A television report claiming Matthew Shepard’s murder was not motivated by homophobia has prompted angry responses by gay activists, who declared the story biased and flawed.
Shepard’s killers Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were interviewed by the US program 20/20 and said their actions were fuelled by a crystal meth binge, not homophobia.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Shepard’s parents released statements condemning the program, which aired last Thursday night.
20/20‘s misleading oversimplifications and distortions do a tremendous disservice to a complicated case. This simply is not a credible piece of journalism, GLAAD executive director Joan M. Garry said in a statement.
Shepard was robbed and bashed six years ago in a case that led to calls for national hate-crimes legislation.
McKinney and Henderson attempted the gay panic defence in court, claiming Shepard made a pass at them, prompting the violent bashing. The gay panic defence was dismissed by the judge and the pair are now serving life sentences.
The 20/20 report included interviews with the killers and McKinney’s girlfriend Kristen Price, who claimed she invented stories about his homophobic rage against Shepard. I think he was really torn because it is the desperation of getting your fix or taking care of your family, Price told 20/20.
GLAAD asked: Assuming Price can be taken seriously when she says she lied back in 1998 and 1999, did she commit perjury in McKinney’s murder trial? Why does 20/20 not explore this?
The program was also attacked for not presenting a single piece of solid evidence to back its assertion that drug use was a primary factor in Matthew Shepard’s murder.
Dennis and Judy Shepard released a statement that the program ignored the transcript of McKinney’s in-custody interview that took place a few days after the murder, that showed an unrehearsed and unemotional anti-gay account of the events before, during and after leaving Matt tied to the fence.
The 20/20 interview also breached a plea agreement that the killers would never discuss the case publicly.