When the plain language and canons of statutory interpretation fail to resolve statutory ambiguity, the court will resort to legislative history.
Defendant was arrested in possession of pictures cut from one or more magazines. Defendant was charged with possession of child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B). The version of the statute then in force punished the possession of "3 or more books, magazines, periodicals, films, video tapes, or other matter" that have passed in interstate or foreign commerce and "which contain any visual depiction" showing (or produced by using) a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Eventually the defendant was convicted of possession of matter, three or more in number, which contain any visual depiction of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
Whether individual pictures cut from magazines may be categorized as “other matter,” the possession of which is punishable under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a).
On appeal, the court reversed the judgment of conviction. When the plain language and canons of statutory interpretation fail to resolve statutory ambiguity, we will resort to legislative history. Unfortunately, legislative history on this matter reveals no insight as to what Congress intended the precise scope of 'other matter' to be. Therefore, the court applied the rule of lenity because the language of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2252(a)(4)(B) was ambiguous as to whether the individual pictures defendant was convicted of possessing were other matter containing such visual depictions.