The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

Aaron McKinney, a Laramie resident, is one of Matthew Shepard’s murderers. Aaron, who admits he killed Matthew with Russell Henderson because Matthew allegedly tried to hit on him, clearly harbors intense feelings of homophobia. Several characters indicate that Aaron, who was a new father at the time of the murder, had a drug problem. Aaron is sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes, and the play prominently features discussion of his trial. Aaron and Russell both become a central focus of the town’s conversation surrounding justice and punishment as townspeople debate whether they feel the two men deserve the death penalty for their crimes, and whether society is partially to blame for Aaron’s actions. Aaron’s life becomes a flashpoint for questions about violence, punishment, and who is to blame for homophobia.

Aaron McKinney Quotes in The Laramie Project

The The Laramie Project quotes below are all either spoken by Aaron McKinney or refer to Aaron McKinney. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dramatists Play Service edition of The Laramie Project published in 2001.
Act 1: Finding Matthew Shepard Quotes

They were both my patients and they were two kids. I took care of both of them…of both their bodies. And… for a brief moment I wondered if this is how God feels when he looks down at us. How we are all his kids…Our bodies…Our souls…And I felt a great deal of compassion…for both of them…

Related Characters: Dr. Cantway (speaker), Matthew Shepard, Aaron McKinney
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2: Live and Let Live Quotes

Some people are saying he made a pass at them. You don’t pick up regular people. I’m not excusing their actions, but it made me feel better because it was partially Matthew Shepard’s fault and partially the guys who did it… you know maybe it’s fifty-fifty.

Related Characters: Murdock Cooper (speaker), Matthew Shepard, Aaron McKinney, Russell Henderson
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2: Seeing Matthew Quotes

And quite frankly I wanted to lash out at somebody. Not at Matthew, please understand that, not one of us was mad at Matthew. But we maybe wanted to squeeze McKinney’s head off. And I think about Henderson. And, you know, two absolutely human beings cause so much grief for so many people.

Related Characters: Marge Murray (speaker), Matthew Shepard, Aaron McKinney, Russell Henderson, Reggie Fluty
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 2: Shannon and Jen Quotes

“You guys both went to Laramie High?”
“Yeah. Can’t you tell? We’re a product of our society.”

Related Characters: Shannon (speaker), Stephen Belber (speaker), Aaron McKinney, Jen
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2: Lifestyle 2 Quotes

Now, those two people, the accused… I think they deserve the death penalty…Now as for the victim, I know that that lifestyle is legal, but I will tell you one thing. I hope that Matthew Shepard as he was tied to that fence that he had time to reflect on a moment when someone had spoken the word of the Lord to him—and that before he slipped into a coma he had a chance to reflect on his lifestyle.

Related Characters: The Baptist Minister (speaker), Matthew Shepard, Aaron McKinney, Russell Henderson, Amanda Gronich
Related Symbols: The Fence
Page Number: 67-68
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Act 3: A Death Penalty Case Quotes

I think right now our most important teachers must be Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. They have to be our teachers. How did you learn? What did we as a society do to teach you that? See, I don’t know if many people will let them be their teacher. I think it would be wonderful if the judge said, “In addition to your sentence, you must tell your story.”

Related Characters: Father Roger Schmit (speaker), Aaron McKinney, Russell Henderson
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3: Dennis Shepard’s Statement Quotes

I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew… I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life and may you thank Matthew every day for it.

Related Characters: Dennis Shepard (speaker), Matthew Shepard, Aaron McKinney
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

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Aaron McKinney Character Timeline in The Laramie Project

The timeline below shows where the character Aaron McKinney appears in The Laramie Project. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: The Fireside
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Matt Galloway says that on that night at around eleven forty-five, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, Matthew’s murderers, came into the bar looking unkempt and acting rude. They... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Matt Galloway says he saw Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson talking to Matthew Shepard after they came back into the main part... (full context)
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...case. He says that he saw Matthew leave with two people he presumed to be Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Matt Mickelson then tells the interviewers to talk with the DJ, Shadow,... (full context)
Act 1: McKinney and Henderson
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
In this moment, an Anonymous Friend of Aaron McKinney since childhood describes how shocked he was to hear of the murder. The friend says... (full context)
Act 1: Finding Matthew Shepard
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aaron Kreifels describes finding Matthew Shepard tied to the fence where Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson left him to die. Aaron Kreifels had gone for a bike ride... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
Dr. Cantway notes that, strangely, Aaron McKinney came into the emergency room for an unrelated problem just before they brought in Matthew... (full context)
Act 2: A Laramie Man
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
...and anger. Matt Mickelson and Matt Galloway decide to go to the arraignment to identify Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. (full context)
Act 2: The Essential Facts
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
A reporter states that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson have been charged with assaulting Matthew Shepard. Catherine Connolly then describes how... (full context)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
The judge states that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson met Matthew Shepard at the bar and then drove him to the... (full context)
Act 2: Live and Let Live
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...that Matthew Shepard is partially to blame for his own death because he came onto Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Murdock says that believing this makes him “feel better.” (full context)
Act 2: The Gem City of the Plains
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...that Wyoming has just as many bigots as New York or California. Another newsperson describes Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson’s poverty growing up. Another reporter insists that hatred like what happened to... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
...see as the media maligning the whole community for a crime two individuals committed. Next, Aaron McKinney ’s father Bill McKinney says that he thinks the murder would not be as big... (full context)
Act 2: Seeing Matthew
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
The narrator gives the audience an update on the case against Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, stating that they both pled not guilty. Their girlfriends were charged with... (full context)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...case, talking about how he worked extremely hard to make sure there was no way Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson could be acquitted. Then Reggie Fluty, one of the first responders on... (full context)
Act 2: Shannon and Jen
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...at the bar where Matthew Shepard was last seen when he encountered two friends of Aaron McKinney . One of the women, Shannon, tells Stephen that she thought what happened was “really... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Shannon implies, though, that she can understand how, if Aaron McKinney were high on meth, he could have thought about robbing someone. Jen agrees, saying that... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Stephen Belber then asks what the women would say to Aaron McKinney if they saw him, and Jen says she would ask why Aaron had done what... (full context)
Act 2: Christmas
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
An inmate named Andrew Gomez, who was in prison with Aaron McKinney , talks about how he and Aaron ate their Christmas dinners together. Andrew asked Aaron... (full context)
Act 2: Lifestyle 2
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...congregation. The minister says that the congregation had been trying to help Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney for years, and he is providing spiritual guidance to one of them, who is on... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Baptist Minister notes that he thinks Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson deserve the death penalty. The minister also says, however, that he hopes... (full context)
Act 2: H-O-P-E
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...Belber tells Doc O’Connor that the interview team will be back for Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney ’s criminal trials. Doc O’Connor states that he hopes they don’t put Aaron and Russell... (full context)
Act 3: A Death Penalty Case
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Act Three opens with the prosecuting lawyer of Aaron McKinney ’s case, Cal Rerucha, talking about Aaron’s impending trial. Cal tells the interviewers that it... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
Zubaida Ula says she defers to the Shepard family’s wishes, but she knew Aaron McKinney in elementary school, and so she has a hard time with the idea of putting... (full context)
Act 3: Aaron McKinney
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
This moment consists of the dialogue from a taped recording of Aaron McKinney ’s confession, which was played during the trial. In the conversation, Rob Debree tells Aaron... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Rob Debree asks how Aaron McKinney met Matthew Shepard, and Aaron says that Matthew asked them for a ride home. Rob... (full context)
Act 3: Gay Panic
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Zackie Salmon talks about how, when the defense team tried to argue that Aaron McKinney killed Matthew Shepard because Matthew hit on him, she felt sick. Zackie thought it was... (full context)
Act 3: Aaron McKinney (continued)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
As Aaron McKinney ’s interrogation continues, Rob Debree asks if Matthew tried to defend himself, and Aaron indicates... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Rob Debree suggests that Aaron McKinney does not like gay people, and Aaron confirms that no, he doesn’t. When Rob suggests... (full context)
Act 3: The Verdict
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...has reached a verdict, and the foreperson of the jury announces that the jury finds Aaron McKinney guilty of kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree murder. (full context)
Act 3: Dennis Shepard’s Statement
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
The narrator states that, since Aaron McKinney was found guilty of felony murder, he qualified for the death penalty. Aaron’s defense team... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act 3: Epilogue
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...that he feels that meaningful change did not occur in Laramie. Jonas believes that, once Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were convicted, the townspeople stopped talking about Matthew’s death. Jonas notes that,... (full context)