“Print the Legend” Ethics (Again): Does It Matter If Matthew Shepard’s Death Was Really A Hate Crime?

Powerful story; moving story; useful story. Does it matter if it isn't a true story?

Powerful story; moving story; useful story. Does it matter if it isn’t a true story?

It apparently matters to a lot of people for the wrong reasons—unethical reasons, in fact. As a result, legitimate efforts to determine what really happened to the gay rights icon, then a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, who was beaten,  tortured and murdered  in Laramie, Wyoming  in 1998, have been exploited for ideological goals by adversaries of gay rights, and attacked by the media, gay rights advocates and good progressives everywhere. Just as it is important to the civil rights establishment, the black grievance community and anti-gun advocates that Trayvon Martin be seen as the innocent victim of a racist vigilante with murder in his heart—a characterization of Martin’s murder at war with all known facts and rejected by a jury after a fair trial—thus is it crucial to gay advocacy groups and others that Shepard be remembered as the victim of a hate crime, brutally killed because he was gay.

And facts be damned.

There is a a whole Matthew Shepard industry, and industries like making money. Here in the Washington D.C. area, some friends of mine are performing in a much publicized production of “The Laramie Project,” thrown out of Ford’s Theater because of the shutdown. The play is about the Laramie community’s reaction to Shepard’s murder. The murder was used liberally and effectively to stir up support for hate crime legislation making victims of anti–gay prejudice beneficiaries of enhanced penalties for their attackers—that is, in the eyes of the law, killing someone “just to see him die” is morally and ethically preferable to killing him because you hate something about him. I think this is neither logical, ethical, coherent or responsible—it is thought-crime—but the Supreme Court has upheld such laws as constitutional, wise or not….a topic for another day.

The topic for today is this: the quest to determine what really happened is not and should not be framed as ideological, but inherently ethical. I have written about this phenomenon before here, more than once. In the post about the false legend of Barbara Frichie (who is celebrated in history, legend and poetry for an act of heroism, waving a Union flag in defiance of a Confederate general, actually done by someone else), I wrote,

“If there was ever a story that evoked the old newspaper editor’s famous quote “Print the legend,” in the famous climax of John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” this is it.* Print the legend because we need heroes. Print the legend because people don’t like having to adjust their illusions. Print the legend because so much has been built on the foundation of a lie. Why unsettle history? …What does it matter, now, who really waved the flag? Isn’t the story more important than the details? I’ll accept that. Legends have value, and myths can teach and inspire. That still doesn’t justify perpetuating a lie long after the truth is known.”

Indeed, the Matthew Shepard story is a better example than the Fritchie legend, because so much of substance and cultural importance, not just a nice legend, has been built on it. For at least a decade, it has looked as if the story of Shepard being killed because he was gay was at very least over-simplified for political expediency, and new book (by Stephen Jimenez,  a gay author) argues convincingly that his sexual orientation was not the reason for his demise. (Shepard is just as dead, the crime against him just as horrible, and his killers just as guilty whatever the reason.) Sure enough, three unethical results are flowing from this: 1) The news media is scrupulously giving the book as little publicity as possible, being run by  card-carrying progressives who are easy prey to the intellectually bankrupt argument that to give any publicity to the book is tantamount to supporting anti-gay bias;  2) some progressives and gay rights advocates are attacking the book as motivated by anti-gay animus and a political agenda, and 3) anti-gay conservatives are trumpeting the conclusions of the book as a validation of their theory that the pursuit of gay rights in America is some kind of  vast left-wing conspiracy.

A brief synopsis: 1) is unprofessional and unethical; 2) is dishonest and unethical, and 3) is idiotic and bigoted.

Also unethical.

Searching for the truth is never unethical, and accepting the truth should never be discouraged as inappropriate. If you do not agree, rush to tune in MSNBC on your cable TV, because you are now Al Sharpton. Rev. Al, you will recall, dismissed the fact that Tawana Brawley had lied about her abuse and rape at the hands of white bigots, saying that it could have happened, so in his warped, cynical post-modern view, it was still “truth.” This is the territory Slate writer John Kruzel is frolicking in when he argues that even if the popular version of the Shepard murder wasn’t correct, the misinformation was worth it because a good law resulted.  This is the rationalization of an ethics dunce, indeed an ethical dunderhead. Lies and misinformation are to be encouraged and excused if laws John Kruzel likes the result? I know this is the operating philosophy of the Obama Adminsitration (and many others past) but it is dangerous and offensive. Let’s list what’s wrong with that reasoning, shall we?

1. It is consequentialism at its worst, judging an act by  subsequent results rather than its inherent ethical nature.

2. It embodies “the ends justify the means.”

3. It falls into line with the tactics of totalitarianism.

4. It is a per se rejection of the ethics of journalism, which is to print inconvenient facts, not comforting distortions.

5. It is a flagrant rationalization, “It’s for a good cause.”

6. The Matthew Shepard Act is not a good law. No hate crime law is a good law, because killing one human being should not be officially designated as more heinous than killing any other simply because of the victim’s race, religion or sexual orientation.

 If a law and movement is based on a falsely characterized incident, it undermines the arguments and justification for them both. If the movement and the law are rational and necessary, then actual incidents should exist that can be cited as support. Resting a movement on a misrepresentation only gives ammunition to opponents. Doe we have to pretend Trayvon Martin was murdered out of racial hate to make the case against profiling and bigotry? Is it essential that Matthew Shepard be the victim of  hate crime to ensure the civil rights of gay Americans?

No, and no.

Legends are powerful.

Truth is better.

______________________

Sources: Slate, ABC News, Huffington Post

* In “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,”  an aging U.S. Senator played by Jimmy Stewart, whose entire career has been built on his shooting of a sadistic murderer and bully named Liberty Valence (Lee Marvin), reveals that the real shooter had been a romantic rival (John Wayne), who saved his life with the shot but who forbade Stewart from telling anyone, including Wayne’s former girlfriend, who was now infatuated with Stewart. The newspaper editor who hears the Senator’s confession of a career  based on a lie tears up his notes, saying, ” This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

35 thoughts on ““Print the Legend” Ethics (Again): Does It Matter If Matthew Shepard’s Death Was Really A Hate Crime?

  1. My favorite thing ever involving Shepard was when Perez Hilton called Will.I.Am a “fag” and Will.I.Am slapped the taste out of Perez’s mouth. Perez threatens to sue and donate the money to the charity Shepard’s mom started, and the charity’s response was

    “The Matthew Shepard Foundation was surprised to learn this morning via media reports that blogger Perez Hilton has announced plans to donate, to our organization, the proceeds of a lawsuit…

    We had no advance notice or contact from Mr. Hilton or his representatives regarding this proposal, nor any communication since he posted this plan to his website. We do not know the details of the lawsuit, whether it has been filed, the nature of his claims or the likely outcome. But because the lawsuit presumably involves the physical attack prompted by Mr. Hilton’s admitted use of an anti-gay slur, the Foundation will be unable to accept any funds obtained in such a manner.

    …we also feel compelled to point out that use of epithets can often lead to physical violence, as it appears it may have in this case, and that the Matthew Shepard Foundation has worked for more than 10 years to bring to people’s attention the consequences of hateful or intolerant language.”

  2. Funny you bring this up this weekend, because I’ve noticed that the anti-Christopher Columbus crowd has been speaking up more and more in recent years. There is very much a trend toward showing Columbus as a murderer, slaver, and all-around horrible person, and the parties that would like to keep “printing the legend” are exactly reversed from the Matthew Shepard case.

  3. Does it matter?
    Of course. But, not to people with an agenda. So, of course it matters. Just not the way it should matter.
    You said it very well.

  4. Why are you accepting of this new theory as truth, without the benefit of critical analysis? Just seems convenient, doesn’t it?… Huffington Post said it best,
    “Jimenez is less interested in that kind of social analysis, but what’s striking throughout his book is how desperate McKinney (the convicted murderer) is to refute allegations that he is gay or bisexual — even at the expense of undermining his own case. Whether it was a hate crime, a drug crime, or a combination of the two, it’s hard to shake the suspicion that self-hate and a misguided culture of masculinity, which taught McKinney to abhor in himself what Shepard had learned to embrace, was as complicit as anything else in the murder of Matthew Shepard.

    That is, of course, a kind of hate crime — just not as straightforward as the one we’ve embraced all these years.”

    • “Why are you accepting of this new theory as truth, without the benefit of critical analysis? Just seems convenient, doesn’t it?”

      You’re letting confirmation bias get the best of you. Has Jack accepted the new analysis as truth? Or has he accepted the pursuit of truth as an ethical pursuit? You see, if the account does make a reasonable case about such-and-such or makes a reasonable case denying such and such or makes an indisputable case for or against such and such, it shouldn’t matter what your preconceived notions are: the truth is being sought.

      Of course, your knee jerk reaction to Jack’s post does a great job indicating that you belong to the “who gives a damn about the truth: we need something that advances an agenda, true or not” crowd.

    • A sadly embarrassing comment, JJ. Get a grip….then I’ll accept an apology.

      1. Where did I declare any version of the Shepard story definitive?
      2. By what measure would you assume that I have a stake in what is determined to be the truth here, other than a stated preference for facts unspun and history unedited by political agenda-pushers?
      3. Has anything I have written ever suggested less than full, uncategorical support for full rights and respect for gays?
      4. How does any legitimate gay rights advocacy depend on what happened to one poor, murdered kid in Wyoming?
      5. Objective researchers have found that there is evidence that the murder had a lot more behind it than mere anti-gay hate, and this has been known for years. There are plenty of cases of real prejudice motivated beatings—why does this one have to be transformed into something it may not be? It doesn’t, and the whole technique of spinning and warping reality to get emotionally resonant tipping point tales is unethical in the extreme.

  5. “Do we have to pretend Trayvon Martin was murdered out of racial hate to make the case against profiling and bigotry? Is it essential that Matthew Shepard be the victim of hate crime to ensure the civil rights of gay Americans?”

    No, not to make the case against those attitudes being wrong, no we don’t. However, for individuals to advance the agenda that America is deeply entangled in immitigable hatred we do need to do just that. Because logic would suggest that the inability to find voluminous or high profile instances of those attitudes would imply that America IS NOT trapped by bigotry and IT IS a land of greater tolerance and fairer treatment than those who push agendas need it to be. If they can’t find those instances they’d better damn manufacture them, lest people realize the agenda’s are utter bunk.

  6. I am not commenting on the Matthew Shephard part of the story because I am not informed enough about the new article to debate the veracity of it or not. But I do want to talk about hate crime legislation.

    “No hate crime law is a good law, because killing one human being should not be officially designated as more heinous than killing any other simply because of the victim’s race, religion or sexual orientation.”

    I think you are misrepresenting and/or misunderstanding what hate crime laws are for and why they are needed (especially federal hate crime legislation).

    1) Federal hate crime legislation is needed specifically to deal with circumstances where a local or state government may not take action against a civil rights violation. The 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law. But the feds can only act if there is a written law violated. Hate crime laws are that written law. If an individual is attacked on the bases of the classifications included in federal hate crime legislation AND the state does not treat the crime against that individual in an equal way as they would have treated someone else similarly situated, then you wind up with a failure to protect the right to be protected equally under the law and the hate crime legislation is the federal government’s only way to act.

    2) Even state hate crime legislation is needed because while the murder of one is not necessarily more heinous than the murder of another, if the intent of the murder is to terrorize a particular group then the murder does have a broader impact than the murder of someone because he slept with your wife (for example). Nobody should think for a minute that if a cross was burned on the lawn of a black family that the message sent was only meant for that family. It was meant for all black families. And if a murder was done to “send a message” in a similar way, then that murder does have a greater impact than the jilted lover/spouce.

    On the other part of the post, I will look into it. But I will agree with you that it is always ethical to seek the truth, even if (and I would say especially if) it harms an agenda.

    • 1. Dan, I am not aware of a single instance where hate crime legislation has been used to punish a legitimate crime that wasn’t already a state crime. The two crimes that were used to justify the law were the dragging murder of James Byrd—first degree murder everywhere, and Shepard’s death, which is also the blatant murder. So what hate crime legislation are you talking about, that applies to this case?
      2. When the DC snipers were shooting randomly, an entire community was terrorized. I was here…I know. How is that less harmful than killing the member of a group that feels threatened? How is the nature of the group one chooses to intimidate a good reason for enhanced penalties?
      3. That isn’t the standard for a hate crime anyway. There is no requirement of an intent to terrorize. What is required is animus based on specific kinds of bigotry. That means that we’re punishing acts differently according to what the killer is thinking, based on content of belief, not whether there is intent or not. Thought crime, in short. Wrong.
      4. I think killing someone you love who trusts you is far worse than killing someone you hate who already fears you. It’s betrayal as well as murder. Why not have tougher sentences for that?

  7. “Dan, I am not aware of a single instance where hate crime legislation has been used to punish a legitimate crime that wasn’t already a state crime. ”

    Just because something is a state crime doesn’t mean the state will act on the crime. Go all the way back to the murder of civil rights workers in Mississippi. Clearly this was a murder (and eventually the state charged and convicted one of them, within the last decade) but at the time the state refused to prosecute. The murderers back then got a slap on the wrist because the Federal Government lacked the authority to do anything else. That is one of the reasons why hate crime laws are needed. To catch actions like this that fall through the cracks.

    “When the DC snipers were shooting randomly, an entire community was terrorized. I was here…I know. How is that less harmful than killing the member of a group that feels threatened? ”

    I am not saying such actions are not threatening to a community. But those individuals were arrested, tried, and convicted. Yes? No need for further federal intervention.

    “How is the nature of the group one chooses to intimidate a good reason for enhanced penalties?”

    The shootings were indescriminate. That is what makes it different than targeting a group of people sharing a charactaristic that puts them in a protected class.

    “That isn’t the standard for a hate crime anyway. There is no requirement of an intent to terrorize. ”
    There is no requirement stated because the intent is assumed.

    “What is required is animus based on specific kinds of bigotry. That means that we’re punishing acts differently according to what the killer is thinking, based on content of belief, not whether there is intent or not. Thought crime, in short. Wrong.”

    It is not thought crime. They are free to think whatever they want as long as they do not act on it. But killing someone because he specifically slept with your wife has a different impact than going out and killing someone specifically because he meets some sort of racial/sexual/gender/other protected classification.

    “I think killing someone you love who trusts you is far worse than killing someone you hate who already fears you. It’s betrayal as well as murder. Why not have tougher sentences for that?”

    Well I would argue that they technically do, because if you are killing someone who is yor spouse (for example) you would likely get tried for other crimes that would increase the length of your sentence.

    But there is a problem with your logic here. You may be able to effectively argue for tougher sentences for other crimes. That you can does not negate the need for hate crime legislation.

    I used to be in the “if you want to be tougher on crimes of hate then be tougher on all crimes and you get the same net effect”. The problem is you don’t. Because, again, one of the effects of a crime based on hatred of a particular race is to impact negatively the group to which that person belonged to that was targeted.

    • 1. You are citing the rationale for Federal civil rights laws. Where’s evidence that hate crime legislation is similarly needed? There was never any question but that Byrd’s killers and Shapard’s murderers would be arrested and tried.
      2. “I am not saying such actions are not threatening to a community. But those individuals were arrested, tried, and convicted. Yes? No need for further federal intervention.” So again, how does this make Shepard an argument for hate crime laws?
      3. Hate crimes were and are a sop thrown to minority groups by sucking up politicians who want to clutter up the statute books for cheap votes—the laws say “I care,” and also allow supporters to call people like me who ask, “What? Murder is murder!” racists and homophobes who don’t weep sufficiently at the atrocities committed on Byrd and Shepard. It’s clever.
      4. The relevant though they are acting on is “I want to kill you.” Hate is constitutionally protected. The law suggest otherwise, and that the state tells us what its OK to hate. I hate hate crime laws.
      5. My argument is that tougher penalties for identical crimes is absurd, and offensive too, because it suggest that killing a member of group A is worse than killing a member of Group B. Unamerican.

      • “You are citing the rationale for Federal civil rights laws. ”

        I am citiing the rational for civil rights laws and federal hate crime laws are included in that group of laws.

        “Where’s evidence that hate crime legislation is similarly needed? ”

        They are needed as a net, to catch cases that might slip through the cracks (be it through ineptitude at the state level or even worse refusing to prosecute).

        “So again, how does this make Shepard an argument for hate crime laws?”
        The second stated reason for hate crime laws, which is that hate crimes create a terroristic effect on the particular protected group.

        “Hate crimes were and are a sop thrown to minority groups…”

        One does not need to be a minority to be a victim of a hate crime.

        “The relevant though they are acting on is “I want to kill you.” Hate is constitutionally protected. The law suggest otherwise, and that the state tells us what its OK to hate. I hate hate crime laws.”

        The law does not suggest otherwise. The law suggests that ACTING on hate in a criminal way can have a bigger effect than that crime would have when committed for another reason.

        • Wrong. Unfocussed hate isn’t enough—it has to be hate of a particular favored group, a protected class. It even sounds dumb discussing hate crimes. Again, show me a case where such a crime would have fallen through the cracks, as you say, without hate crime laws. I can neither find nor imagine one.

          • How do you define “favored group”. For example hate crimes are often wrongly described as only protecting minorities. Black people can be (and have been) charged for hate crimes against white people just for being white.

            The Philadelphia MS case is one that fell through the cracks. I can keep going back to that as you wish.

            But falling through the cracks is only one of the reasons to have the laws. Even if you believe that we live in a more civilized time than we previously did and that no state would dare deny justice or equal protection under the law to specific groups* we still ahve a reason to have the law. There is also the terrorizing impact that hate crimes can have on groups that require their existence and extra punishment.

            It makes sense. Why? Because the mere threat of force to an individual is assault. You don’t actually have to do physical harm to someone under the law to have committed a crime. And in the hate crime you do not just do harm to the specific target but you also do harm to those in the group.

            *I do not believe we have advanced to the point where states can be absolutely trusted to do the right thing based on protected classes. I do not think gay people would be able to get a fair shake in the south without these laws. In fact, the existence of these laws may prevent states from turning a blind eye for fear of the tarnishing impact that might happen by having a federal hate crime place taking place in the state.

            • I mean what the laws are: from the FBI website…
              “A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”

              You are making up the other factors. There is nothing about threats to non-attacked individuals. It is solely a matter of criminalizing bias toward designated groups.

              You’ll have to be more specific about the Philadelphia MS case, since I have no idea what you are referring to.. I gather your meaning is that hate crime laws gives the government an extra tool to second guess state authorities when they decide to prosecute a crime, or not. Is that your explanation for state hate crime legislation too?

              • This is the crux of the argument, when it is ultimately reduced: “I gather your meaning is that hate crime laws gives the government an extra tool to second guess state authorities when they decide to prosecute a crime, or not.”

                I gathered that was inevitably the slippery slope here, when Dan said “They are needed as a net, to catch cases that might slip through the cracks (be it through ineptitude at the state level or even worse refusing to prosecute). “

                It’s ultimately a tool for the federal government to subordinate the states. It’d also a useful tool to wield against states whose internal politics may disagree with the politics of the nation. It’d also a great tool to politicize specific instances to drum up the temporary passions of the people in order to divide America a little more and get a boost among certain demographics.

                • Or,in short, unethical..like Holder allowing the silly consideration of whether to bring civil rights charges against Zimmerman to drag on, rather than having the courage to say “No, of course not” to the NAACP.

                  • …or dropping the investigation into Black Panthers at polling places in Philadelphia. Why weren’t hate-crime charges leveled there if there are no protected classes and all are treated equal by the unbiased federal government?

                    • It was the Bush administration that dropped criminal charges against the Black Panthers standing at a mostly black polling place. Sorry to burst your bubble…

                    • I have checked my facts on this, repeatedly. The Bush Administration is the administration that decided to not file criminal charges against the members of the “New Black Panther Party”. Period. There can be no honest argument with that FACT.

                      http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jul/23/bill-oreilly/bill-oreilly-blames-obama-administration-not-pursu/

                      “In other words, the decision not to pursue criminal charges was made by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prior to the Obama administration.”

                    • Dan, I hate this kind of weasel word stuff, and you need to cut it out. Yes, the Bush DOJ dropped the criminal charges—it DID file a voter intimidation lawsuit, aka a civil complaint, and this WAS dropped by the Obama Administration for no good reason.

                      And don’t cite PolitiFact again here, please. It’s biased, and well-documented as such. FactCheck.org and, with some exceptions, the Washington Post’s Fact-checker are legitimate references. The only people who use Politifact are progressives who like their “facts” with a liberal spin.

                    • I am not sure why you are claiming I used a weasel word. I initially said the criminal charges had been dropped against them. You said I was wrong. The link I had provided the quote that proved me right.

                      And the specific politifact article I linked to contained quotes that are sourced. No clue as to why it matters where a full quote taken in context has to come from site a and not site b. I do not think Fox News is an unbiased source in general, but I will use it as a source when I need to and it has the correct data on it.

                      And we are talking about criminal charges on this thread. That is why I brought up the fact tha the criminal charges were, in fact, dropped.

                    • The point being made involved refusing to prosecute an obvious example of voter intimidation because it was done by blacks rather than whites. The technical matter of whether the prosecution involved a civil or criminal charge is irrelevant to the point involved, and I consider appealing to that evasive and misleading. The fact is that the Bush Administration was pursuing a complaint, and the Obama Justice Department dropped it.

                • Like it or not, the 14th amendment made the 10th amendment states powers weaker and the federal government smaller, especially when it comes to protecting individual rights and privileges.

  8. Jack,
    Searching for the truth is never unethical, and accepting the truth should never be discouraged as inappropriate… This is the territory Slate writer John Kruzel is frolicking in when he argues that even if the popular version of the Shepard murder wasn’t correct, the misinformation was worth it because a good law resulted. This is the rationalization of an ethics dunce, indeed an ethical dunderhead. Lies and misinformation are to be encouraged and excused if laws John Kruzel likes the result?

    I don’t think that that’s what Kruzel was saying. The closest he got was where he said “And even if Shepard were not the victim of a hate crime, there’s Supreme Court precedent showing that good law can sometimes emerge from a set of facts that are later discovered to have been inaccurate at the time of the court’s ruling.” I don’t think that this should necessarily be interpretated as saying that misinformation should be encouraged if it results in a good law, merely that it happened to do so [in Kruzel’s opinion] in this case. And this sentence seems to argue against that reading: “So take Matthew Shepard out of the equation if you like, because there’s no shortage of other examples of horrific anti-gay hate crime.”

    1) The news media is scrupulously giving the book as little publicity as possible, being run by card-carrying progressives who are easy prey to the intellectually bankrupt argument that to give any publicity to the book is tantamount to supporting anti-gay bias;

    Would you describe the people at NPR as “card-carrying progressives”? Because that’s where I first heard about this book. After reading your description of the coverage, I searched for “the book of matt” on Google and found the following stories on mainstream or liberal/progressive sites, in addition, of course, to the Slate coverage that you linked to:
    Neutral coverage:
    NPR
    Jezebel
    Huffington Post
    Daily Beast
    SF Gate (not primarily a story about the book, but in a story about a tribute to Matthew Shephard, they asked the person organizing the tribute to comment on the book)
    Negative coverage (bad publicity is still publicity!):
    Media Matters
    The Atlantic

    Perhaps it’s not as much coverage as you believe it deserves? Or simply less coverage than the conservative news organizations have given it? Maybe, despite some coverage, non-conservative news organizations are covering it less than they otherwise would because they don’t want to appear sympathetic to anti-gay views. And maybe the conservative sites are covering it more than they otherwise would because it is exciting news to those who believe in a sinister gay agenda. Either or both could be true.

    Also, do you have any evidence that places that did not cover the new book did so because they believe that “to give any publicity to the book is tantamount to supporting anti-gay bias”–beyond that it seems plausible to you?

    • Come on. He is making an argument for misrepresenting the truth because sometimes it results in good laws, because—Look!–it might have worked out for the best in this case! (I have no idea who is right about Shepard’s murder, and I doubt we’ll ever know for sure—especially since so many people seem to think they have a stake in how the history is written.)

      The fact that you can cite places where the book was noted doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been embargoed.That’s pretty slim—from a historical and social perspective, it’s a noteworthy book by a credible researcher. Yes, NPR has many moments of responsibility and objectivity, which is what makes its bias as damaging and unethical as it is.

      • Come on yourself. You can just as easily read in an implicit, “Well, obviously it’s not okay to lie about things, even if this happened to have a good result, so why would I even address that?” He doesn’t clearly state whether he’s for or against lying to further political goals. (Though at minimum, he is not “making an argument” for it.) His argument is that the law is a good law, and that it is still a good law whether or not Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay. Appending, “And therefore it’s OK to lie in order to further political goals” is something you did, not something the author did.

        You can say that an asteroid worked out well for us (though not so well for the dinosaurs) without saying that we should go around causing mass extinction events because sometimes they benefit us.

        I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about whether the book has been “embargoed”.

  9. Newcomb goes on to reveal that while he was representing Russell Henderson — Aaron McKinney’s accomplice in Shepard’s murder — he was privy to the same sources Jimenez credits in his book, and he highlights the inconsistency in their stories.

    “During the time I represented Russell, a man called his grandmother, saying he had been Matthew’s lover and had his diary,” Newcomb writes of one source. “I called him and asked if that was true. He told me it was, so I asked for a copy. His story shifted; his sister had the diary. I asked that she send me a copy. His story shifted again. She wouldn’t show it to anyone because she feared for his life. I asked why he called Russell’s grandmother then; eventually, he seemed to suggest that he didn’t have enough money. Our conversation ended but I’m told he became a source for a recently published book rewriting Matthew’s murder, claiming that McKinney did not target Matthew because he was gay.”

    Newcomb also points out that Jimenez’s efforts to rewrite the details of Shepard’s murder are eclipsed by McKinney’s own admission that he targeted the 21-year-old because “Matthew Shepard needed killing” and he was “obviously gay.”

    http://www.advocate.com/society/hate-crimes/2013/10/15/attorney-tears-apart-new-theories-matthew-shepard-murder

    Ethical question – does this violate any attorney ethics? You know a sensationalist book is based on, shall we say questionable data, but to prove that would involve revealing details of the defence?

    • Sure does…and I doubt the motives and ethics of any lawyer who would do this. It doesn’t benefit his client. There is a lot of hearsay in his account, and lawyer..and the Advocate is being an advocate here.

  10. Needless to say.
    Really, why should anything you wrote here need to be said? Yet, it does, and thanks for saying it. Just one nitpicky thing: aren’t reasons # 2 and # 5 essentially the same?

    • Yes, they are two ways of saying the same thing, from different angles.

      “Needless to say” is a cliche I have to remember to excise from about three posts a week. Sometimes I forget.

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