Matthew Shepard Parents Accuse ABC Of 'Selective Editing'

Sat. November 27, 2004 12:00 AM by

New York City - The parents of Matthew Shepard have accused ABC news of sacrificing "years of professional journalistic ethics and values for a stab at revisionist history ... and ratings."

Judy and Dennis Shepard say that the 20/20 documentary on the Murder of Matthew Shepard was purposely distorted and twisted the facts.

The program, which aired Friday night, featured prison interviews with the two men sentenced to two life terms each for the killing. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson pleaded guilty in 1998 in a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, claiming at the time that they killed Shepard because he was gay.

The pair now say they were addicted to methamphetamines and targeted the college student because they thought he had money they could use to buy drugs. Both men denied to 20/20 that the killing was a hate crime.

"[We] were dismayed and saddened by the tabloid nature of the show, its lack of serious reporting of facts in evidence, and the amateurish nature of asking leading questions to the people who were interviewed," said Judy Shepard in a statement.

"I, too, was asked by 20/20 for an interview and agreed to do so to ensure that all of the facts were correctly stated. My only stipulation was that our legal advisor Sean Maloney, Matthew Shepard Foundation Board member and former senior White House staffer, had to be included in the interview to share his legal knowledge and expertise regarding Matthew's murder.

"He was quite eloquent in stating the facts pertaining to Matt's case, his knowledge of hate crimes in general, and in debunking 20/20's attempt to rewrite history. Sean was deleted from the interview entirely.

"The editing by 20/20 of my interview seems to leave out all of my relevant comments regarding the potential bias of the show and my deliberate restating of the facts of the case clearly ended up on the cutting room floor.

"My remarks were reduced to a few very personal maternal comments taken out of context to make it appear as if I agreed with 20/20's theories. That couldn't be farther from the truth."

Judy Shepard also accuses the program of "subjective editing" in an interview with Dave O'Malley, a Captain with the City of Laramie police force at the time, and the lead investigator in the case working in tandem with Rob DeBree, the lead investigator for the Albany County Sheriff's Department, to bring the case to trial and to provide the evidence necessary to convict both Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney.

Shepard said in her statement that O'Malley gave ABC a detailed account of the case, describing the elements of hate and gay bias that were found during the investigation.

"Dave's comments were severely edited," Shepard's statement said. "Perhaps they were left out because he did not give Ms. Vargas the answer(s) she needed to maintain her 'new' theory concerning the murder. One of the most glaring omissions in the piece was the transcript of Aaron McKinney's in-custody interview which took place a few days after the murder. This occurred before any 'line of defense' had been established by legal counsel for the two defendants. Had that document been included, it would have shown an un-rehearsed and unemotional anti-gay account of the events before, during, and after leaving Matt tied to the fence."

© 2004

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.