Second suspect goes on trial one year after gay student's death

Monday, October 11th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) -- Jury selection began today in the trial of
a suspect accused in the brutal slaying of a gay Wyoming student as
small groups of anti-gay protesters and people dressed as angels
demonstrated outside.

Seventeen people stood silently near the courthouse in costumes
made of white bedsheets. Representing Angel Action, Romaine
Patterson, 21, of State College, Pa., said her colleagues wanted to
send a message of love.

They faced about six protesters who waved signs with anti-gay
slogans. The Rev. Fred Phelps, 69, of Topeka, Kan., said his
followers wanted "to insert a little sanity and truth into this
mad orgy."

About 66 potential jurors were subpoenaed for today's selection
process in the death penalty trial of Aaron McKinney, 22, who is
charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated

His alleged co-conspirator, Russell Henderson, 22, received two
life sentences after pleading guilty in April to felony murder and

Shepard, 21, was lured from a bar on Oct. 7, 1998, driven to a
remote prairie, tied to a fence, pistol-whipped into
unconsciousness and left on the freezing plains. He died five days
later in a hospital.

McKinney, who has said he had no idea Shepard was gay and he
does not hate gay people, has pleaded innocent. His trial date
coincided with several memorials commemorating the one-year
anniversary of the crime.

A candlelight vigil on Sunday night at the University of Wyoming
attracted a crowd of 600, including Shepard's parents, Judy and
Dennis Shepard.

"We on this campus, in Laramie and in Wyoming, are people of
peace, of inclusiveness," the Rev. Roger Schmit, of St. Paul's
Newman Center, told the crowd.

University President Philip L. Dubois asked each person to light
a candle that will generate "a tiny bit of energy along the road
to a world that rejects prejudice, stereotypes, hatred and
violence, but their combined force will light a highway of hope."

Many signed a "pledge of nonviolence" written on 8-foot-tall
placards, then carried lit candles into a nearby auditorium where
folksingers Peter, Paul and Mary dedicated a concert to Shepard.

The soldout crowd of 2,000 gave Peter Yarrow a standing ovation
after a song he performed solo which included the lines: "Show me
the gay man, hated and scorned, who was killed just for being the
way he was born."

Yarrow wrote the lyrics after visiting the site where Shepard
was tied up and beaten. "My heart broke," he said of seeing the

Henderson has been subpoenaed by McKinney's lawyers to testify.
The defense witness list also includes Henderson's girlfriend,
Chasity Pasley, 21, and McKinney's girlfriend, Kristen Price, 19.

Ms. Pasley received up to two years in prison after pleading
guilty to being an accessory to first-degree murder for helping to
hide Henderson's bloody clothes. Ms. Price's trial on accessory
charges was to begin Jan. 3.

Because prosecutors believe McKinney was the main instigator, he
likely won't be offered a plea agreement, said Denver-based legal
analyst Andrew Cohen, who has followed the case.

Prosecutor Cal Rerucha has subpoenaed Judy Shepard in an attempt
"to humanize the victim, to put a face on the name Matthew
Shepard," said Cheyenne prosecutor Jon Forwood, who is not
involved in the case.

"It's quite common to use a parent to say, `This is the life
we're talking about,"' Forwood said.