The October 6, 1998 beating and torture of Matthew Shepard that eventually led to his death has become one of the more interesting rallying points in our recent history in the United States. Almost overnight Shepard’s brutal murder was plunged into politics based solely on the fact that he was an HIV positive, gay man; which raised the specter that his murder was due to hated or as popularized at the time, a hate crime.
In, The Book of Matt: The Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez continued his investigations of the crime and some of the facts that were left unexplored during the eventual trial and conviction of Shepard’s murders. Jimenez had been the producer of an ABC News 20/20 investigation into the case and a couple of years after the trial and conviction of Shepard’s murderers, he went back to Laramie, Wyoming to dig a little deeper into things that had come up in the initial digging into the story.
The book is the result of that second, deeper look at the story and some of the facts weren’t a part of the trial or the case against Shepard’s killers. It didn’t take long to track down those killers and the case against them in legal parlance was “air tight” so why would police dig any deeper?
Jimenez uncovered some clear evidence that Shepard, a slight, college student wasn’t perhaps the innocent victim of a hate crime, but perhaps even more likely, he was murdered due to his involvement in dealing methamphetamine. This naturally flew in the face of the activists who were pushing for legislation that eventually came to pass, to somehow supersize the crimes against protected classes as defined in the law.
Jimenez became the subject of attacks that labeled him as somehow “anti-gay” because he pointed out facts that flew counter to the public claims about Shepard. I guess that would make Jimenez a self-hating gay man; since he is in fact gay himself. The orchestrated campaign against Jimenez and the book is ridiculous on its face, since it doesn’t bother to actually address the facts in the book.
But that seems to be the way politics is debated in this day and age; and that is purely what is at play here. The politics of who cares more and who can somehow do more to protect or defend of give more to defined special classes. Think about the ridiculous nature of so-called hate crimes. Are people injured or killed because someone hates them? Certainly the answer is YES! Do we need a special set of laws to enforce criminal sanctions against those deemed to be in protected groups? NO…not really.
Matthew Shepard’s murder’s were convicted of their crimes; in a deal brokered by Shepard’s parents the killer received life sentences without chance of parole. If they had been convicted of a hate crime, would they spend any more time behind bars? The vile murderers of James Byrd, a Texas man who was beaten, chained and dragged to his death; both received death penalty sentences. When Texas eventually gets around to meting out that sentence, would they have been executed twice due to committing a hate crime?
Turning this book into a political debate is ridiculous. It’s clear to me that Jimenez didn’t have an “agenda” in mind when he set out to investigate the story, but it is in fact the left who attack him that have the agenda to somehow protect ridiculous hate crimes laws to somehow be portrayed as more caring and compassionate.