Jury convicts former Libertarian Alaska state Senate candidate of murder
A Palmer jury on Monday convicted former Libertarian state Senate candidate of second-degree murder and other crimes associated with a fatal shooting one month before the 2020 general election.
Gavin Christiansen murdered 35-year-old Devin Moorhouse of Anchorage after a road rage incident, jurors concluded after a weeklong criminal trial in Palmer.
Christiansen was a candidate for state Senate in 2020 for the state Senate seat representing the southern Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
He withdrew from the race Aug. 31, citing health reasons, but because his withdrawal came after the official deadline, he remained on the ballot on the day in October that he met Moorhouse.
According to troopers and evidence presented at trial, Moorhouse and a second person were driving “doughnuts” around Christiansen’s car in a gravel pit. Moorhouse’s car struck Christiansen’s, and an argument ensued.
Moorhouse attempted to drive away, and Christiansen fired several shots at the car before pursuing in his own vehicle.
Moorhouse eventually crashed into a ditch. As Christiansen pulled his car next to Moorhouse’s, Moorhouse reached for a rifle — later investigation found it unloaded — and Christiansen shot him dead.
Despite the charges against him, Christiansen received 999 votes, or 4.8% of the vote, in the November 2020 election for state Senate, finishing third behind Democratic candidate Jim Cooper and Republican Shelley Hughes, who still holds the seat.
Attorney Neal Ainsworth, representing Christiansen, argued unsuccessfully during trial that the case was one of self-defense.
Alaska has a “stand your ground” law that allows someone to use deadly force if they’re threatened with death, serious injury, sexual assault or a robbery.
Ainsworth sought to convince the jury that Moorhouse’s actions met that standard, but “apparently they thought that (Christiansen) pursuing made him the aggressor there,” Ainsworth said by phone.
Palmer Assistant District Attorney Kerry Corliss, the prosecutor behind the case, said in rebuttal at the trial, “Alaska has a stand your ground self-defense law, but it is stand your ground, not chase them down.”
Via a written statement published by the Alaska Department of Law, Corliss said the defendant had shot at the victim and pursued him for miles and that the victim had the right to employ self-defense because he had unequivocally communicated his withdrawal from the conflict by fleeing twice.
Ainsworth said he hasn’t yet spoken to his client about an appeal.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June. Second-degree murder carries a penalty of between 15 and 99 years in prison.
Christiansen was also convicted of additional crimes, including manslaughter and weapons misconduct. Those carry additional penalties. Alaska does not have the death penalty.