Jennifer Murphy guilty after not disclosing HIV status to sexual partners: judge
Published Friday, August 16, 2013 12:21PM EDT Last Updated Friday, August 16, 2013 8:05PM EDT
Jennifer Murphy has been found guilty of sexual assault after not telling her sexual partners she's HIV-positive.
The judge's decision was based, in part, on new science about how likely transmission of the virus is from some HIV carriers.
Today’s verdict wasn’t what defence attorney Angela McLeod was hoping for. Murphy will remain behind bars for now after being acquitted of two aggravated sexual assault charges and found guilty of one.
“She's emotional, she's very overwhelmed at the moment,” says McLeod.
Murphy had sex with a man in the back of his van but didn't tell him she's HIV positive. Justice Gregory Mulligan today ruled that action constitutes aggravated sexual assault.
However the judge acquitted Murphy on the two other charges. One involved a man who performed oral sex on Murphy. The judge said that according to expert scientific testimony, there is only a remote chance of contracting HIV that way. The third assault charge involved booze-and-drug fuelled sex with a registered sex offender, and the judge said he could not trust the credibility of that man's story.
All three men have been tested for HIVH numerous times and none has tested positive.
Throughout the trial McLeod argued the men Murphy had sex with were never at risk because the viral counts in Murphy's body were so low.
“His honour here has based his decision regardless of Ms. Murphy's viral load count and in my humble opinion has not assessed the realistic probability of transmission and that's unfortunate,” McLeod says.
Still the law says a person with HIV who does not want to disclose their status must have a low viral count and use a condom. Murphy didn't use a condom. That rule is something Gerry Croteau, who is with the AIDS Committee of Simcoe County wants to see changed.
“HIV-positive people being incarcerated for behaviour that created no significant risk of infection is, yes, disappointing,” Croteau says.
And Murphy's lawyer finds a moral problem with this case too.
“I think if you are a married man and you go trolling for prostitutes downtown and you don't wear a condom, then that's the person who should be in jail, not Jennifer Murphy,” she says.
Murphy's lawyer says she expects the crown to seek a multi-year sentence, something she calls unfair. She would like to see Murphy sentenced to time served as she has been in custody for 19 months.
The sentencing portion of this trial will start on Tuesday.