Closson v. State
In Closson v. State, 784 P.2d 661 (Alaska App. 1989) the Court interpreted an agreement that the defendant had made with the State to work as an informant. The State agreed that if Closson cooperated and performed adequately, the State would dismiss a pending criminal charge and immunize him on a potential felony theft charge.
The State later prosecuted Closson on the theft charge, claiming that he had breached the immunity agreement. The superior court agreed with the State and found that Closson had breached the immunity agreement. Closson was tried and convicted of theft.
On appeal, this court upheld Closson's conviction. Closson petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court, which reversed this court and held that the State had materially breached the agreement with Closson and that Closson's theft conviction had to be vacated.
In analyzing the immunity agreement, the supreme court agreed with this court that immunity agreements are contractual in nature, although it rejected our interpretation of the agreement. The approach approved by the supreme court is the following:
Immunity agreements are contractual in nature and general principles of contract law apply to the resolution of disputes concerning their enforcement and breach. ... Although the analogy between immunity agreements and ordinary contracts is useful, immunity agreements are subject to constitutional restraints, foremost of which is the due process clause's overriding guarantee of fundamental fairness to the accused.