Pfister v. State

In Pfister v. State,[1] the Alaska Court of Appeals held that a surviving felony accomplice may be prosecuted for manslaughter when a fellow accomplice is killed by the victim or responding police officers.  Brian Albert Pfister and two accomplices broke into the home of a marijuana grower and robbed him. Pfister waited outside while his accomplices entered the home and demanded the grower’s money. The grower led the accomplices to a safe where he had a hidden handgun; he used it to shoot and kill both accomplices. Pfister ran away but was later arrested and convicted of, inter alia, two counts of manslaughter for causing the deaths of his two accomplices. Based on Alaska’s restrictive definition of felony-murder, Pfister argued he could not be convicted of felony-murder. The court of appeals said that under Alaska’s felony-murder statute, “a person cannot be convicted of felony-murder based on the death of one of the other participants in the felony.” Analyzing the development of the felony-murder rule and misdemeanor manslaughter, the court concluded that manslaughter has traditionally been “a residual category of unlawful homicide,” encompassing any unlawful killing that does not constitute murder. Thus, the court explained that unlike felony-murder manslaughter makes up a much broader category of crime, but also requires proof of mens rea regarding the possibility that the defendant’s conduct could result in death. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court and held that a defendant could be prosecuted for manslaughter but not felony-murder for the death of an accomplice at the hands of the victim or the police.

 

[1] 425 P.3d 183 (Alaska Ct. App. 2018).

Pfister v. State

In Pfister v. State,[1] the Alaska Court of Appeals held that a surviving felony accomplice may be prosecuted for manslaughter when a fellow accomplice is killed by the victim or responding police officers.  Brian Albert Pfister and two accomplices broke into the home of a marijuana grower and robbed him. Pfister waited outside while his accomplices entered the home and demanded the grower’s money. The grower led the accomplices to a safe where he had a hidden handgun; he used it to shoot and kill both accomplices. Pfister ran away but was later arrested and convicted of, inter alia, two counts of manslaughter for causing the deaths of his two accomplices. Based on Alaska’s restrictive definition of felony-murder, Pfister argued he could not be convicted of felony-murder. The court of appeals said that under Alaska’s felony-murder statute, “a person cannot be convicted of felony-murder based on the death of one of the other participants in the felony.” Analyzing the development of the felony-murder rule and misdemeanor manslaughter, the court concluded that manslaughter has traditionally been “a residual category of unlawful homicide,” encompassing any unlawful killing that does not constitute murder. Thus, the court explained that unlike felony-murder manslaughter makes up a much broader category of crime, but also requires proof of mens rea regarding the possibility that the defendant’s conduct could result in death. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court and held that a defendant could be prosecuted for manslaughter but not felony-murder for the death of an accomplice at the hands of the victim or the police.

 

[1] 425 P.3d 183 (Alaska Ct. App. 2018).