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Updated November 1, 1999, 3:34 p.m. ET

Text of the "Gay Panic" Defense ruling in the Matthew Shepard Murder Trial

After nearly a week of expressing doubts, Judge Barton Voigt barred Aaron McKinney's lawyers from using the so-called "gay panic" defense. McKinney's lawyers, who refused to refer to their proposed strategy as a "gay panic" defense, had argued that their client went into a blind rage after Matthew Shepard allegedly made an unwanted pass at him. The defense argued in opening statements that this rage — and McKinney's fatal beating of Shepard — was spurred partly by the defendant's own prior homosexual experience and aggravated by drug and alcohol abuse.

But Judge Voigt disallowed this defense, telling McKinney's lawyers that their proposed strategy was a form of a temporary insanity or diminished capacity defense, neither of which are allowed by Wyoming law. Here is the text of the judge's decision:

IN THE SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT

ALBANY COUNTY, WYOMING

STATE OF WYOMING

    Plaintiff,

vs.

AARON JAMES MCKINNEY,

    Defendant,

Criminal Action No. 6381

ORDER CONCERNING "RAGE" DEFENSE

THIS MATTER having come before the Court upon its own motion, the Court having heard the arguments of counsel and having issued a Decision Letter of even date herewith, which is incorporated herein by this reference, finds as follows in regard to the Defendant's proposed "rage" defense:


    1. The defense is, in effect, either a temporary insanity defense or a diminished capacity defense, such as irresistible impulse, which are not allowed in Wyoming, because they do not fit within the statutory insanity defense construct.

    2. There is no proffered evidence of a homosexual rage syndrome that would make the evidence relevant.

    3. Even if relevant, the evidence will mislead and confuse the jury, specifically because the defense asks the jury to consider provocation and the heat of passion as negating specific intent, rather than malice, which is contrary to the law as it will be explained to the jury.

    4. Defense counsel's contention that the defense is not a homosexual rage defense, but is merely a state of mind defense, is not compelling. The elements of the defense the Defendant proffers are precisely the elements of the homosexual rage syndrome.

    5. The bottom line of the Defendant's proposed defense is that it is an attempt to make "voluntarily, upon a sudden heat of passion" a subjective, rather than an objective test.

    6. The evidence may be relevant in the sentencing phase.

IT IS THEREFORE, HEREBY ORDERED that the proffered testimony from lay witnesses that the Defendant experienced certain homosexual experiences in his youth is not admissible in the trial phase of this case.

DATED October 30, 1999

BY THE COURT:

Barton R. Voigt
District Judge

   

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