Published March, 1995
State v. Caine, 652 So.2d 611 (La. Ct. App. 1995)
Donald Caine was convicted of attempted second degree murder after he stabbed Wanda Fitzgerald with a needle attached to a syringe containing a clear fluid. Before stabbing Fitzgerald, Caine said, "I'll give you AIDS." The trial court determined Caine to be a second felony habitual offender and sentenced him to fifty years at hard labor.
In Louisiana, a conviction of attempted second degree murder requires a finding that the defendant had the specific intent to kill. See LA. REV. STAT. ANN. §14:27(A). The Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit affirmed Caine's conviction. The court held that because "AIDS is a fatal disease", when Caine told Fitzgerald that he would give her AIDS, he indicated his intent to kill her. The court went on to hold that when Caine stabbed Fitzgerald with the needle, he committed an act for the purpose of and tending toward the accomplishing of his goal of killing Fitzgerald. At the trial court, the prosecution presented an expert witness who testified that if someone who was HIV positive used the needle prior to Fitzgereld being stuck with the needle, the "PROBABILITIES ARE HIGH THAT PERSON WOULD BE INFECTED HIV POSITIVE." Thus, the court held, a reasonable jury could have found that Caine's actions met the statutory definition of attempted second degree murder. It is unstated how much of the decision rested on Caine being HIV positive.
Caine was convicted of attempted second degree murder although the syringe that he was accused of stabbing Fitzgerald with was never found. The court was willing to accept the "strong possibility" that the needle was infected with HIV as sufficient to satisfy the statutory requirements for second degree murder. As a result, Caine was convicted of attempted second degree murder for stabbing Fitzgerald with an HIV-infected needle where the state had no evidence that the needle was in fact so infected and where Fitzgerald tested negative for HIV as of the time of trial.
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