NMCA: Reversing conviction of middle school student who said he was making a “kill list”

A 14-year-old student at Capitan Middle School told another student he was making a “kill list.” Then, when the school’s principal asked whether he had a “hit list,” the student corrected her and said it was a “kill list.” The student was ultimately convicted of violating NMSA 1978, Section 30-20-13(D), which criminalizes willful interference with the educational process. You can read more about the arrest and charges in this story by Dianne Stallings in the Ruidoso News.

In State v. Quintin C. (opinion by Judge Megan Duffy), the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction because the district court improperly applied a general-intent mens rea to reach its decision. The Court held that Section 30-20-13(D) is actually a specific-intent crime, and that the conviction had to be reversed.

The Court then held that there was sufficient evidence to convict the student under the specific-intent standard (if there had not been, then double jeopardy would’ve barred a retrial), and remanded for a new trial using the proper standard.

This is the first New Mexico appellate decision to interpret Section 30-20-13(D). Federal courts have applied the statute before, most notably in A.M. v. Holmes, where a student was arrested under the statute for fake-burping in class. Then-judge Neil Gorsuch’s dissent in that case attracted some attention at his SCOTUS confirmation hearing.

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