Stephen Jimenez went to Laramie, Wyo., in 2000, to write a screenplay about the murder of Matthew Shepard. He expected to be researching fairly open-and-shut case which had almost immediately become the national symbol for anti-gay hate crime.
What he found, tucked away among the files, was an anonymous letter that would change the course of his work completely.
“I was shocked to hear that Aaron McKinney's attorneys claimed gay panic in their defense,” the letter began. “Aaron and Russ were quite familiar with gay guys and had frequented gay bars. They became aware of the fact that they had a valuable asset in their pants, and that gay guys would give them shelter, food, and money in return for a few minutes pleasure.”
The letter also named some mutual acquaintances of Matthew and Aaron, suggesting the two had known each other before the night of the crime, and casting doubt on the pickup-gone-wrong narrative that had been presented in court.
Jimenez spent the next 13 years researching the case and speaking to more than a hundred witnesses. What he ended up with was The Book of Matt, a portrait of the crime that's been met with controversy and has, in fact, been condemned by the Matthew Shepard Foundation and other critics in the media.
We sat down with Stephen Jimenez this week at an event at Carmichael's Bookstore to ask him about his work, and get his response to some specific criticisms of his conclusions. On this week's episode, we bring you that conversation so you can draw your own conclusions about what's undoubtedly a complex situation.
Note: Due to the controversy surrounding the book, we've decided to run this interview unedited. It's been altered for volume levels only.
In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, WFPL's Joseph Lord fills us in on the local case of an Audubon Park police officer who lost his job after complaining about anti-gay harassment. And we reflect on the sad story of Nathan Verhelst, the Belgian trans man who chose doctor-assisted suicide after his body rejected his reassignment surgery.