdered because he was gay.

Am I the only one who read that FPP wrong? Rather than interpreting it as "the reason for his murder was not that he was gay", my brain gave me "he was gay so he was impervious to murder". I even read it twice, because I couldn't figure out how being gay protects you from being murdered.

I guess this is what happens when you have no TV and no context.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 8:16 PM on November 28, 2004



I'd like to hear nospecialfx's informed opinion on how this changes his views on Christianity, because it seems pretty evident this filth from 20/20 has poisoned our airwaves with the its-okay-to-murder-gays agenda even further, and I'd really like to hear what Jesus Christ would think about his minions encouraging this evil.


In the future, you should probably avoid this sort of negative cross-thread calling out, especially when the person you're calling out isn't even participating in this thread. Just some friendly advice.
posted by The God Complex at 8:21 PM on November 28, 2004


"he was gay so he was impervious to murder"

I know I shouldn't be, but I can't stop laughing at that interpretation.
posted by The God Complex at 8:22 PM on November 28, 2004


I guess this is what happens when you have no TV and no context.

For everyone who didn't read that comment, Hal Mumkin has no TV, and he wants you all to know. You should feel inferior to him because of this.
posted by jonmc at 8:23 PM on November 28, 2004


If someone willfully with malice aforethought takes an innocent life, does the motive really matter?

Yup.

If I pop a cap in your bottom because you ratted me out, or you wouldn't give me your wallet, or whatever, that's a simple murder, and it stops with me killing you.

If I kill you because you're homosexual, that doesn't stop with me killing you. It's also an act of terrorism against any other homosexuals in the area. When they're reasonable, hate crime laws treat this terrorism as its own crime, separate from the original crime, or at least intensifying it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 PM on November 28, 2004


In the future, you should probably avoid this sort of negative cross-thread calling out, especially when the person you're calling out isn't even participating in this thread. Just some friendly advice.

Thanks for the advice. His silence is otherwise quite deafening, though.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:36 PM on November 28, 2004


Thanks for the advice. His silence is otherwise quite deafening, though.

I don't know about that. Some of the people here (present company excluded) have lives and other things to do on Sunday nights. Plus there are a lot of posts on metafilter to go through every one. Either way, it's a losing game to start into that sort of thing; imagine if every contentious thread had people yelling at people who weren't even participating: it would be a nightmare.
posted by The God Complex at 8:41 PM on November 28, 2004


/hopefully helpful derail
posted by The God Complex at 8:42 PM on November 28, 2004


If I kill you because you're homosexual, that doesn't stop with me killing you. It's also an act of terrorism against any other homosexuals in the area. When they're reasonable, hate crime laws treat this terrorism as its own crime, separate from the original crime, or at least intensifying it.

/devils advocate

But if I murder a shopkeeper in the course of a robbery, isn't that an act of terrorism against the safety of all shopkeepers in the area. Or more to the point isn't the prevention of the perpetrator (or other perpetrators) commiting the same act the general rationale for punishing crimes of any kind?
posted by jonmc at 8:46 PM on November 28, 2004


Are shopkeepers targets for being shopkeepers (other than of course having money in the till, which is something not exclusive to shopkeepers)?

We already assign categories to targeted people. For example, consider existing terrorist legislation, which is quite clear in its intent to prosecute people who aim to harm the categories of American citizens and American interests.

Those federal laws already assign higher penalties (death, notably) for those crimes "equivalent" with similar crimes not performed by terrorists.

Are terrorist laws similar to hate crime legislation, and shouldn't they be revoked for the same logical reason?
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:53 PM on November 28, 2004


aren't we de facto elevating one kind of murder over another?

The legal system quite specifically elevates different sorts of murder over others, from manslaughter to first degree. Different intentions and motives do make a difference in how we judge actions, and that complexity is important. It is also completely intuitive; someone who murders out of financial desperation or fear for personal safety is different from someone who murders out of violent rage, which is different from someone whose motive is a pure rejection of the moral worth or humanity of the person in question (we can always turn to nazis or serial killers for extreme examples here).

Yes, death is death, but there is a lot more to a murder than just the death of that one person. It affects an entire community, not just a local one, but anyone aware of the events. ROU_Xenophobe framed it nicely as a kind of terrorism.
posted by mdn at 8:57 PM on November 28, 2004


Again, alex, I'm not neccessarily arguing against HCL. It's just a thicket of contradictions when you you sit back and analyze it. The only real reservation I have (and again this is only in homicide cases) is as far as punishment goes. Should someone who murders in a gay bashing/killing in religious hatred(which covers most "terrorism")/racial killing be punished more harshly than a gangster who kills a witness/a rapist who kills his victim/thrill killer, and if so why?

When the penalty is death or life without parole, it almost becomes meaningless.
posted by jonmc at 9:00 PM on November 28, 2004


Do any of the 20/20 sheep care about the sheer brutality of that murder? It was an absolutely horrific slaughter of a gay teenager. If we were talking about a white straight prom queen who was murdered and assaulted in the same way, there would be an immediate public outcry against any media outlet that insinuated the deceased with drug dealing. Oh, but wait, I'm sorry, they have a "mandate" now. Nevermind.
posted by moonbird at 9:01 PM on November 28, 2004


Here, I think the crime lies in the fact that these parties thought a lighter sentence could be attained by saying it was because the victim was gay.

All debates on the merits of HCL aside, I think troybob hit the essence of this case on the head. Who are these people trying to fool? This is a weak, transparent attempt to save their own ass. Let 'em rot.

But if I murder a shopkeeper in the course of a robbery, isn't that an act of terrorism against the safety of all shopkeepers in the area.

No, your motive there was for his money, so therefore it would presumably intimidate all people who use money (everyone). Killing someone because they are gay is targeting a specific group, which is what classifies it as a "special" crime that specifically intimidates a limited segment of the populace. For the record, I'm not sure where I stand on this issue, but I don't think the comparison was fair.

On preview: What everyone else said. Carry on. *sigh*
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:05 PM on November 28, 2004


Should someone who murders in a gay bashing/killing in religious hatred(which covers most "terrorism")/racial killing be punished more harshly than a gangster who kills a witness/a rapist who kills his victim/thrill killer, and if so why?

Well, again, you're arguing a pretty extreme example where no one -- and I mean no one -- makes that kind of choice. IANAL but pretty much all judges weight each capital case on its merits, and not whether the defendent is either a gay basher or mobster and making the distinction that way.

On preview: what mdn said. Which is that we already make distinctions between "levels" of crime, which evolved precisely because one kind of murder has been determined to not be exactly the same as another.

Killing someone when DUI is not the same as stringing up the victim on barbed wire because he kisses guys. That's the real-world distinction I'm talking about.

I ask again, shouldn't we withdraw or reduce federal penalties for terrorist crimes? I mean, shouldn't we not be trying to control the political thoughts of people who want to kill Americans? That is essentially what terrorist laws do, in equivalence with HCL. Do you see what I'm getting at?

That said, I see no difference between multiple life sentences and a single life sentence, other than it recognizes the severity of the crime for the benefit of the victims and of society, and so is used as a tool of legitimacy by a government. That kind of sentencing is not done for the benefit of the criminal.

I do see a distinction between the severity of sentencing between the death penalty and life without parole. Some do not. That's an entirely different discussion from HCL, though.

Thanks for the lively discussion.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:11 PM on November 28, 2004


It's a case of context, isn't it? If you murder a shopkeeper in the course of a robbery, you're not murdering him because he's a shopkeeper; you're murdering him because he's getting in the way of you robbing the shop. Killing someone for who/what they are is a different thing entirely; I always assumed that the reason for legislation that recognised any hate crime motive was not so much to impose more severe punishments or make a special case for people killed for that reason; isn't it more about categorising crimes which target a specific group of people. and just making sure that they're noted as attacks on that specific group of people?
posted by Len at 9:15 PM on November 28, 2004


I do see a distinction between the severity of sentencing between the death penalty and life without parole.

As do I, alex. I was more saying that, for example if we took two seperate murder one cases: a gay basher and a hired killer who did it strictly for the money and they were both duly convicted, and the sentence was either death or LWOP depending on the laws of the stae where it happened, then what's gained by adding the weight of HCL to one or the other, was my admittedly semantic question.

Now, the obvious answer is that to do so sends a message that to kill in the name of prejudice is especially unacceptable. And that I honestly have no argument with.

Like I said, the only (and this is a small one) reservation I have with HCL is the implied idea that other (non-hate motivated) heinous murders are somehow less reprehensible; ie, the man who kills a hopkeeper in the course of a robbery has decided that his staying out of jail and the cash in the register is worth more than the shopkeeper's life, which is a heinous motive as well.

You've all made it very clear that you don't believe that, which is commendable.

And thanks for the lively discussion on this end, too.
posted by jonmc at 9:20 PM on November 28, 2004


Do any of the 20/20 sheep care about the sheer brutality of that murder?

Only so far as their "caring" brings in ad revenue.

I plan to boycott ABC, Disney, ESPN and all related properties and products. I suggest others consider doing the same, and encouraging their friends and loved ones as well.

The only way to get the media to stop following the Right's hate agenda is to hurt them in the pocketbook.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:20 PM on November 28, 2004


Like I said, the only (and this is a small one) reservation I have with HCL is the implied idea that other (non-hate motivated) heinous murders are somehow less reprehensible; ie, the man who kills a hopkeeper in the course of a robbery has decided that his staying out of jail and the cash in the register is worth more than the shopkeeper's life, which is a heinous motive as well.

I don't believe that HCL makes that implication. The example you bring up to already is a capital crime in many states; therefore, HCL would not worsen the punishment in comparison (we don't make carrying out one death sentence deliberately more painful than another) but would assign a greater level of seriousness to the crime relative to lesser homicide or manslaughter charges.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:27 PM on November 28, 2004


Critics say hate-crimes laws encourage groups to vie for protected status by emphasizing the degree of their victimization. Interestingly, Bill Dobbs, spokesman for a homosexual rights advocacy group, opposes hate-crimes legislation encompassing sexual orientation because it encourages resentment.
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:31 PM on November 28, 2004


It is an interesting argument and one I've given some thought to. If everyone's special, no one is special. I don't know. I think it is possible to make reasonable decisions about which categories of people should not be victimized, when they are clearly being victimized. This is where the legislative process and the inevitable debate between lawmakers comes in.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:36 PM on November 28, 2004


If everyone's special, no one is special.

The Incredibles!

I have been forced to watch this fairly amusing film twice in the theaters already as it seems to be the only movie that a large group that includes children can collectively agree upon to watch.
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:48 PM on November 28, 2004


Whoa...within seconds of that post.
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:50 PM on November 28, 2004


I have been forced to watch this fairly amusing film twice in the theaters already as it seems to be the only movie that a large group that includes children can collectively agree upon to watch.

Collectively? I don't know, that sounds vaguely like commiespeak to me, comrade.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:16 PM on November 28, 2004


Hate crime legislation does not judge thoughts and feelings but actions. There is a clear line between a thought and acting upon it.

I'm afraid I'm not as good at expressing my thoughts clearly as others here appear to be, but I appreciate the discussion that has gone on.
What I'm not clear on here is this: are the punishments meted out by declaring an act a hate crime more severe than if the equivalent act did not involve hate? If so, is it not fair to say that the extra severity is due to the hatred?
If that is the case, is that not the same as saying that hatred is deserving of punishment?
If THAT is the case, how is it not the same as judging thoughts and feelings?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I dislike the idea of hatred toward a given group, I am not in favor of saying people should be punished for hating someone.
posted by nightchrome at 10:35 PM on November 28, 2004


Judge someone's actions, certainly. The moment we get into judging someone's thoughts and feelings...that muddies the water a bit where the law and punishment are concerned.

But judges and juries do that all the time. It's called motive.

Do you agree that someone who makes a plan and kills his father in order to get the inheritance deserves a harsher sentence than someone who kills a man in a drunken brawl?

How killing a man because he is gay compares with other motives is open for debate, but I don't think it's wrong for legislatures to say that some motives deserve harsher penalties than others.

You could also argue that someone who kills gays because he hates them is a greater danger to society than other murderers, more likely to kill again than someone whose motive is killing for inheritance or revenge or something like that.
posted by straight at 10:37 PM on November 28, 2004


straight, I see your point. I really wish I could put into words something more meaningful than "It seems wrong".

I guess it just seems that it could so easily be taken too far. Instead of punishing people for the acts they commit due to their thoughts/feelings, what if they were punished solely for those thoughts/feelings?
Seems a very slippery slope.
posted by nightchrome at 10:53 PM on November 28, 2004


Hate crimes are crimes that are part of systemic oppressions. These laws are a way of targeting oppression for higher penalty.

If a synagogue gets a smiley face painted on it, it's vandalism, but it's not a big deal - it harms only the dude who has to get it off the wall, and the institution that has to pay to clean it up.

But what if a synagogue gets a swastika painted on it? is that still just vandalism? Even though it has a huge effect on a giant group of people, all of whom now feel less safe and have to be fearful because someone has expressed willingness to act on prejudicial hatred?

Same goes for an anti-gay murder. How do you think other gay people were livin' in Laramie after that went down? What about all across the country? Anti-gay violence happens everywhere in America, at trends that indicate a special effort needs to be made to target those crimes and identify their impact as being on entire identity communities, not just individuals. That's where hate crimes laws come in.
posted by Embryo at 1:57 AM on November 29, 2004


"Do you agree that someone who makes a plan and kills his father in order to get the inheritance deserves a harsher sentence than someone who kills a man in a drunken brawl?"

Several people in this thread have made this point, and the problem is that the law already makes this distinction. This is the difference between first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter. First degree murder is where you carefully plan it out beforehand and carry out the murder in cold blood. Second degree is when you deliberately murder someone in the heat of the moment - finding your spouse cheating on you and shooting him or her, for example. Manslaughter is when you don't mean to kill someone, but they end up dead because of your actions (ala barroom brawl or a car accident). Someone that is deliberately seeking out and murdering gays is committing first degree murder, and as such, is already guilty of the harshest penalties we can provide. HCL can be and is used to increase penalties for lesser offenses, however, which is something I can't really stand behind.
posted by kavasa at 4:47 AM on November 29, 2004


And the contention that a shopkeeper wouldn't feel more threatened after one or more local shopkeepers were killed in robberies strikes me as silly.
posted by kavasa at 4:48 AM on November 29, 2004


I don't see the problem with raising new or unreported facts.
Maybe there was some meth connection. Maybe they knew each other. Maybe one of the killers was a self-loathing closeted gay man -- my guess is a lot of gay bashers are conflicted about their sexuality. Maybe hate crimes laws are flawed in particular because they force crimes into a narrow paradigm that they don't always fit. But it doesn't change the fact that they treated another human being like a piece of garbage. And the fact that they would try a gay panic defense, claim a pass was made, an uncontested fact, is all that mattered. They brutally tortured and killed a gay man and then used his gayness as a defense -- that's what made this an important story and why he remains an icon. That's what made this more significant than a simple drug murder -- and even if the case is more complicated than first supposed -- hey, big suprrise, life is messy -- that is still a significant fact.
Homophobia seems to have been a motive, and they tried to use homophobia as a defense. And that was wrong, is still wrong, and this report changes nothing. The real offense is that some people are going to spin it -- and by overreacting to the report, those who care about gay hate crimes are letting them spin it. Keep the eye on the ball.
posted by Slagman at 6:27 AM on November 29, 2004


Do any of the 20/20 sheep care about the sheer brutality of that murder?

Uhh, I don't know what thread you've been reading, but I haven't seen anyone here express any sympathy for the killers or suggest that they deserve any leniency.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2004


Uhh, I don't know what thread you've been reading, but I haven't seen anyone here express any sympathy for the killers or suggest that they deserve any leniency.

Why then is history being rewritten, if not to give these two fuckers the airtime to weasel their way out of culpability? That's pretty suggestive to me.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:40 AM on November 29, 2004


Don't be ridiculous - do you watch American television? Do you know what "sweeps weeks" are? It's utterly meaningless whether those two "weasel out of culpability" on some half-assed TV show - there's no way either one of them is ever going to walk the streets free again, regardless of what happens on some television show, so whoop-dee-fuckin'-doo, let 'em crow all they want. All that this is about is ratings and the advertising dollars associated with it. You are assessing it a relevance far beyond its natural measure by even taking it this seriously. Unless, of course, what you're worried about is not that those two serve out their sentences as received under the law, but rather the continued promulgation of a mythology that serves another purpose, a purpose that might suffer a backlash should the utter victimhood of the slain young man be called into question?

For the record: history isn't being "rewritten" with any of this. As several people have pointed out above, this isn't new information for people who live in the area, or anyone who followed the case very closely, including a lot of journalists and media folk. There's a reason why some of us who knew more about him as a person felt that Matthew Shepard would eventually turn out to be a less-than-perfect choice for the iconic sainthood with which he was so quickly annointed - but the people who created and perpetuate that heartbreaking story knew the risk Shepard's personal life and habits represented (or, should have at least considered them) when they first started using him as a symbol. Yes, it's a horrific crime and nothing about Shepard makes it even remotely acceptable - but in choosing to exploit some of Shepard's qualities for their own purposes, those individuals and organizations have left themselves vulnerable to the legitimate charge that they were misrepresenting him.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2004


it is getting increasingly difficult living in this heterosexual dictatorship
posted by halekon at 5:27 AM on November 30, 2004


... those individuals and organizations have left themselves vulnerable to the legitimate charge that they were misrepresenting him.
Misrepresenting him? as what? He was a young gay man, exceptionally brutally and viciously beaten, and left for dead on a fence by 2 guys. How was he misrepresented?

The whole thing about hate crimes being different from regular crimes is the extensive and unusual violence used, solely because of the victim's race, ethnicity, or orientation, etc. Look at all the other murders in Wyoming (or the whole country) that year, and try to find one that matches it for sheer overkill.

It's just like dragging a guy behind a truck til he's dead (done in texas to a black guy), another infamously overdone hate crime. It's not just the same as other crimes, or other murders.
posted by amberglow at 6:12 AM on November 30, 2004


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