Published January, 1989
Brock v. State, 555 So.2d 285, 288 (Ala. Crim. App. 1989)
Brock v. State presented a question of first impression to Alabama courts when the Alabama Attorney General prosecuted Adam Brock for attempted murder after the HIV-positive Mr. Brock bit a prison guard in the midst of a scuffle.
At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Mr. Brock guilty of first degree assault, a lesser included offense of attempted murder. On appeal, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Mr. Brown's conviction. The court held that the state failed to establish the essential elements of a case of first degree assault against Mr. Brock. The court stated that no evidence was provided that Mr. Brock's mouth and teeth were "deadly weapon[s]" as defined by Alabama statute. Moreover, the court held that the state did not prove that Mr. Brock intended to cause serious physical harm to the prison guard. The court noted that the state provided no evidence that AIDS can be transmitted through a human bite and that the court did not believe it to be an established scientific fact that AIDS could be transmitted in this way. Thus, the court held that there was no evidence before it that Mr. Brock intended to spread HIV/AIDS through his bite.
Brock v. State is Alabama's first contribution to a nationwide judicial discourse on whether an HIV-positive person should be prosecuted for biting or spitting saliva or blood at another, specifically because of a risk that the victim has been exposed to HIV. There is no scientific evidence that HIV can be transmitted via saliva or blood through spitting. Although the Alabama Court of Appeals refused to accept the notion that HIV can be transmitted in such a manner, unfortunately, many other courts throughout the United States have accepted these unsupported and highly stigmatizing theories regarding HIV transmission. Brock v. State can serve as a reminder of the importance of clear statements from health officials on proven means of HIV transmission within criminal law.
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