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State v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

September 12, 2018

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SHAROSKI BERNARD JACKSON, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF BERNALILLO COUNTY Briana H. Zamora, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Walter Hart, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

          Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender B. Douglas Wood III, Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Appellant

          OPINION

          JULIE J. VARGAS, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant Sharoski Jackson appeals his convictions for human trafficking, promoting prostitution, accepting earnings from a prostitute, contributing to a delinquency of a minor, and conspiracy. The charges arose from Defendant's interactions with a minor, B.G., in early 2013. At trial, the State presented its theory that B.G. was engaged in commercial sexual activity at the urging and with the assistance of Defendant. The jury found Defendant guilty of all counts.

         {¶2} Defendant appeals, raising four points of error. First, Defendant claims that the district court erred by failing to properly instruct the jury that to convict him of human trafficking, it must find that he knew his victim was under the age of eighteen. Second, Defendant contends that the district court abused its discretion by admitting text messages without requiring the State to first lay a proper foundation for their admission. Third, Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the charged crimes. Finally, Defendant insists that the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for a new trial, based on new evidence that B.G. purportedly lied during her testimony at trial. We discuss each of Defendant's claims of error in turn. Finding no error, we affirm.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Human Trafficking and Knowledge

         {¶3} Defendant argues that the instructions submitted to the jury were inadequate because the jury should have been instructed that to convict Defendant, it must find Defendant knew B.G. was under the age of eighteen when the acts giving rise to the human trafficking conviction occurred. This is a novel issue that New Mexico courts have not yet considered—whether knowledge of the victim's age is an essential element of human trafficking under NMSA 1978, Section 3 0-52-1(A)(2) (2008). We begin our analysis by setting forth our standard of review, which requires a plain language reading of the statute. We then consider interpretations of similar statutory language from other jurisdictions to arrive at the conclusion that knowledge of the victim's age is not an element of human trafficking under Section 3 0-52-1(A)(2).

         {¶4} Statutory interpretation presents "a question of law that we review de novo." State v. Parvilus, 2014-NMSC-028, ¶ 15, 332 P.3d 281. When interpreting statutes, we seek "to give effect to the intent of the Legislature." Id. ¶ 15; State ex rel. Helman v. Gallegos, 1994-NMSC-023, ¶ 23, 117 N.M. 346, 871 P.2d 1352 ("[I]t is part of the essence of judicial responsibility to search for and effectuate the legislative intent—the purpose or object—underlying the statute."). The first indicator of the Legislature's intent is the plain language of the statute. State v. Almanzar, 2014-NMSC-001, ¶ 14, 316 P.3d 183 (acknowledging that courts give "words their ordinary meaning, unless the Legislature indicates a different one was intended"). "When a statute contains language which is clear and unambiguous, we must give effect to that language and refrain from further statutory interpretation." State v. Jonathan M, 1990-NMSC-046, ¶ 4, 109 N.M. 789, 791 P.2d 64, superseded by statute as stated in State v. DeAngelo, 2015-NMSC-033, 360 P.3d 1151.

         {¶5} Our human trafficking statute provides:

A. Human trafficking consists of a person knowingly:
(1) recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting or obtaining by any means another person with the intent or knowledge that force, fraud or coercion will be used to subject the person to labor, services or commercial sexual activity;
(2) recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting or obtaining by any means a person under the age of eighteen years with the intent or knowledge that the person will be caused to engage in commercial sexual activity; or
(3) benefiting, financially or by receiving anything of value, from the labor, services or commercial sexual activity of another person with the knowledge that force, fraud or coercion was used to obtain the labor, services or commercial sexual activity.

         Section 30-52-1(A).

         {¶6} Initially, we note that the Legislature offset "knowingly" from the remainder of the definition of human trafficking, making it applicable to all three subparts of Section 30-52-1(A). Defendant argues that, with regard to Section 30-52-1(A)(2), the "knowingly" requirement refers to the entire phrase, "recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting, or obtaining by any means a person under the age of eighteen years." Applying the plain language rule and utilizing rules of grammar, we conclude I that the more persuasive interpretation of the statute is that the Legislature intended that the "knowingly" requirement modify "recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting or obtaining" as they are used in Section 30-52-1(A)(1) and (2) and "benefiting" as it is used in Section 30-52-1(A)(3). See Wilson v. Denver, 1998-NMSC-016, ¶ 16, 125 N.M. 308, 961 P.2d 153 (acknowledging that application of the plain language rule allows us to consider and "rely on rules of grammar to aid our construction ... of a statute"); see also State v. Johnson, 2001-NMSC-001, ¶ 13, 130 N.M. 6, 15 P.3d 1233 (applying "rules of grammar" when construing statute). Indeed, "knowingly" cannot properly modify "a person under the age of [eighteen] years." See William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual 667 (11th ed. 2011) (explaining that an adverbial clause functions as an adverb to the main, independent clause and may modify a verb, adverb, or adjective, but not a noun). Common usage and generally accepted principles of grammar, as well as the structure and language of the statute, indicate the Legislature intended that a jury determine whether any "recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting, or obtaining" was done knowingly, rather than whether the defendant knew the age of the person being recruited, solicited, enticed, transported, or obtained.

         {¶7} Indeed, even in instances where the language of a statute is unambiguous, "a statutory subsection . . . must be considered in reference to the statute as a whole." State v. Rivera,2004-NMSC-001, ¶ 13, 134 N.M. 768, 82 P.3d 939 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (noting courts closely examine the statute's overall structure and its function within a comprehensive legislative scheme). Considering the statute as a whole, we note that, although the Legislature used the term "knowingly" in Section 30-52-1 (A)'s definition of human trafficking, it did not include any ...


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