The Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously decided on Wednesday in favor of an HIV-positive man previously convicted on felony assault charges for passing the virus even though both he and his partner at the time were aware of his health status.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that the high court ruled 5-0 to uphold the state Court of Appeals’ decision to overturn the 2011 conviction of Daniel James Rick, agreeing that the state law governing “transfer of blood, sperm, organs or tissues” was written in a medical context and not a sexual one.
“We acknowledge that the communicable-disease statute presents difficult interpretation issues and that the Legislature may have, in fact, intended something different,” the Star-Tribune quoted Chief Justice Lorie Gildea as saying. “If that is the case, however, it is the Legislature’s prerogative to re-examine the communicable-disease statute and amend it accordingly.”
According to The San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, Rick was charged with attempted first-degree assault with great bodily harm under the statute, after being accused by his partner, identified as “D.B.,” of not telling him that he was HIV-positive before they began having sex in 2009. D.B. was subsequently diagnosed with HIV one month before the two men ended their relationship. Rick argued that he did inform D.B. of his health status beforehand, and the jury agreed but convicted him of transmitting the disease anyway.
Terri Nelson, legal director for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union praised the decision in a statement, saying the ruling “rightly protects Minnesotans from unconstitutional intrusions into their private conduct.”
[Image: “Young Man In Prison” via Shutterstock]