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Intent--Not Ability--To Transmit HIV Matters in Attempted Murder Trial

On October 31, 1991, an Indiana court of appeals held that the intent of a person who was resisting police to transmit HIV determined whether he was guilty of attempted murder, not his actual ability to transmit the virus.

Donald J. Haines was discovered by police face down in a pool of blood after they responded to an attempted suicide report. Haines struggled with police and EMTs, telling them he wanted to die because he had AIDS and threatening to infect them. Haines bit, spit on and threw blood on various police, EMTs and hospital personnel.

At Haines's trial for three counts of attempted murder, the prosecutor took the unusual step of not introducing any medical evidence on HIV transmission, relying instead on Haines's state of mind to prove attempted murder. The jury convicted Haines on all three counts, but the trial court granted a defense motion for judgment on the evidence and reduced the charges to three aggravated assault charges. The state appealed.

The court of appeals held that the state need not show Haines's conduct could have actually killed. It was sufficient to show that Haines did everything he believed necessary to attempt the murder, regardless of whether it was actually possible. Thus, the case was reversed and returned to the trial court with instructions to reinstate the jury's verdict and resentence Haines for three counts of attempted murder. See. Indiana v. Haines, 545 N.E.2d 834 (Ind.App.2nd Dist. 1989).

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Related legal case

Indiana v. Haines