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Pears v. State

Alaska Court of Appeals
672 P.2d 903 (1983)


Nineteen-year-old Richard Pears (defendant) was the first person in Alaska convicted of murder for vehicular homicide while driving drunk. The night of the accident, Pears drove recklessly between bars, speeding and running stop signs and red lights. Pears’s companion said his driving scared her, but the two drank some more at a second bar. When they left and approached Pears’s truck, two police officers stopped Pears and told him not to drive because he was too intoxicated. Pears and his companion walked back toward the bar until the officers left, then got in the truck with Pears again driving. Pears drove his companion home, then continued driving around. Another driver saw Pears speeding and running red lights by using the right-turn lane to pass cars stopped at the intersection. At the next intersection, Pears repeated that maneuver, sped into the intersection without braking or slowing down, and T-boned a crossing car, killing two occupants and severely injuring a third. Pears was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault. The jury convicted on all three counts, and the judge sentenced Pears to 20 years in prison. Pears appealed on the ground that that the legislature did not intend vehicular homicides to be charged as murder. He also claimed he was passed out when he drove into the intersection, so he lacked the intent required for murder. Finally, Pears challenged his sentence as excessive.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Coats, J.)

Concurrence (Singleton, J.)

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