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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Files Federal Appeal on Behalf of Prisoner with HIV; Challenging Sentence of 99 Years or Life For Spitting For IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 18, 1993 The American Civil Liberties Union's national AIDS Project and the ACLU of Texas today filed an appeal in federal court seeking a reversal of the conviction of Curtis Weeks, a prisoner infected with HIV who was found guilty of attempted murder by a Texas jury in November 1989 for spitting on a prison guard. "The conviction of Curtis Weeks represents one of the darkest hours in America's battle with AIDS," said Ruth E. Harlow, the Associate Director of the ACLU's AIDS Project. "In an atmosphere of hysteria and panic, Mr. Weeks was locked up for the rest of his life even though HIV has never been transmitted by spitting." Weeks has exhausted his state court appeals, with each court in Texas refusing to overturn his conviction. In filing a petition for a writ of habeus corpus in the federal district court in Galveston, the ACLU maintains that Weeks is being illegally held in custody -- in violation of his constitutional rights -- because the state could not and did not prove a critical element of the crime he allegedly committed: that spitting by a person infected with HIV "tends" to cause death. The ACLU further contends that Weeks was denied his right to a fair trial because the court misdirected the jury on the charge, leading the jurors to believe that the prosecution did not have to prove that spitting by Mr. Weeks "tended" to bring about murder. Weeks was serving a short sentence for theft when the spitting incident occurred. He spit at the guard while being heavily restrained during a long trip between prisons. Had he not been convicted of attempted murder, Weeks would have long ago left prison and returned to his family. Unless released by the federal courts, he will undoubtedly die well before completing his sentence of 99 years in the state prison in Rosharon, Texas. "Mr. Weeks may have been rude, but he did not attempt to kill anyone," said William B. Rubenstein, Director of the ACLU AIDS Project. "HIV provides no excuse for the State of Texas ignoring the clear requirements of its own attempted murder laws and of the United States Constitution." During the trial, Texas prosecutors relied on the testimony of two notorious "expert" witnesses, Paul Drummond Cameron and Dr. Lorraine Day. Neither a medical doctor nor a research scientist, Cameron has made a career of testifying against litigants who are gay or who are associated with AIDS. During Weeks' trial, Cameron erroneously exaggerated the risk of HIV transmission in all kinds of contexts, including via insects and saliva. Dr. Day likewise routinely provides alarmist estimates of the risk of HIV transmission in court testimony. When asked during the Weeks trial why the entire medical community disagrees with her conclusions, Dr. Day could only say that Galileo's positions had similarly been rejected by his medical peers. Today's filing in federal court names Texas Attorney General Dan Morales along with James A. Lynaugh, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and James A. Collines, Director of the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as respondents. Harlow and Rubenstein are handling the case for the ACLU, with assistance from cooperating attorneys Steven Alan Reiss and Curt P. Beck of Weil Gotshal & Manges in New York and David J. Healey of that firm's Houston office. --endit-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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