Published March, 2017
The PJP Update, Positive Justice Project (March 2017)
CHLP Authors Articles on HIV Criminalization for Special Issue of APA's Psychology and Exchange Newsletter
CHLP staff recently authored two articles for the March edition of the Psychology and AIDS Exchange newsletter from the American Psychological Association. This issue is dedicated to exploring the issue of criminalization of HIV exposure and transmission, and highlights the APA’s commitment to decriminalizing HIV. Executive Director Catherine Hanssens and Staff Attorney Kate Boulton wrote, "When Sex is a Crime and Spit is a Dangerous Weapon: The origins, impact and advocacy response to HIV criminal laws," which can be read here. Deputy Director Mayo Schreiber penned "An Update on the Prosecution, Conviction and Appeal of Michael Johnson," which can be read here.
State Advocacy Working Group Updates
On February 6, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) introduced SB 239, a bill to modernize California laws that criminalize and stigmatize people living with HIV. The bill is co-sponsored by the ACLU of California, APLA Health, Black AIDS Institute, Equality California, Lambda Legal, and Positive Women’s Network–USA. The organizations are members of Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform, a broad coalition of people living with HIV, health service providers, civil rights organizations, and public health professionals dedicated to ending the criminalization of HIV in California. The full text of the bill can be found here. On March 1, The Center for HIV Law and Policy submitted a letter in support of the bill. A hearing on the bill was held on March 28.
On March 8, Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform and the LGBT Caucus held a legislative briefing about HIV Criminalization at the State Capitol in Sacramento.
If your organization is interested in supporting modernization of California's HIV criminal laws, we invite you to join Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (eqca.org/chcr). Please contact [email protected] or 323-848-9801 for additional information.
On February 14, Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) introduced House Resolution 240, which proposed the creation of a Joint Study Committee on Reforming HIV Related Criminal Laws. However, Cooper presented a substitute on March 24 to the Special Rules committee that significantly weakened the resolution's initial intent, shifting its focus to health care barriers for a range of chronic conditions, inclusive of HIV, rather than the stark barrier of HIV criminalization. The full text of the current resolution can be found here. On March 20, Senator Fort (D-Atlanta) introduced a parallel resolution in the Senate that proposes the creation of a Senate Study Committee to examine reform of Georgia’s HIV-specific criminal law. In addition to five state senators, that committee would include a representative from the Department of Public Health, as well as a criminal defense attorney, and a community-based HIV service provider. The full text of that resolution can be found here.
Members of the Georgia Coalition to End HIV Criminalization also engaged in advocacy at the state capitol on February 16, educating legislators about HIV criminalization and building support for HR 240.
Next Meeting: Thursday, March 23 from 4:00-6:00pm (ET)
If you are interested in joining the Georgia Coalition to End HIV Criminalization, please contact Nina Martinez ([email protected]) or Emily Brown ([email protected]) for additional information.
HMM-Indiana is participating in Indiana HIV Advocacy Day on April 12 and will present on HIV criminalization. You can register to attend here. The Steering Committee continues to meet monthly and expand its network. HIV Advocacy Day will be on April 12 at the Indiana Statehouse from 10:00am-3:00pm. You can register here.
Next Steering Committee Meeting: Monday, April 17
If you are interested in information about HIV criminalization in Indiana or in participating, supporting or endorsing HMM-Indiana, visit our get involved page or contact us at [email protected]
On December 20, 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District overturned Michael Johnson’s conviction and remanded the case for retrial. On February 14, 2017, the State of Missouri filed an application for transfer of Michael Johnson's case to the Missouri Supreme Court. The court’s decision on whether or not to take the case is expected in early April. Follow this link to contribute to Johnson's legal defense fund: https://www.fundedjustice.com/freemichaeljohnson.
The Missouri HIV Justice Coalition (MO HIV JC) drafted a letter to the prosecuting attorney in Michael Johnson’s case requesting that charges not be re-filed. The plan is to submit the letter again in April—organizations that would like to sign on can still do so by contacting Ashley Quinn at [email protected] .
MO HIV JC will be hosting a Train-the-Trainer event this summer, contact Ashley if you're interested in receiving training to be equipped to educate your community about HIV criminalization in order to grow grassroots support. We need representatives from across the state and all demographics, prioritizing people living with HIV.
The St. Louis chapter of Empower Missouri is hosting an April 21 forum on the Criminalization of Poverty that will include a panelist speaking about HIV criminalization. The forum runs from 12:00pm-1:30pm at The Highlands Golf Course Inside Forest Park, and 1.5 hours of CEU credits are available. For more info or to RSVP, contact: [email protected]
Meetings are held on the fourth Friday of the month at 1:00pm (CT) via conference call.
If you are interested in becoming an advocate with the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition, please contact Ashley Quinn at [email protected].
On February 8, CHLP hosted a webinar on Ohio’s HIV felonious assault statute and advocacy strategies to modernize the law. Advocates will use the presentation as a helpful starting point to develop targeted educational materials for different audiences in the state. Planning is also in progress for an in-person convening of Ohio advocates develop an advocacy strategy and focus on expansion of the coalition.
On February 21, advocate Steve Arrington organized a presentation on HIV criminalization for the Ohio Black Women’s Leadership Caucus. The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland organized a March 10 legislative luncheon to introduce policymakers to the issue of HIV criminalization in the state of Ohio. Ohio advocates and PJP are also in the process of planning a May forum on HIV criminalization that will take place in Columbus, Ohio. More details will be available soon.
The Ohio Recodification Committee reconvened and examined proposed amendments to Ohio’s HIV criminal law on March 2. The Committee will vote on the amendments at a later date.
Next meeting: Wednesday, April 12 at 5:00pm (ET)
If you would like information on HIV Criminalization or are interested in becoming an advocate with the Ohio HIV Criminalization Working Group, contact Kate Boulton at [email protected].
The South Carolina HIV Task Force (SCHTF) held its first 2017 quarterly meeting on February 7 at the Lions Street Student Center in Columbia. The event focused on priority areas of advocacy over the next year and also included a presentation on HIV criminalization in the state. SCHTF also reached out to some legislators to start identifying allies who can support modernization efforts.
The working group is currently in the early stages of planning an in-person meeting so that key stakeholders can come together and develop an advocacy strategy and focus on expansion of the coalition.
Meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month at 2:00pm (ET).
If you would like information on HIV Criminalization or are interested in becoming an advocate with the PJP SC Law Modernization Group, please contact Kate Boulton at [email protected].
The Working Group learned in early January that the prospective legislative sponsor for their modernization bill did not want to move forward with the bill this year, but has assured advocates he will support the bill next year. The Working Group will be focusing its energy on outreach and education over the next year to further strengthen its coalition and build support for modernization. Members of the Working Group attended Day on the Hill at the state capitol in February and reported that several legislators are receptive to the idea of supporting a modernization bill next year.
Next Meeting: Thursday, April 27 at 12:00pm (ET)
If you would like information on HIV criminalization or are interested in becoming an advocate with the PJP TN Working Group, please contact Kate Boulton at [email protected].
Advocates convened monthly through March and participated in HIV Advocacy Day at the state capitol on February 28. In mid-December, a bill was proposed to create a new offense of Indecent Assault. Although bill sponsors emphasized that the bill is merely an anti-groping law, advocates had concerns about how language in the proposed bill could have unintended consequences for PLHIV. Advocates were able to meet with legislators, who agreed to include language clarifying the bill’s legislative intent.
Lacresha Craig remains in the Dallas County jail and there is has been no response from the Dallas District Attorney (DA) to a letter sent by advocates at the end of last year. Advocates agreed during their last call to draft an op-ed highlighting the injustice of Craig’s case, and will continue reaching out to the DA.
Meetings are held on the third Friday of the month at 1:00pm (CT).
If you are interested in information about HIV criminalization or actively participating in the Texas HIV Working Group, please contact Kate Boulton at [email protected].
CHLP’s assistance in criminal cases includes counseling defendants and their families, referring defendants to attorneys, providing legal and trial strategy support to criminal defense attorneys, identifying and assisting with preparation of medical and scientific experts, drafting sections of court submissions, and submitting friend-of-the-court briefs.
On December 20, 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District overturned Michael Johnson’s conviction and remanded the case for retrial. On February 14, 2017, the State of Missouri filed an application for transfer of Johnson's case to the Missouri Supreme Court. If the court rejects the case, then it will be remanded for retrial, as decided by the Court of Appeals last year, meaning the prosecution can pursue a new trial or drop the case. If the court accepts the case, there will be an opportunity for briefing, oral argument, and then a decision after that, which could take several months. Stay informed on developments in this case with our newly updated fact sheet and case timeline, which can be found here.
Orlando Batista was indicted for felonious assault in July 2014 for allegedly engaging in sexual conduct with his girlfriend without first disclosing his HIV status. After the trial court rejected his motion to dismiss, Batista pleaded no contest and the court sentenced him to the maximum term of eight years. In October 2016, the Supreme Court of Ohio accepted his appeal for review. In December 2016, CHLP, with support from the Gibbons P.C. law firm and the Ohio Public Defender, along with seven Ohio-based and national HIV, LGBT, health professional and criminal justice organizations, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Batista to the Supreme Court of Ohio, challenging the Ohio felonious assault statute on the grounds that it violated the Constitutional Guarantee of Equal Protection and federal prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of disabilities. The ACLU of Ohio Foundation and Center for Constitutional Rights submitted a separate friend-of-the-court brief based on First Amendment grounds. Both Batista and the State of Ohio have submitted merit briefs for the court’s consideration. The Ohio Attorney General submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the State of Ohio. A decision from the court is expected in 2017.
If you are aware of anyone charged in an HIV exposure or transmission case, please refer them to our website, www.hivlawandpolicy.org and/or have them or their lawyer, contact CHLP for assistance at 212-430-6733 or [email protected].
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