In 1998, a young gay man by the name of Matthew Shepard was robbed, viciously beaten and left tied to a fence to die. Although he was soon found by the police and hospitalized, he soon expired. This film recounts the events after the conviction of the two men responsible for this hate motivated murder. Matthew's parents, though satisfied by the conviction, are finding the sentencing phase of the trial more difficult. The parents initially want to request the death penalty for their son's murderers, but the mother, Judy, starts to reconsider. As they struggle with their decision, they decide to reexamine the life of their son and rediscover his personality, his struggle to accept his homosexual sexual orientation as a natural part of his being and above all, his generous humanity to others. All of this leads the parents to appeal to the court the way their son would have wanted, not out of vengeance but to represent best of what their son was and the tragedy of his loss. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
We live in a visual age and the horrifying thing about Matthew Shepard's demise is that it is far from an isolated incident. I'm in a better position to know more than most because I worked for New York State Crime Victims Board for 23 years. I can give the reader the names of several victims of horrifying incidents that resulted in homicide or serious injury, but these cases were covered locally or at most statewide.
The real hero in The Matthew Shepard Story as far as I'm concerned is some anonymous individual working for a wire service who picked up the local story of a kid being left for dead on a lonely road on a barbed wire fence in the state of Wyoming in a coma. The visual picture of little Matthew all 5'3" of him stretched out like he was crucified gave a nationwide picture for America to ponder the effects of hate crimes against GLBT people. For the first time in our history a case like this got national coverage.
There were rallies in all 50 states calling for GLBT inclusive hate crime legislation. I remember attending one in Buffalo and with me was a friend who actually went to the University of Wyoming some twenty years earlier. He told me that Laramie, Wyoming was not the most gay friendly place in the world, but that he never had any serious problems that put him in fear of his life there.
The Matthew Shepard Story is as much about his parents Dennis and Judy Shepard played here by Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing and there efforts to support their gay son in life and give his death meaning as it is about Matthew who is portrayed by Shane Meier. Matthew was nothing special in life, just your average gay kid, trying to fit into a world that can be real hostile. He had his angst over his sexual orientation, but looked to be adjusting to it.
In my life I've also seen parents who behaved abominably when their kids came out or even when they suspected. The support that Dennis and Judy Shepard gave in life and after can never be overestimated. Sam Waterston has had many a courtroom moment as ADA Jack McCoy, but addressing the court and the perpetrators in the penalty phase of the trial of McKinney and Henderson might just have been his best.
Philip Morris, Wayne Purviance, Julio Rivera, James Zappalorti, Henry Marquez all may have met Matthew Shepard as he went from one plain of existence to another. Any one of them could have gotten the national coverage that Matthew Shepard did, it was fate that got him the national coverage they didn't have. Matthew was a national symbol for them as well as millions of others over time.
And so he tragically remains.
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