Anatomy of A Hate Crime
Television movie exploring the different sides of the story behind the vicious attack and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard on October 10, 1998.
The telefilm opens in a small, Midwestern town with a 21-year-old gay man, Matthew, narrating the events that lead up to his untimely murder. One night, Matthew is approached by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at a local bar -- a meeting that ends in a brutal beating that appears to be the result of a lethal combination of intolerance, bigotry and violent natures.
In flashback, Aaron and Russell meet and form an intense bond that centers around partying and making money. They get into trouble with the police as their financial situation and drug habits worsen. Meanwhile, Matthew is an intelligent student who becomes active in the gay student union at his University and appears to be adjusting well to his new surroundings, although he secretly struggles with bouts of depression and has trouble maintaining close relationships. Aaron and Russell spot Matthew at a bar drinking alone and decide to take him out and rob him. But the robbery turns into a brutal beating, and the boys leave the badly beaten Matthew outside in the cold.
Matthew is discovered the next morning and the crime is quickly traced to Aaron and Russell. Although many think they will not be harshly punished for the beating, the tables are turned when Matthew dies, and Aaron and Russell find themselves in a publicized capital case. Despite Aaron and Russell's pleas that the beating was not a hate crime, the court finds Aaron and Russell guilty and both men are sentenced to life imprisonment.