A Gainesville woman was found guilty Saturday of reckless conduct by an HIV-infected person in Hall County Superior Court.
Heather Nix, 36, was convicted of the felony for withholding knowledge of her HIV status to her then-husband and longtime partner, in violation of Georgia criminal statutes.
Senior Superior Court Judge John Girardeau sentenced Nix immediately after the trial, to the objection of public defender Travis Williams. Nix was sentenced to the maximum 10 years, two to serve in prison and eight on probation.
Kevin Franklin testified he first learned about his ex-wife’s status on July 9, 2009, when Nix was in the hospital for an unrelated medical issue.
Three distinct timelines of disclosure emerged in the trial: prior to the couple having protected sex; prior to them having unprotected sex; and in 2009, after a few years of marriage, leading to divorce.
Parsing the evidence to that timeline occupied a significant portion of the jury’s consideration, a juror said after sentencing.
A video-recorded interview with a Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigator brought the jury, which initially had been split in its views, to agreement, she said.
In the video, Nix told investigator Christy Van Scoten that she had disclosed her HIV to Franklin only prior to having “unprotected sex.”
Nix testified her statement to the investigator was made in a post-hospitalization haze of weakness and medication, and that she had told Franklin of her condition before beginning a sexual relationship.
The verdict concludes a trial where emotions ran high as the witnesses described sadness, fear and stigma surrounding the chronic disease that is manageable with modern medicine but incurable.
Williams related in his closing arguments his experience losing his sister to AIDS. Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge said she had felt personally attacked from the discourse of the trial.