Texan juries make me spitting mad

Even in Texas, I thought when I first saw this story, there cannot be 12 people this ignorant. I thought it a bad joke, not worth mentioning here. But apparently it is true: a Texan jury convicted an HIV positive man for assault with a deadly weapon: his saliva.

I reproduce the Associated Press story in its entirety here:

HIV-positive man sentenced 35 years for spitting at officer

DALLAS (AP) — An HIV-positive man convicted of spitting into the eye and mouth of a Dallas police officer has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Because a jury found that Willie Campbell used his saliva as a deadly weapon, the 42-year-old will have to serve half his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. He was sentenced Wednesday.
Campbell was being arrested in May 2006 for public intoxication when he began resisting and kicking inside the patrol car, Dallas police office Dan Waller testified.
Campbell was convicted of harassment of a public servant.

I can see putting the guy away for a while for being a drunken lout, or just an idiot. But not as much of an idiot as the members of the jury, who don’t appear to know that HIV does not survive in saliva. Some people are confused by the fact that you can test for HIV on saliva, but that’s because commercial test kits look for antibodies to HIV, not the virus itself. But surely any self-respecting defence lawyer, not to mention any judge, ought to have directed the jury away from their ludicrous conclusion.

There’s been a fair bit of righteous indignation about this around the blogosphere, (from Gawker and Joe-my-God and Bill Crider, for example), but not enough, apparently, to spare the lout in question two decades behind bars at the expense of the long-suffering US taxpayer.

Thanks to Peter Deloughry for prodding me to post on this madness.

This post was published on 17/05/08 in Ideology and HIV.

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  1. Comment by Cybertiger, 18/05/08, 10:06:

    I have maintained a deep antipathy to Texas and its cruel and stupid people since the trial and conviction of Andrea Yates in 2002.


    And George Bush, that born-again Christian and well known compassionate conservative, is known to be a jerk and man of the people. Remember Karla Faye Tucker? Dubya doesn’t. And nor do the jerks who live and pay taxes under the Lone Star.


    And where from comes this plague of Texas stupidity and can its spread be prevented? Is there a vaccine? Can a vaccine be developed in time? These are crucial questions of our time.

    PS. And I feel absolutely no pity for the idiot American taxpayer.

    PPS. Elizabeth: I have just received a copy of your book and am hoping to get stuck into it today. Well done.

  2. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 18/05/08, 10:51:

    “And I feel absolutely no pity for the idiot American taxpayer.”

    Since this was a state trial, it will be the Texan tax-payers who will be paying (in the first instance) to support the poor fellow in their prison system– where it is far more likely that his HIV infection will be transmitted than in the police car, the more so if (as I am sure it does) Texas follows the general USAn pattern of denying prisoners open access to condoms (though no doubt they can obtain them at a price, prison walls being as leaky to contraband as condoms aren’t to HIV).

  3. Comment by Amanda, 19/05/08, 06:51:

    Well, Texas-bashers, I can assure you that living in a small town in California for the past few years makes Texas look sensible and liberal.

    But Texas juries have done some strange things — no denying that. What I’m guessing happened here is that the jury felt they were defending the cop. Combine that with AIDS ignorance and Willie being a poor black man (I don’t know the race of the cop)…and you get this sentence.

  4. Comment by Mike, 22/09/08, 10:05:

    hmmm…. if Willie had an open sore in his mouth, or if he bit his tounge intentionally before spitting in the cops eye, there would in fact be a risk of transmittion…. albeit small. i guess the morale of the story is: don’t mess around with cops. especially if you’re in Texas.

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