Jury convicts McKinney in the
Matthew Shepard murder
Laramie, Wyo.�A drug-dealing roofer was convicted November 3 of murder in the beating of gay college student Matthew Shepard, making him eligible for the death sentence for a slaying so brutal it spurred calls for hate-crime laws around the nation.
In addition to two felony counts of murder, Aaron McKinney was convicted of second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the death of Matthew Shepard. The jury of seven men and five women returned the verdicts after about 10 hours of deliberation. The jurors, however, rejected a first-degree murder charge that McKinney had planned the attack.
The sentencing phase, where the jurors will consider the death penalty, was scheduled to begin on November 4.
Shepard, 21, a University of Wyoming freshman majoring in political science, met McKinney and Russell Henderson at a Laramie bar on Oct. 6, 1998.
Prosecutors said McKinney and Henderson lured Shepard from the bar and drove him to a remote spot on the prairie, where they tied him to a wooden rail fence, robbed him of $20 and pistol-whipped him into a coma.
Eighteen Hours later, Shepard, bruised and bleeding, was found still lashed to the fence. He died five days later at a Fort Collins, Colo., hospital without regaining consciousness.
Authorities said robbery was the primary motive but that the slightly-built Shepard also was singled out because he was gay.
Defense attorneys initially attempted to use a "gay panic"
District Judge Barton Voigt chastised defense attorneys
The ruling essentially let the defense argue the beating was a crime of passion but not present the theory that the passion was caused by a specific mental condition.
In his closing argument, public defender Dion Custis told the jury that McKinney was in an "emotional rage."
"(He) is not a cold-blooded murderer, ladies and gentlemen, he reacted," Custis said. "There was no thought process."
Shepard�s death sparked vigils around the country denouncing the murder as a hate crime and renewed efforts for laws protecting gays and lesbians from such crimes.
In Wyoming�s legislature, however, proposed hate-crime bills failed. Opponents complained that gays and other protected groups would get special treatment and argued that existing laws are enough. President Clinton�s push to expand federal hate crime legislation to protect gays also fell short.
Shepard went to high school in Switzerland, spoke three languages and had traveled the world before returning to his native Wyoming to attend the university. He was raised in a close, loving family made comfortable by his father�s job in a multinational oil company.
McKinney and his friend Henderson came from the poor side of town. Both were from broken homes and as teen-agers had had run-ins with the law. They lived in trailer parks and scratched out a living working at fast-food restaurants and fixing roofs.
Henderson pleaded guilty in April to kidnapping and murder, and is serving two life sentences.|
Gay and lesbian candidates, overall, did quite well in election 1999 on November 2, according to spokespersons from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
Lakewood�s own John Farina (R) made a strong showing, but was unable to unseat his opponent, 10-year incumbent Nancy Roth (D). Roth held onto her Lakewood city council seat by a margin of 107 votes, according to voting tallies from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Longtime friend to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community Mayor Madeline Cain (D) was re-elected for another term, defeating challenger David Wright.
Candidates across the nation
Democrat Gloria Faley, an openly lesbian candidate was elected to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board. Her highest priority in office will be to "develop a system that supports an inspiring teacher to create a classroom that recognizes the individual learning styles and needs of a student, a classroom that will nurture a child to become a lifelong learner."
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect openly gay and lesbian candidates, said that several openly gay and lesbian candidates they endorsed won seats November 2.
The list includes Annise Parker of Texas in a non-partisan race for Houston City Council; Jon Cooper (D) of New York for Suffolk County legislature; Al Oertwig of Minnesota in a non-partisan race for St. Paul Board of Education; Seth Chafetz of Michigan in a non-partisan race for Birmingham City Commission; and Larry Bagneris (D) for Louisiana State House of Representatives (now in run-off).
Two other openly gay candidates Victory Fund-endorsed made strong showings:
Joe Steffan, a Democrat who ran for a seat on the West Hartford, Conn.,
Town Council came within one percent of prevailing. Scott Robinson fell
only six votes shy of winning his bid for Melvindale, Michigan City
Columbus�A year-old controversy over if and how Ohio�s school children learn about sexuality and disease prevention is coming to a head.
The controversy began in October 1998 when Republican state Rep. Jim Jordan of West Liberty led the Ohio legislature to freeze $900,000 granted to the Ohio Department of Education by the United States Centers for Disease Control in order to train adults in the prevention of HIV and AIDS.
The Department of Education trained 55 health educators in the "Programs That Work" curriculum, a program that teaches safer sex to sexually active, at-risk youth. The program uses materials adopted by the CDC that focus on teaching at-risk youth ways to protect themselves, including condom use if they are engaging in sexual activity.
Lawmakers said they froze the funds because they believed that the CDC training violated Ohio law, which mandates that the Department of Education teach abstinence as the only way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Jordan�s legislation mandated hearings on what to do with the money this fall.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education released a draft of its recommended model for competency-based health and physical education September 1, and scheduled hearings on it for November 8. The status of the CDC funds will be a part of the testimony.
The controversy has gotten national attention since an October 7 Cincinnati Enquirer editorial ("Stop the stealth attack on parents and schools") was the subject of an on-air monologue by conservative anti-gay physiologist and radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger October 12.
The editorial says that the "Programs That Work" materials "offer technical advice, choices of contraceptives (including abortion) and lifestyles," including homosexuality.
Legislators and the governor�s office have been flooded with calls from around the nation since Schlessinger�s commentary, calling the newly proposed model "offensive material from sex education manuals."
Howe added that the state is required by law to do models for academic subjects like reading and math, but not health.
"This was a model the board chose to do, but didn�t have to," Howe said.
"These models are designed for use by small school systems which do not have adequate curriculum specialists and need the guidance," said Howe.
Some professionals who work with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth are concerned about the model, too, because it makes no mention of them.
"The model doesn�t address sexuality at all," Howe said. "I think it doesn�t mention homosexuality because it also doesn�t mention heterosexuality."
Judy Maruszan, who directs the Safe Schools are For Every One program for the Lesbian and Gay Center of Cleveland asks, "How can they claim to be promoting the well-being of all students while excluding one segment?"
Maruszan expressed particular interest in the model�s fourth grade objective of discovering the causes and progression of HIV and hepatitis. "I wonder how they�ll present that one," she commented.
Maruszan stressed that there should be some mention of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth in the model.
"They are missing a huge piece not to address this," Maruszan said. "Another question which needs to be asked is if the state requires abstinence only to be taught, how does that relate to GLBTQ kids?"
Following the November 8 hearing, the model will be sent to the legislature for approval, then back to the Board of Education for adoption.|
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