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Death Penalty Sought for Shepard's Murderers

Torture and Cruelty Among Aggravating Factors

Wyoming Prosecutor Gives No Official Reason

By Jack Nichols

shepjustice.gif - 14.59 K Cal Rerucha, prosecutor in Wyoming's Matthew Shepard murder trial, has given advance notice, as required by state law, that he will seek the death penalty if and when suspects Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney, both 21, are found guilty of Shepard's murder.

The prosecutor gave no official reason for his decision.

Wyoming law requires that a prosecutor make known to a defendant's lawyer any intention to invoke what is considered the state's most extreme form of punishment.

Aggravating factors in capital cases, however, include murders that are "especially atrocious or cruel, being unnecessarily torturous to the victim."

Chastity Paisley, Henderson's 20 year old girlfriend, has pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder-in-the-first degree. She will be tried within months.

Kristen LeAnn Price, McKinney's 19-year-old girlfriend has pleaded not guilty to accessory charges. She will be tried in late May.

Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:

1 in 10 College Students Threaten Gays and Lesbians

Shepard Murder Trial: A Preliminary Hearing

Related Sites:
Matthew Shepard Online Resource Center
GayToday does not endorse related sites.

Matthew Shepard's torture-death in early October shook many segments of the American populace, shining an embarrassing light on the need for hate crime legislation in Wyoming and at the level of the Federal Government as well.

In the wake of Shepard's death, the social sadism stemming from anti-gay hate-mongering has begun to get exposure on an unprecedented scale. The climate of hate indulged and encouraged by puritanical fundamentalist religionists who—on the airwaves-- regularly invoke the Leviticus death penalty for same-sex relations has now begun backfiring on the zealots.

Wyoming's case is expected to show that Henderson and McKinney lured Matthew Shepard from a bar, claiming themselves to be gay. Then they tied him—arms spread crucifixion-style—to a rural fence where they taunted him with anti-gay "humor" and beat and tortured him. They left him to die, exposed to the cold. After slipping into a coma from which he never re-emerged, Shepard expired five days later in a Ft. Collins, Colorado hospital.

His name and the circumstances under which he died are now known by both gay and straight observers-- worldwide.

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