May 11, 2017: This Sunday will mark the fourth Mother’s Day that Tracy Johnson has had to spend separated from Michael, her youngest son. That’s how long he has been incarcerated under Missouri’s archaic and draconian HIV criminalization laws, following a trial marred by racism and homophobia.
But recently, Michael and his mom finally got some good news: this past December, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, reversed his conviction based on the prosecution’s failure to turn over important evidence in a timely fashion. But Michael is not out of the woods yet. In order for Michael to have a chance to get his life back, he needs the best legal counsel available at the new trial that will take place sometime soon. This is where your help is needed.
Please read and share this letter from Michael’s mom, Tracy Johnson:
Dear Friends and Supporters of Michael,
I write to you shortly before Mother’s Day. This is my fourth Mother’s Day without my son Michael L. Johnson. He is my baby, my youngest.
My son sits imprisoned for the past several years under Missouri’s HIV criminalization law. To those who haven’t heard of Michael’s story, he is a young man, a college student, and a gifted athlete. But he is also a caring and loving son whose life was turned completely upside down by a bad, unfair and stigmatizing law that makes living with a health condition a crime. Despite everything, Michael remains resilient – reading, writing letters, and staying hopeful for the day when he can come home to his family.
I’ll share a little bit about Michael’s character and some of the reasons why he is so special. Even when he was just a little one, he always took after his brothers, and tried to take care of them and me. After becoming an athlete in high school, he encouraged us to take care of our health, but never pressured us. When his older brother was diagnosed with an autoimmune problem, was put on steroids and gained a lot of weight, it was Michael who helped him focus on eating properly to get back in shape. When Michael was little, he told me he was going to be a builder, and the first house he built would be for me. While a house built by my son would be nice, what I really want is for him to be free so I can see him, and see him thrive again.
Recently, Michael has gained new hope with a chance to clear his name: the state of Missouri granted Michael a new trial. Since then, more than 300 people have responded to Michael’s plea for freedom by giving over $22,000 to help hire a skilled, dedicated attorney to liberate my son. And because of an amazing, supportive community and hundreds of generous donors, Michael is so much closer to coming home to us.
But more help is crucial right now. We are within reach of the $25,000 he needs for his legal representation, including hiring an expert witness, to give him the best possible chance at justice. Can you make a donation toward that goal today? Every single dollar makes it more possible to bring him back home to me.
Let’s make sure that my son, and other people living with HIV, are never separated from their families and loved ones by unjust laws and prisons. I am astounded by the generosity of our community, and thank everyone who has donated so far to Michael. If you haven’t yet, and even if you have, please consider making a donation today.
Here is a social media toolkit you can use to spread the word!