The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project Act 3: Dennis Shepard’s Statement Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator states that, since Aaron McKinney was found guilty of felony murder, he qualified for the death penalty. Aaron’s defense team asked the Shepard family for life imprisonment for Aaron rather than capital punishment, and the prosecution indicated that they would respect the family’s wishes for sentencing.
Although the prosecuting attorney originally intended to ask for the death penalty, the public and the prosecution team both seem to think that it is best that the Shepard family, rather than the court, decide how to punish Aaron.
Themes
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Next, the playwrights present Dennis Shepard’s statement. Dennis, who is Matthew Shepard’s father, says that Matthew was a winner, although he did not look like it, but he lost on October twelfth, the day he died. Dennis wonders what Matthew could have done with his life if he hadn’t been killed, stating that although Matthew officially died in the hospital, he truly died tied the fence after Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson’s attack. However, Dennis says, Matthew was not alone, thanks to God and thanks to the Laramie stars and landscape that he loved. Dennis feels that some good came out of Matthew’s death, in that people are now focusing on trying to end hatred. Dennis says he is proud of his son.
In this climactic statement, Matthew’s father speaks about Matthew’s death, poignantly discussing his son’s final hours and affirming that Matthew was with nature and with God when he died. Dennis evokes religion, displaying a sense of God as a comforting, loving presence in Matthew’s final hours. Dennis also speaks about the solace he feels that Matthew’s death is galvanizing people to confront and combat homophobia and allowing the Laramie community to slowly change.
Themes
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Dennis Shepard then talks about the death penalty, saying that he has heard people saying that Matthew Shepard and Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, are against the death penalty. Dennis calls these statements false, and says that Matt did believe in the death penalty, and so does he. Dennis even says that he wants to see Aaron McKinney die. However, Dennis says that he and Judy decided to show mercy and ask for life imprisonment for Aaron in Matthew’s memory. Dennis hopes that Aaron thinks of Matthew often and thanks Matthew every day for the mercy Aaron is being shown.
Dennis then goes on to address the question of the death penalty. Dennis makes it clear that he and his family are not ideologically opposed to the death penalty, and that, in fact, Dennis believes Aaron deserves death. Despite this, Dennis chooses to give Aaron life imprisonment to honor Matthew’s memory and, presumably, to prevent the perpetuation of violence. In Dennis’s view, mercy is the best justice for Aaron.
Themes
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
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