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McKinney's Trial for Matthew's Murder Goes to a Jury

Prosecutor Faulting 'Two Wolves Watching a Lamb'

Recalls 'We're not Gay & We're Going to Jack You!'

By Jeffrey Montgomery
The Triangle Foundation

Laramie, Wyoming--November 2--The McKinney murder case as been given to the jury, after only a week of testimony. At about 11:15am (MST) today, Judge Barton Voigt sent the jury out to begin deliberations on the several charges, including first-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery, that McKinney faces for his role in the October, 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. shepjustice.gif - 14.59 K Matthew Shepard

The morning began with Judge Voigt reviewing 50 instructions for the jury. Closing arguments from Prosecutor Cal Rerucha and Defense team leader, Dion Custis, followed.

Rerucha delivered and cogent and compelling retelling of the events and conspiracy that ended with Shepard's vicious killing. Recalling the ill-fated meeting of Shepard, McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside Lounge, where the prosecution maintains the plot to waylay and rob Shepard began, Rerucha likened the scene to "two wolves watching a lamb," before the three left the bar together.

The three left as part of a ruse by McKinney and Henderson by which Shepard may have believed that they were going to have a sexual encounter. Shortly after, McKinney would announce to Shepard, "we're not gay, and we're gonna jack you," signaling the start of the beating and terror that would end with Shepard unconscious and tied to a fence just outside of Laramie.

"It's a long time on the road to Hell, not knowing what will befall you when you're being terrorized and threatened," Rerucha told the jury, describing what Matthew Shepard's last ride must have been like.

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The prosecutor ended his presentation to the jury by describing Shepard and making a plea. Shepard was "not an animal to be hung on a fence he loved, he cried" said Rerucha. "He needs your ability to follow the law in this case."

Shepard is the "missing piece of the puzzle. He fills every corner of this room," he concluded.

Describing his client variously as "not that bright," "a drug addict," by his nickname, "Dopey," "ugly in all respects," and "unsophisticated," Dion Custis admitted that McKinney is unsympathetic and that he killed Shepard.

In answering the question "Why?" which is what he told the jury was their ultimate job, the defense team leader suggested that methamphetamine addiction was the answer.

McKinney, he contended, was acting in a drug-influenced rage, after an alleged sexual advance by Shepard. Although he beat Shepard with anywhere from 12-20 blows to the head, McKinney didn't know what he was doing, was out of control, was in chaos, and so, Curtis argued, should be guilty of nothing more than manslaughter.

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