Dishonesty in health disclosure: Michael Holder got Justice

In Todd Heywood’s article, Federal court rejects appeal in case of HIV-positive Bay City man, he reports on the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to deny the appeal of Michael Holder.  Holder was appealing his previous conviction of failure to disclose his HIV-Positive status to his girlfriend, prior to intercourse.

The article closes with a quote from Holder: “I am shocked. But you know it is what it is. I am certainly shocked by the ruling, by the decision,” Holder said. “It’s crazy.”

The coverage on this case talks a lot about the potential bias from jurors, the lack of specificity of the Michigan law, which makes it a crime to fail to disclose your status prior to exposing someone, and the effects that this law can have related to stigmatization of HIV positive people.

What irks me is that there’s little discussion about the real victim here, Monica Kosecki.  What about her?  She’s not the criminal burglar who cheated on a spouse and infected her fling.  She’s now saddled with the additional burden of dealing with HIV.  She will also now face the stigma everyone is so worried about.  If the person who criminally gave it to her faces no consequences, how is she likely to behave in a similar situation?  If her own inner sense of ethics is not enough to convince her, she’s less likely to disclose.  If she knows that behavior will be punished, she’s much more likely to.

The crux of the appeal centers around potential bias.  From reading the judgement, I can agree that it was reasonable for Holder to appeal.  However, he did, and he lost.  If he wants to appeal again, that’s his right.  Still, from reading through the available information, it looks like the jury and judges who had even more firsthand information performed reasonably.

In what i presume to be an attempt to show the weakness of the judgement, a dramatic "but then something happened", tale of recantation is trotted out.

The night after testifying, Kosecki and Holder had a conversation.  The next morning Kosecki attempted to recant her statement.  This is put forth to allege that he somehow convinced her that she would regret lying.   I disagree.  This is an attempt to intimidate and threaten.  What she "did" was defend herself.  Holder is a convicted criminal, who was also married.  He is already lying to the woman he’s supposed to be committed to.  This seems to me to be someone who’s ego refuses to let him see his own mistakes or the negative effect he’s had on others.  Instead, he’s focused on what’s being done to him; he’s going to face justice and he doesn’t like it.

The relevant portion of that conversation is quoted:

“I hope you know what you did. I just hope you know what you did, you know. That’s all I hope. I hope you know, you know, next year or the year after or the year after, you can’t take it back and say ‘well, I didn’t mean to say that’, you know. It’s — it’s done.”

Look at the actual words of the statement.  He never actually asserts that what she said wasn’t true.   Why not point out the reality of what she’d feel guilty about: lying.  Never said.  He couldn’t, because assuming he is guilty, she’d refute his lie again.

I’m not trying to argue that there aren’t issues with the current law.  They should be fixed.  Both the specificity and the penalties should be re-evaluated.  While they are at it, I’d support expanding the law to cover other permanent diseases that are transmittable through sex, though with proportionately less severe punishments.

Being deceptive about health issues when it harms someone else is wrong.  There should be a deterrent.  We have many laws that punish people for far less severe wrongs.  I support making these transmission laws work well.

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