Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shepard vs. Shephard---Why Unnecessary Hate Crimes Laws Deny Equal Protection

All Men Are Created Equal

--By Angela Rockwood

Everyone has heard of Matthew Shepard, but have you heard of Jason Shephard?

Any Google search on the name "Matthew Shepard" turns up hundreds of thousands of stories written in the ten years since Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, reportedly, because he was gay. His murder brought national as well as international attention to the issue of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.

A story you may not have heard is the case of Jason Shephard, nearly identical in age to Matthew, but who was brutally murdered by a gay man after fighting off his sexual advances. This Shephard is a virtual unknown, having received little, if any coverage in the national media.

Jason was studying to be a teacher. He was also an athlete, a runner. Taking a semester off to earn money, he took a job interning for Daktronics Inc., a sound equipment company. His dad said he was excited about the new job and hoped to do well. He had good friends, had no interest in drugs, and as testified in court, had no interest in having sex with other men.

On a three day business trip to Philadelphia, his employer, William Smithson, slipped date rape drug GHB into Jason's food during a dinner and tried to rape him. Prosecutors said during the trial that 43-year-old William Smithson, frequently had gay sex parties featuring methamphetamine and GHB, and had developed a fatal attraction to Jason.

When Jason, even in his drugged state, rebuffed the attempted rape, Smithson brutally strangled him. As testified in court, Smithson continued his strangulation hold for more than two minutes after Jason's body quit struggling and lost consciousness to ensure his death. Tipped off by one of Smithson's former lovers, police found Jason Shephard's nude body, bound in belts and wrapped in sheets a few days later in Smithson's basement which also contained a mirrored ceiling, couch and video equipment.

The 40-year-old Smithson was arrested and charged with first, second and third degree murder, attempted rape, abuse of a corpse, aggravated assault, unauthorized administration of an intoxicant and tampering with evidence. He was convicted and sentanced to life in prison.

Both Matthew Shepard and Jason Shephard were brutally murdered. One was gay, murdered by straight men, the other was straight, murdered by a gay man. Both sets of murderers received life in prison, without parole, both got what they deserved, regardless of race, color or sexual orientation.

The Equal Protection Clause secures the promise of the United States' professed commitment to the proposition that "all men are created equal". Yet federal hate crimes laws are being rushed into the books based on motives involved specifically in Matthew Shepard's case because he was a gay man targeted for his sexuality and killed by straight men.

Yet are not these two cases, Shepard and Shephard demonstrating the epitome of equal protection? Why is one being elevated to national furor, while the other is overlooked?

Already society seemingly values the life of one Shepard over the other. Is it right that the law should also?

Equal is equal, regardless of sexual orientation. In our abhorrence and rush to judgment, we're being sold a line that hate crimes bills are necessary to prevent what happened to Matthew Shepard. But in that rush to judgment, we forget that we cannot be legislated into utopia. No amount of grandstanding or legislating can prevent people from hurting other people.

The two miserable human beings who killed Matthew Shepard are currently serving life sentences for their crimes – and rightfully so. That being said, can I ask the obvious question?

Why do we need “hate crimes” legislation to monitor thoughts and intents? Why can't actions speak for themselves?

In a society that is increasingly Orwellian in nature, the question that should be asked is not what we have to gain by this hate crimes fiasco, but what we have to lose.


Anonymous said...

In one of my other comments, I admitted to believing the majority of the conservative movement to being entirely too myopic. These fine folks look around their congregations, and do not see the hate that exists beyond their churches, communities, and life experiences. So, it is predictable that you would not understand these hate bills....

As a youth growing up in Florida it was not a rare occasion to hear about a "black" man being beaten close to death by a group of white men. In my parent's time, it was not a rare occasion to see a black man hanging from a tree. These are vile and disturbing images, but it must be put into you conscience so that you can understand why this has to be done. The people who did these dastardly deeds were generally known, but they were not prosecuted and in the vast majority of cases, local police turned a blind eye. There are still areas that exist like this.

Hate legislation allow people who can not achieve justice at the local level to bring charges at a national level.

In the case that you presented, a gay man who commits an act against a heterosexual male can pretty much expect to be prosecuted. A "straight" man who attacks a gay man just for being gay, has a good chance in a lot of municipalities of being overlooked. The same is true of illegals as well.

Briefly on illegals, it is my belief that everyone should follow the law. If you are here illegally, you should be ejected from the country and those aiding you in your criminal enterprise should have the "book" thrown at them. However, that does not give anyone the right to rape, abuse, or murder illegals.

Sexual predators have also been added, but at this juncture, I am not sure that I agree with that addition. As for the preposterous attempt to add veterans, I love my vets, but it seems rather unlikely that there is a lot of criminal acts being perpetrated against veterans.

Rick Beagle

Anonymous said...

The evil double post.

Continuing that comment on vets:

Of course, those that prey on Vet's families (while their service person is away) deserve a special place in Hell.

There is a lot of sleaze out there that prey on a deployed veteran's family, and I just wanted to share my disgust with these vile creatures.

Rick Beagle

Swilliams said...

What a load of %#@* Rick Beagle. I lived in Forida too, in the 60s through 80s and I am sorry but it was not COMMON to see black men killed by groups of white men, anywhere. Ludicrous!

"Hate crimes" tags on what are already crimes simply affixes a value on the lives of one group of people over another. If I walk home from a concert with my black friend and gay friend and we are all shot to death, my friends' deaths will carry a greater penalty than mine. In fact, some slick trial lawyer will make me out to be the evil one who deserved to die since I, as a white person, was most likely an oppressor of the poor guy who killed me.

Liberals always classify people by the ethnicity of their ancestors, and now by their sexual deviancy. Amazing how you guys always claim to be fair to everyone.

No Smart Girl would ever buy your load of bovine scatology.

Anonymous said...


I lived in Florida during that same time frame and you are full of crap. If people of color were not being beaten, their churches and their homes were being burned. Fortunately for me, there are NUMEROUS articles, witnesses and historical documents to back up my claims.

You on the other hand have nothing more than a fantasy.

You are either a liar or woefully ignorant, either way you should be ashamed of yourself for spreading you manure.

Rick Beagle

Swilliams said...

Rick Beagle, look in the mirror to see the ugly, name calling face of hate.

You post regularly on this site and when someone refutes your allegations you respond with rage and epithets.

Hate - thy name is Liberal!

Woman for Men's Equality said...

This is wonderfully-written, and explains a hugely important issue! The simplified interpretation is easily understood: The mandating of "thought" is not supportable by the U.S. Constitution. Period.

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