Matthew Shepard Killer Argues for Reduced Sentence
June 15 2004 12:00 AM ET
The lawyer for one of the men convicted of murdering gay college student Matthew Shepard says his client was denied effective legal assistance during his trial. Russell Henderson's lawyer has filed a motion alleging that Henderson's rights were violated because public defenders did not tell him of the rights he would lose and those he would keep if he pleaded guilty. Henderson, who is serving two life sentences, pleaded guilty in 1999 to felony murder and kidnapping to avoid a possible death sentence. Lawyer Tim Newcomb, who did not handle Henderson's defense at trial, had earlier filed a motion saying his client's rights were violated after he pleaded guilty because the defense team allegedly did not discuss his right to appeal within 30 days. Newcomb is seeking to have Henderson's sentence reduced. A state district judge will hold a hearing on Newcomb's motion Tuesday in Laramie, Wyo. According to authorities, Henderson and Aaron McKinney, both 21, kidnapped, pistol-whipped, and robbed Shepard, then left him tied to a fence outside Laramie in October 1998. The 21-year-old died five days later in a hospital from massive head injuries. Police said the two attacked Shepard because he was gay and to rob him. Henderson admitted driving the University of Wyoming student to an area outside Laramie and tying him to the fence but said he tried to prevent McKinney from inflicting a more severe beating. McKinney's attorney said Henderson's story was fabricated. McKinney was convicted by a jury and also received two consecutive life sentences.