A new report argues that Michael Johnson, the gay 23-year-old former college wrestler found guilty of knowingly exposing several men to HIV, faced an entirely stacked deck in his criminal trial.
Johnson, who also went by the name “Tiger Mandingo,” was convicted last May in the town of St. Charles under a Missouri law that makes it a crime for an HIV-positive person to have sex without first notifying their partner of their status.
As Buzzfeed reports, the all-straight, nearly all-white jury found Johnson guilty of five counts relating to his status. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and will have to register as a sex offender upon his release.
But while arguments can be made about the law’s effectiveness at preventing the spread of the virus and whether criminalization is the appropriate strategy, some details of Johnson’s case paint a troubling picture of the supposed justice he faced in court.
Namely, the makeup of the small town jury:
- Of 51 potential jurors only one appeared to be “non-white.”
- Half said they believed being gay was a choice.
- Two-thirds intimated that they believed being gay was a sin.
- All the jurors identified as straight and HIV-negative.
- All the jurors said they believed HIV-positive people who do not inform their partners of their status should be prosecuted.