from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage,
Trial Court No. 3AN-11-12507 CR Michael R. Spaan, Judge.
Bair, Assistant Public Advocate, Appeals and Statewide
Defense Section, and Richard Allen, Public Advocate,
Anchorage, for the Appellant.
Stryszak, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal
Appeals, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General,
Juneau, for the Appellee.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Allard and Wollenberg,
November 2011, Brian Albert Pfister and two accomplices -
Joseph Trantham and Maurice Johnson - decided to break into
the home of a marijuana grower and rob him. Pfister waited
outside while his two accomplices entered the marijuana
Trantham and Johnson were inside the home, they
pistol-whipped the marijuana grower and demanded his money.
The marijuana grower led Trantham and Johnson to his safe -
where, unbeknownst to the robbers, he kept a handgun. The
grower removed the handgun from the safe and used it to shoot
Trantham and Johnson - mortally wounding both of them.
Pfister ran away, but he was later arrested.
State charged Pfister with first-degree burglary,
first-degree robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. The
State also charged Pfister with two counts of manslaughter,
for causing the deaths of his two accomplices. Following a
jury trial, Pfister was convicted of all these crimes.
appeal, Pfister challenges his two manslaughter convictions.
He asserts that, under Alaska law, an accomplice to a
dangerous felony cannot be convicted of manslaughter when the
person who is killed as a result of the felony is another
notes that, under Alaska law, he could not be convicted of
felony-murder for the deaths of his accomplices. This is
because the portion of the second-degree murder statute that
defines felony-murder, AS 11.41.110(a)(3), expressly exempts
situations where the person who dies during a violent felony
is "one of the participants" in that felony.
on the fact that Alaska's felony-murder statute does not
cover situations where a felony results in the death of an
accomplice to that crime, Pfister argues that the Alaska
Legislature also must have intended to exempt accomplices to
a felony from any criminal liability for the death
of another accomplice. Thus, under Pfister's view of the
law, he could not be convicted of manslaughter or any other
degree of criminal homicide based on the deaths of his two
accomplices to the burglary and robbery in this case.
explain in this opinion, Pfister's argument is
inconsistent with the common law defining the crime of
manslaughter. Based on that common law, and based on the
hundred-year history of Alaska's manslaughter statute, we
conclude that Pfister's proposed limitation on the crime
of manslaughter is inconsistent with the intent of the Alaska
Legislature. We therefore uphold Pfister's two
for the reasons explained in this opinion, we remand
Pfister's case to the superior court for re-sentencing.
common-law definition of manslaughter, and the related
doctrines of felony-murder and mi sdemeanor-manslaughter
common law, the crime of manslaughter was a residual category
of unlawful homicide. Manslaughter was defined as any
unlawful homicide committed without malice aforethought -
that is, any unlawful homicide that was not
whenever a person caused the death of another human being,
and if that killing was neither justified nor excused, and if
the killing did not constitute some form of murder, then the
person was guilty of manslaughter. 
the forms of murder recognized at common law was
"felony-murder". In the early days of the common
law, this doctrine applied only to homicides that were caused
during an attempt to perpetrate a felony - because,
in those days, any completed felony was already punishable by
when the law allowed lesser penalties for felonies, the
felony-murder doctrine was altered to cover any unintended
homicide that resulted from the perpetration or attempted
perpetration of an inherently dangerous felony, or from any
other felony that was perpetrated in a dangerous manner.
such instances, the common law viewed the defendant's
intent to commit the felony as "malice
aforethought" - thus elevating the homicide to murder -
even though the defendant had no intent to kill.
the only intent required for felony-murder was the intent to
commit the felony, the felony-murder rule applied to deaths
that were attributable to the commission of a felony even if
those deaths were unforeseen or even quite unexpected:
If [the] intent [to commit the felony] is shown[, ] the
resulting homicide is murder even if it was quite accidental.
... [For example, ] if arson results in the death of a
fireman who was trying to put out the fire, the arsonist is
recognized as having caused this death and is guilty of
murder under the felony-murder rule. 
even the accidental killing of an accomplice during the
perpetration of the felony was felony-murder for this same
common law also recognized a related doctrine that is
commonly referred to as the
this rule, a person was guilty of manslaughter if they
engaged in any unlawful act that was not covered by the
felony-murder rule and, as a result, another person died.
misdemeanor-manslaughter rule is sometimes treated as if it
were a separate legal doctrine, distinct from (but related
to) the felony-murder rule. However, in truth, the
misdemeanor-manslaughter rule follows directly from the
definition of manslaughter.
explained earlier, the common law defined manslaughter as any
unlawful homicide that did not constitute murder. Thus, if a
person engaged in an unlawful act, and if that act resulted
in the unintended death of another human being, and if that
death did not constitute felony-murder, then the crime was
historical definitions of manslaughter and felony-murder
the eighty-year interval between the earliest codification of
Alaska territorial law (the Carter Code of
1900) and the effective date of Alaska's
current criminal code (January 1, 1980),  Alaska adhered to
the common-law definition of manslaughter. That is,
manslaughter was the residual category of unlawful homicide:
it encompassed any unlawful homicide that did not constitute
either first- or second-degree murder.
earliest codification of this principle is found in Part I,
Section 6 of the Carter Code:
[W]hoever unlawfully kills another, except as provided in
[the sections defining first- and second-degree murder], is