Comber v. U.S. Case Brief

Summary of Comber v. U.S.
DC Ct of App. En banc 1990

Facts: D Comber struck Joseph Pinkney once or twice in the face with his bare fists. Joseph Pickney was D’s sister’s significant, and on the night in question he was drunk. The punch to the face cause subarachnoid brain hemorrhaging in a part of the brain which controls the heart and lungs.

Mr. Butler was hit by Hayward in the jaw. Mr. Butler fell into the street, hit his head, and lost consciousness. Mr. Butler got up later and re-approached D Hayward, who again hit MR. Butler. Mr. Butler again fell and hit the back of his head on the curb. Geriel Butler died from the back of his head hitting the curb.

Issue: Whether the jury instructions were appropriate for manslaughter without instruction for involuntary manslaughter?

Holding: No.

Procedure: Consolidated cases of Appellants Comber and Hayward with similar fact patterns and identical offenses. Reversed and remanded.

Rule: Voluntary Manslaughter is a killing committed with intent to kill or do serious bodily injury, or with conscious disregard of an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury, where malice is absent.

Involuntary Manslaughter is a killing committed, resulting during the commission of a misdemeanor, which entails the reasonable foreseeable risk of appreciable physical injury.

Court Rationale: The instructions given to each of the defendants lacked clarification as to whether the death was a freakish result of a harmless misdemeanor or foreseeable risk of bodily injury, not amounting to serious bodily injury with malice, or intent to kill. In neither case was the jury given a clear charge of the range of culpability statutes available in each case.


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