Dear Democracy Now! Visitor: We are an independent, ad-free daily news program that serves millions of viewers and listeners each month. In this US election year, Democracy Now! is more important than ever. For 20 years, we’ve put a spotlight on corporate and government abuses of power. We lift up the stories of ordinary people working to make change in extraordinary times. We do all of this with just a fraction of the budget and staff of a commercial news show. We do it without ads, corporate sponsorship or government funding. How is this possible? Only with your support. A generous funder will match your donation dollar for dollar if you donate right now. That means when you give $10, your donation will be worth $20. Pretty exciting, right? So, if you've been waiting to make your contribution to Democracy Now!, today is your day. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you every day.

Your Donation: $

Opening Arguments Begin On Matthew Shepard Trial

October 26, 1999
Story
WATCH FULL SHOW

Attorneys in the last of three murder trials in the dragging death of an African American man by white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, are in the last stages of jury selection.

Yesterday, about 170 potential jurors packed the courtroom in Jasper as jury selection in the trial of Shawn Allen Berry began. Almost 40 of those were excused immediately for medical reasons.

The three white supremacists used Berry’s pickup truck and logging chain to drag James Byrd Junior to his death in 1998, a crime that outraged the country and led to an unsuccessful attempt in Texas to pass a hate crimes bill.

Meanwhile, opening arguments began yesterday in the murder trial of a man accused of killing a gay college student. Jurors saw photographs of Matthew Shepard’s bloody face as prosecutors began presenting their case against Aaron McKinney, accused of beating the student to death in a drunken, drug-induced rage.

The trial of the other man accused of the slaying that shocked the nation, Russell Henderson, ended in April just before a jury was seated. Henderson pleaded guilty to felony murder and kidnapping and was sentenced to life in prison.

In addition to the two men charged in the case, the slaying of Shepard has put on trial the small college town of Laramie as well as the state of Wyoming, where attempts to pass hate crimes laws have been unsuccessful. The vicious nature of the attack horrified the nation and reinvigorated the national debate on hate crimes.

Guest:

  • Jeffrey Montgomery, Executive Director of the Triangle Foundation, and spokesperson for the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, two organizations that advocate for the Gay/Lesbian/Transgender community.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.