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Court Overturns Murder Convicted Tainted by AIDS Scare

March 8, 1989

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) _ The Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a murder conviction because sheriff’s deputies were allowed to wear rubber gloves in court to protect them in case the defendant was infected with the AIDS virus.

The opinion by Judge Charles E. Orth Jr. said it was likely the sight of deputies sitting behind Bernard Wiggins wearing gloves led jurors to believe he had AIDS and should be ″withdrawn from public circulation and confined in an institution with others of his ilk.″

″The specter of the dread disease AIDS hovered over the trial,″ Orth said in the unanimous ruling by the seven-member court. ″The trial judge refused to exorcise it″ despite ″Wiggins’ persistent and vehement protests.″

The court returned the case to Prince George’s County for a new trial.

Wiggins was convicted in November 1987 of the murder of Bjorn Haug, whom he had met at a bar in his hometown of Washington. He is serving a life sentence in the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore.

According to trial testimony, Haug returned to Wiggins’ apartment, where he was knocked unconscious and loaded into the trunk of a car by Wiggins and three friends.

The group drove into Prince George’s County, where Haug, who had regained consciousness, was killed by Wiggins, according to testimony.

Prosecutors told Judge Jacob Levin that Haug had been diagnosed as having AIDS, that a codefendant and roommate of Wiggins carried the AIDS virus and that Wiggins and his roommate were homosexual.

Although Wiggins had not been tested for the virus, Levin said there was ″a strong possibility or probability″ that he had it, and denied a motion by defense attorneys that the guards not be allowed to sit behind Wiggins while wearing gloves.

The appeals court also ruled Tuesday that Levin should have granted a defense motion not to admit items stolen from Haug’s apartment that were found in Wiggins’ apartment because they were not listed in a search warrant.

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