«Tony Lamont Haile v. State of Maryland, No. 112, September Term, 2006. Opinion by Bell, C.J. CRIMINAL LAW – PROCEDURE – MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ...»
“In sum, appellant’s failure to move for judgment of acquittal at the close of all evidence at trial bars appellate review of her insufficiency contention. Had she properly made such a motion at trial, a question of law would have been raised which this Court and the intermediate appellate court could have considered on direct appeal.” Id., 306 Md. at 589-90, 510 A.2d at 578-79 (citations omitted).
Although the petitioner correctly concludes and concedes that his claim regarding evidentiary insufficiency was unpreserved, we will exercise our discretion, under Rule 8-131 (a), to interpret CL § 10-606 (a) (3), and to make clear its purpose and scope. It is our opinion that, even if the right to appellate review had been properly preserved, the petitioner’s claim of evidentiary insufficiency would fail.
In reviewing a question regarding the sufficiency of the evidence presented at trial, the primary question we ask is “whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” State v. Smith, 374 Md. 527, 533, 823 A.2d 664, 668 (2003). See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 313, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2785, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 569 (1979); White v. State, 363 Md. 150, 162, 767 A.2d 855, 862 (2001); Tracy v. State, 423 Md. 1, 11, 31 A.3d 160, 165-66 (2011). Mindful not to usurp the role of the fact-finder, it is important, in so doing, that “[w]e do not re-weigh the evidence,” but, instead, seek to determine “whether the verdict was supported by sufficient evidence, direct or circumstantial, which could convince a rational trier of fact of the defendant’s guilt of the offenses charged beyond a reasonable doubt.” Smith, 374 Md. at 534, 823 A.2d at 668 (quoting White, 363 Md. at 162, 767 A.2d at 862).
The petitioner challenges his conviction under CL § 10-606 (a) (3), which prohibits the intentional infliction of “bodily harm, permanent disability, or death on an animal owned or used by a law enforcement unit.” As we have seen, the petitioner’s argument turns, largely, on his assertion that the language of CL § 10-606 (a) (3) is sufficiently similar to the language of CL § 3-202 (a) (1)7 for this Court to apply its categorization of the latter, as a specific intent crime, to the former. We reject this argument.
“The cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the real and actual intent of the legislature.” Lockshin v. Semsker, 412 Md. 257, 274, 987 A.2d 18, 28 (2010) (citing Board of Education v. Zimmer-Rubert, 409 Md. 200, 214, 973 A.2d 233, 241 (2009); In re Najasha B., 409 Md. 20, 27, 972 A.2d 845, 849 (2009)). See State v. Weems, 429 Md. 329, 337, 55 A.3d 921, 926 (2012); Stoddard v. State, 395 Md. 653, 661, 911 A.2d 1245, 1249 (2006); Moore v. State, 388 Md. 446, 452, 879 A.2d 1111, 1114 (2005). We begin this inquiry by looking, first, to the plain language of the statute, “on the tacit theory that the Legislature is presumed to have meant what it said and said what it meant.” Witte v. Azarian, 369 Md. 518, 525, 801 A.2d 160, 165 (2002). See Deville v. State, 383 Md. 217, 223, 858 A.2d 484, 487 (2004). “If there is no ambiguity in that language, either inherently or by reference to other relevant laws or circumstances, the inquiry as to legislative intent ends,” and there is no “need to resort to the various, and sometimes inconsistent, external rules of construction....” Arundel Corp v. Marie, 383 Md. 489, 502, 860 A.2d 886, 894 (2004). We do not, however, “add or delete language so as to reflect an intent not evidenced in the plain and unambiguous language of the statute,” nor do we “construe a statute with forced or subtle interpretations that limit or extend its application.” Lockshin, 412 Md. at CL § 3-202 (a) (1) provides that “[a] person may not intentionally cause or attempt to cause serious physical injury to another.” 275, 987 A.2d at 29 (internal quotation marks omitted) (internal citations omitted). Only where “the words of a statute are ambiguous and subject to more than one reasonable interpretation,” or “where the words are clear and unambiguous when viewed in isolation, but become ambiguous when read as part of a larger statutory scheme,” must a court “resolve the ambiguity by searching for legislative intent in other indicia, including the history of the legislation or other relevant sources intrinsic and extrinsic to the legislative process.” Id., 412 Md. at 276, 987 A.2d at 29 (citations omitted); Chow v. State, 393 Md. 431, 444, 903 A.2d 388, 395 (2006); Price v. State, 378 Md. 378, 387-88, 835 A.2d 1221, 1226 (2003). To be sure, we have found statutes to be ambiguous if they are subject to “two or more reasonable alternative interpretations....” Price, 378 Md. at 387, 835 A.2d at 1226. That is not the case with CL § 10-606 (a) (3).
CL § 10-606 (a) (3) is unambiguous. It’s plain language provides that “except in the case of self-defense,” a person may not “intentionally inflict bodily harm, permanent disability, or death on an animal owned or used by a law enforcement unit.” We cannot conceive of two reasonable alternative interpretations of this language. It explicitly prohibits actions resulting in three kinds of harm – bodily harm, permanent disability, death – with specific regard to animals both owned, and used, by law enforcement. It was, therefore, unnecessary and, indeed, impermissible for the petitioner to look beyond the language of this statute for guidance, except as confirmation of the plain language.8 See Witte, 369 Md. at 525, 801 A.2d at 165; Toler v. MVA, 373 Md. 214, 220, 817 A.2d 229, 233 (2003); Pelican v. Provident, 381 Md. 327, 336, 849 A.2d 475, 480 (2004). Rather than seek confirmation of his interpretation of § 10-606 (a) (3) from Subtitle 6, Crimes Relating to Animals, the petitioner asks us to look to case law interpreting a wholly separate statute, with a separate purpose, CL § 3-202 (a) (1), for guidance as to the intent the Legislature required for commission of the acts it proscribes. As we have seen, on the basis of our interpretation of that statute, the petitioner asks us to conclude that § 10-606 (a) (3) contemplates a specific intent to inflict harm upon a police animal. We decline to do so, and, because its language is so clear and unequivocal, decline to look beyond § 10-606 (a) (3) for legislative intent.
The petitioner’s contention that § 10-606 (a) (3) requires some specific intent finds no support in the plain statutory language. Indeed, ordinarily, the meaning of a statute cannot CL § 10-602 states the General Assembly’s intention in enacting Subtitle 6, Crimes
Relating to Animals:
“It is the intent of the General Assembly that each animal in the State be
protected from intentional cruelty, including animals that are:
“(1) privately owned;
“(5) farm animals;
“(6) corporately or institutionally owned; or “(7) used in privately, locally, State, or federally funded scientific or medical activities.” The General Assembly defined cruelty, as used in the above provision, in CL § 10-601 (c) (1), as “the unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering caused or allowed by an act, omission, or neglect,” including “torture and torment.” be gleaned, as the petitioner would have us do, from a comparison of it to an entirely distinct statute which prohibits a completely different crime.
We also reject the petitioner’s application of ejusdem generis to § 10-606 (a) (3) as improper. The Latin phrase literally translates to “of the same kind or class,” and is defined as “[a] canon of construction holding that when a general word or phrase follows a list of specifics, the general word or phrase will be interpreted to include only items of the same class as those listed.” BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 594 (9th ed. 2009). This Court has applied
the doctrine of ejusdem generis upon the existence of the following conditions:
“(1) the statute contains an enumeration of specific words; (2) the members of the enumeration suggest a class; (3) the class is not exhausted by the enumeration; (4) a general reference supplementing the enumeration, usually following it; and (5) there is not clearly manifested an intent that the general term be given a broader meaning than the doctrine requires.” Boyle v. Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission, 385 Md. 142, 156, 867 A.2d 1050, 1059 (2005) (quoting In re Wallace W., 333 Md. at 190, 634 A.2d at 55-56). We have also explained that “the doctrine, being only a rule of construction, should not be invoked ‘to restrict the meaning of words within narrower limits than the statute intends, so as to subvert its obvious purpose’” Id. (quoting Blake v. State, 210 Md. 459, 462, 124 A.2d 273, 274 (1956), State Dep’t of Assess. & Tax v. Belcher, 315 Md. 111, 121, 553 A.2d 691, 696 (1989)).
As a rule of construction, ejusdem generis serves as an alternative mechanism through which the court may ascertain the intent of the Legislature. Like the unrelated case law relied upon by the petitioner, however, “it is generally held that the rule of ejusdem generis is merely a rule of construction and is only applicable where legislative intent or language expressing that intent is unclear.” 2A Sutherland Stat. Const. § 47.18, at 200 (7th ed. 2012).
As such, the petitioner’s reliance on this doctrine, too, is premature, and misplaced. As we have already indicated, the intent of the Legislature in enacting § 10-606 (a) (3) is readily apparent in the plain language of the statute, and through its own explicitly stated intention to prohibit the infliction of non-accidental harm to animals, including those used by law enforcement. Indeed, the petitioner can point to no clearly manifested intent, by the Legislature, to the contrary, that the wording,“bodily harm” in actuality means “serious bodily harm.” Finally, we do not believe that § 10-606 (a) (3) prohibits the infliction of only “serious” bodily harm. Narrowing the meaning of “bodily harm,” as the petitioner would have us do, to mean only serious bodily harm, would subvert the statute’s purpose. A longstanding principle of statutory construction provides that “our interpretation of [a] statute and the legislature's intent must be examined by looking to the statutory scheme in its entirety rather than segmenting the statute and analyzing only its individual parts.” Marsheck v.
Board of Trustees of Fire & Police Employees’ Retirement System of City of Baltimore, 358 Md. 393, 403, 749 A.2d 774, 779 (2000); Lockshin, 412 Md. at 275, 987 A.2d at 29;
Anderson v. Council of Unit Owners of Gables on Tuckerman Condominium, 404 Md. 560, 572, 948 A.2d 11, 19 (2008). Indeed, even “the meaning of the plainest language is controlled by the context in which it appears.” Stoddard, 395 Md. at 663, 911 A.2d at 1250 (quoting State v. Pagano, 341 Md. 129, 133, 669 A.2d 1339, 1341 (1996) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Accordingly, instead of “confin[ing] strictly our interpretation of [the] statute’s plain language to the isolated section alone,” we look, as we must, to the statutory scheme as a whole, in our effort to discern legislative intent from it’s language. Lockshin, 412 Md. at 265, 987 A.2d at 29; Johnson v. State, 360 Md. 250, 264, 757 A.2d 796, 804 (2000) (“To prevent illogical or nonsensical interpretations of a [statute], we analyze the [statute] in its entirety, rather than independently construing its subparts.”).
Viewing the above language in its entirety, it becomes clear that the Legislature, by distinguishing, in (a) (3), “animal[s] owned or used by a law enforcement unit” from the general category of “animals” in (a) (1), sought to place a special emphasis on that category.
It is also clear, upon analyzing the language of the subsection as a whole, that the Legislature did so, because it intended to create a lower threshold for violation with regard to this category. This becomes evident upon comparing the kind of harm prohibited under (a) (1) – “intentional mutilat[ion], torture, cruel beat[ing], or cruel kill[ing]” – to the lowest degree of harm prohibited by (a) (3), namely,“bodily harm.” 9 Holding, as the petitioner would have us do, that subsection (a) (3), also, is limited to harm of equal degree as that articulated in (a) (1), would render the specificity of (a) (3) mere surplusage and, thus, unnecessary. This runs afoul of the well-settled and oft-enunciated proposition, that, in conducting statutory interpretation, “whenever possible, a statute should be read so that no word, clause, sentence or phrase is rendered superfluous or nugatory.” Taylor v.
NationsBank, N.A., 365 Md. 166, 181, 776 A.2d 645, 654-55; Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. v. Fitzpatrick, 366 Md. 295, 302, 783 A.2d 667, 671 (2001); Liverpool v. Baltimore Diamond Exchange, Inc., 369 Md. 304, 317, 799 A.2d 1264, 1271 (2002).
We are, likewise, unpersuaded by the petitioner’s contention that he acted in selfdefense when he hit and injured Bennie. The elements of self-defense in Maryland are wellestablished:10 “(1) The accused must have had reasonable grounds to believe himself... in apparent imminent or immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm from his... assailant or potential assailant;
Because there is no attempt to parse or further define “bodily harm,” we must assume that the General Assembly intended that phrase to cover the universe.
Maryland recognizes both perfect and imperfect self-defense. State v. Smullen, 380 Md.
233, 251, 844 A.2d 429, 439 (2004). Perfect self-defense occurs when the belief of danger is subjectively held by the accused and is objectively reasonable, while imperfect self-defense occurs when the actual subjective belief on the part of the accused is not objectively reasonable. Id., 380 Md. at 251–52, 844 A.2d at 439–440 (citing State v. Faulkner, 301 Md.
482, 500, 483 A.2d 759, 768–69 (1984) and Dykes v. State, 391 Md. 206, 211, 571 A.2d 1251, 1254 (1990)) (citations omitted). A common element of both forms of self-defense is that the accused must not have been the aggressor or provoked the conflict. Id., 380 Md. at 252–53, 844 A.2d at 440. Here, we are concerned only with perfect self-defense.
“(2) The accused must have in fact believed himself... in this danger;