Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Poz Inmate Michael Johnson Denied Clemency by Gov Nixon

When I was contacted in late December to write a letter to the governor of Missouri on behalf of my poz prison pen-pal Michael Johnson, I urged the leaders of his support team to go public with the effort. They opted not to mount a full-bore campaign for Michael.

Of course, we'll never know if such a campaign would have succeeded but it would have been a great assistance, I believe, if we had toward strengthening and expanding the support network for Michael. If there is another effort where public pressure could benefit Michael, I hope the leaders of his team more fully engage folks.

The news last week that clemency was denied by Gov. Jay Nixon was kept quiet but now, the Bay Area Reporter's sports writer Roger Brigham is the first to report this sad news.

I'll be mailing the print version of the story to Michael on Thursday, to keep him informed of how he continues to receive media attention in San Francisco. Here are excerpts from the BAR:

"A panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals in December overturned Johnson's conviction for knowingly infecting one man with HIV and endangering four other sexual partners, saying that the prosecution had engaged in a 'a trial-by-ambush strategy' by waiting until the last minute to reveal key evidence.

"Activists have been working behind the scenes for Johnson, but over the weekend outgoing Governor Jay Nixon declined to offer Johnson clemency, and St. Charles County prosecutors fought to have the appellate panel's decision overturned.

"If successful, the move by county prosecutors would reinstate a 30-year prison sentence under a penal code HIV activists call barbaric and counter to public welfare. Under Missouri laws, written decades ago when fear and ignorance plagued public fears regarding HIV and AIDS, it is a crime for an HIV-positive person to knowingly have unprotected sex. Repeated calls to the county prosecutor's office were not immediately returned . . .

"The antiquated laws under which Johnson was convicted spit in the face of that good sense. They infantilize and enable the hapless souls that do not assume responsibility for their own actions and who blame others for what they encounter . . .

"If county prosecutors are successful in having the conviction reinstated or hold a new trial with a new conviction, they will be flying in the face of virtually every human rights organization concerned about laws criminalizing HIV . . ."

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