Aaron McKinney was convicted Nov. 3 on five felony counts of the six brought against him.
After a week of jury selection and another 6 days of trial, a Laramie jury heard closing arguments yesterday and deliberated until this morning where they handed down 5 separate convictions for Aaron McKinney, for the brutal murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.
McKinney was found guilty of Felony Murder&endash;Robbery, Felony Murder Kidnap-ping, Second-Degree Murder, Aggravated Robbery, and Aggravated Kidnapping. McKinney was found not guilty of First-Degree Murder.
"We are pleased with the verdict handed down today," said Jeffrey Montgomery, Executive Director of the Triangle Foundation, a statewide gay civil rights and anti-violence group in Michigan, and steering committee member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. "Although we were hoping for a First-Degree conviction we understand that the jury probably took several mitigating circum-stances into consideration in handing down the lower convictions."
The same jury responsible for the guilt phase of the McKinney trial will be the same jury asked to determine whether McKinney will face life in prison or the death penalty. The sentencing phase will begin tomorrow morning and is expected to last several days.
"Testimony in the sentencing phase will be difficult to hear, because although the "gay panic" defense was disallowed for the fact-finding phase, the judge has indi-cated that testimony regarding alleged past negative gay experiences may be offered at that time," continued Montgomery. "We can't help feeling that the extent to which anti-gay testimony was offered in the trial had the effect of mitigating the verdict from First-Degree to Felony Murder.
"McKinney is a murderer and should spend the rest of his life in a prison cell contemplating the life he destroyed."