US: New HIV as a ‘deadly weapon’ case in North Carolina (updated)

Another US jurisdiction has classified a person living with HIV as a walking deadly weapon. North Carolina police yesterday charged a 45 year-old HIV-positive man with “assault inflicting serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon” after he resisted arrest in Durham.

According to a brief report in The News & Observer, the police report says that the man

knowing he is HIV-positive, twice tried to expose the officer to his blood, once by cutting the officer’s thumb and also by head-butting him and biting his ear.

This prompted one local citizen to write in the comments section

This was a vicious act. If the officer had escalated the continuum of force level to shooting and killing this person he wwould [sic] have been justified. We don’t know how this individual acquired HIV and that doesn’t matter in that a decent human being would not knowingly have exposed another to the disease.

Another wrote

BoldThis event should lead to a charge of attempted murder because that is what it is. This act by this infected man is willful and intentional. May God be with the officer and find him or her free and clear of this dreadful disease.

The man, who was also charged with “injury to real property and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle,” will appear in court on June 29th.

Update: June 23rd

The man actually appeared in court yesterday. The hearing was filmed by local TV station, News14.

It is now patently clear to me, from the details revealed, that the risk of HIV transmission from the acccused to the police officers was so slim as to be negligable.The facts are that he cut a police officer’s right thumb while he was bleeding (interestingly, it doesn’t say how he got to be bleeding) while that officer was trying to arrest him (and it doesn’t say that he intentionally did so). He also didn’t actually bite the other policeman’s ear, but only “tried to bite that officer’s ear”.

And yet, Judge William Marsh III tells the court

“If Mr. Perry is engaged in the behaviour described, knowing that he has a potentially fatal condition with the ability to infect others, I consider that a serious offence, and could very well have potential to be increased to something more serious.”

This still suggests that when someone who is HIV-positive resists arrest, they can be seen as being ‘deadly weapons’ in the absence of any real possibility of transmitting the virus. This surely is a prime example of HIV-related discrimination based on ignorance and stigma.