HIV-Positive Man Gets 35 Years for Spitting on Officer

Willie Campbell, 42, is a homeless man who is HIV-positive. In May 2006, he spit in the face of three Dallas police men who arrested him. He was sentenced to 35 years for harassing a public servant with a deadly weapon: his saliva. It is a very disturbing sentence given the lack of a credible threat to passing AIDS by saliva.

This crime requires a deadly weapon, but science is not on the side of the court or jury.

There is no question that Henrichs should have been charged for intentionally spitting and taunting these officers, but 35 years?

Campbell is obviously disturbed. His outbursts in court led to his removal, including telling the officers to “rot in hell” for “railroading an innocent man.” Equally bizarre is his waiver of appeal in such a questionable case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, H.I.V. has repeatedly correct the misunderstanding over saliva and kissing. The Centers insist that “contact with saliva, tears or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of H.I.V.,” the agency reports.

Where is the deadly weapon? The court cannot simply ignore the science and pretend that saliva can transfer AIDS. The fact that an appeal has been waived makes this even more worrisome. Under this theory, people could start to file criminal complaints on HIV-positive people for unwanted kisses or alleged spitting. The court and prosecutors clearly failed to resist the well-founded anger at this man and do simple justice.

The public defender needs to first deal with the waiver and argue incompetence. This is an effective death sentence imposed on a clearly flawed legal basis.

For the full story, click here.

8 thoughts on “HIV-Positive Man Gets 35 Years for Spitting on Officer”

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  3. Dunder, you would be wise to leave your pseudo-science locked inside that ignorant head of yours.

    Don’t be waving a pen to a public servant. A pen can be a deadly weapon!

    However, it’s probably more to do with the man’s homelessness and HIV, isn’t it, Dumber?

  4. dunder:

    “I don’t have a problem with sending a severe message.”

    I believe deterrence comes from consistent application of the law and sentencing to an entire class of defendants given similar crimes. I think it is an abuse of due process and equal protection to single out one defendant as an example to “send a message.” How do we know which one to choose? Is there any rational basis to pick this crime over another? What about choices made because the victim is law enforcement versus non-law enforcement, racial distinctions of the victim or perpetrators, and gender distinctions? The whole process of scapegoating or, more properly pharmakos, is a vestige of our past we can do without. Sentencing based on the facts of the case seems adequate for me without all the social engineering and judicial posturing.

  5. Saliva can but does not usually contain the aids virus.
    It wouldn’t take much, just an abrasion, as long as there was open bleeding or a faint blood sign on the skin indicating an opening for bacteria and viruses.

    Another concern would be whether the saliva contained blood perhaps, from the attacker injuring himself or intentionally biting on his tongue to bring forth contaminated blood into his saliva. If any of these officers had been bruised in this altercation that in itself could have made them potentially susceptible to an infection by blood tainted saliva.

    I don’t have a problem with sending a severe message. How much different than waiving an unloaded gun at an officer when he doesn’t know it is unloaded is this?

  6. rafflaw:

    I would think facing jail time, he would have had to have counsel appointed under Gideon v. Wainwright. You do have a valid question though since, after all, this is Texas, where following rulings of the US Supreme Court seems optional.

  7. Was this man represented at trial? The story does not make that clear. It only quotes “his attorney”, but does not tell us if he had an attorney. I would expect this kind of ignorance of science in Texas. How can he waive his appeal rights? That is one of the reasons I want to know if he had an attorney at trial. I would think that if this case can get appealed that it would eventually be overridden by an appellate court that actually listens to science.

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