Missouri Supreme Court Denies State's Application for Transfer in Michael Johnson's Case
Reversal of Michael Johnson Conviction Upheld
**New York, N.Y. --**The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP), a national legal resource and advocacy center, announced today the Missouri Supreme Court denied the State's application for transfer in Michael Johnson's case. This upholds the December 20, 2016, decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals reversing his conviction and remanding the case for a new trial.
In its December 20 decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court based on the state's failure to comply with Johnson's discovery request, in violation of Rule 25.03, resulting in the untimely introduction of evidence that prevented Johnson from preparing a meaningful defense in the case. In the words of the Court, "the State's violation of Rule 25.03 was knowing and intentional and was part of a trial-by-ambush strategy that this Court does not condone and that Rule 25.03 was specifically designed to avoid."
Johnson's new trial counsel, Eric Selig of Rosenblum Fry P.C., who will represent Johnson, stated that he "is looking forward to fighting for Michael to achieve justice in this case."
CHLP's Deputy Director Mayo Schreiber said, "We are very pleased that the Court of Appeals' reversal has been upheld and are hopeful the St. Charles County Prosecutor will not pursue the case against Michael, given the Court's finding that the State's actions were 'in bad faith' and 'inexcusable,' and that Michael has already served three years imprisonment for the alleged activity."
Michael Johnson, a young, gay Black man living with HIV, was sentenced to 30 years under Missouri's antiquated HIV felony law. Members of the medical and legal community have joined HIV activists in expressing outrage at the 30-year sentence imposed on this college student and star wrestler following his conviction under the state law that makes it a felony for people diagnosed with HIV to have sexual contact without documenting they disclosed their HIV status.
In the appeal of his conviction before the Court of Appeals, CHLP and the law firm Gibbons, P.C. filed an amicus brief that addressed the "cruel and unusual punishment" of Johnson's sentence and also argued that Missouri's criminal HIV law violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Constitutional protections against irrational treatment of disabilities such as HIV. Twenty-one national and state HIV, social justice and LGBT organizations joined this brief, which can be found here. Avram Frey and Lawrence Lustberg of Gibbons, P.C., and Mayo Schreiber and Catherine Hanssens of CHLP drafted the brief. Anthony Rothert, Legal Director, ACLU of Missouri Foundation, was local counsel for the amicus curiae organizations.
To read the Missouri Court of Appeals decision, State of Missouri v. Michael L. Johnson, Mo. Ct. of Appeals, E.D., No. ED 103217 (Dec. 20, 2016), click here.