Supreme Court won't let inmate ship sperm to wife
Court won't let inmate ship sperm to wife
Harriet Chiang, Chronicle Legal Affairs Writer Tuesday, November 19, 2002
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Monday an unusual request by a California inmate to impregnate his wife through artificial insemination.
The justices left intact a federal appeals court ruling that inmates do not have a constitutional right to procreate.
The action dashes the parental hopes of William Gerber, 42, who wanted to ship a special overnight package to his wife, Evelyn -- via a sperm bank -- containing a semen sample. He was willing to pay all costs.
Gerber, who is in Ironwood State Prison in Riverside County, is not allowed conjugal visits because he has no parole date.
He is serving a three-strikes sentence of 111 years to life for firing a gun into his television set.
The appeals court decision would have affected only those inmates in California serving life sentences -- roughly one-sixth of the state's 159,000 inmates -- because nearly all others are allowed conjugal visits.
Gerber's attorney, Teresa Zuber, said she was disappointed with the ruling. "The right to procreate is not inherently inconsistent with incarceration," she said, noting that female inmates are allowed to carry their pregnancies to term and inmates allowed conjugal visits can procreate.
In May, an 11-member panel of the federal appeals court ruled against Gerber, reversing an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the court.
By a 6-5 vote, the appeals court said Gerber's request "would be a radical and unprecedented interpretation of the Constitution."
In opposing Gerber's efforts, the state said it would be too cumbersome to allow inmates to send their sperm beyond prison walls and, in any event, prisoners have no constitutional right to procreate.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer said that allowing some prisoners to procreate through artificial insemination had the potential to grant the same rights to women and indigent inmates.
Gerber received backing from the Pechanga Band of Lucieno Mission Indians in Riverside County -- his wife is a member of the tribe -- which filed a brief in support of his effort to have a child. . The case is Gerber vs. Hickman, No. 02-419.