Ponente: CARSON, J.
Decision Date: 1910-03-19
GR Number: G.R. No. 5272
When the accused was suddenly awakened by someone who is forcingly opening the door, believing him to be a robber, and struck a mortal blow causing his death, and turned out that it was his friend, such accidental killing is not attended with malice. Thus, the unlawful killing is exempted by virtue of mistake of fact on the part of the accused.
1) Any person voluntarily committing a crime or misdemeanor shall incur criminal liability, even though the wrongful act committed be different from that which he had intended to commit.
2) Since evil intent is in general an inseparable element in every crime, any such mistake of fact as shows the act committed to have proceeded from no sort of evil in the mind necessarily relieves the actor from criminal liability, provided always there is no fault or negligence on his part. That is to say, the question as to whether he honestly, in good faith, and without fault or negligence fell into the mistake is to be determined by the circumstances as they appeared to him at the time when the mistake was made, and the effect which the surrounding circumstances might reasonably be expected to have on his mind, in forming the intent, criminal or otherwise, upon which he acted.
3) proof of his innocent mistake of the facts overcomes the presumption of malice or criminal intent, and (since malice or criminal intent is a necessary ingredient of the "act punished by law" in cases of homicide or assassination)
4) If the party killing had reasonable grounds for believing that the person slain had a felonious design against him, and under that supposition killed him, although it should afterwards appear that there was no such design, it will not be murder, but it will be either manslaughter or excusable homicide, according to the degree of caution used and the probable grounds of such belief.
Ah Chong, was employed as a cook. The deceased, Pascual, was employed as a house boy or muchacho. No one slept in the house except the two servants, who jointly occupied a small room toward the rear of the building, the door of which opened upon a narrow porch running along the side of the building, by which communication was had with the other part of the house. This porch was covered by a heavy growth of vines for its entire length and height. The door of the room was not furnished with a permanent bolt or lock, and the occupants, as a measure of security, had attached a small hook or catch on the inside of the door, and were in the habit of reinforcing this somewhat insecure means of fastening the door by placing against it a chair.
On the night of August 14, 1908, at about 10 o'clock, the defendant, who had retired for the night, was suddenly awakened by someone trying to force open the door of the room. He sat up in bed and called out twice, "Who is there?" He heard no answer and was convinced by the noise at the door that it was being pushed open by someone bent upon forcing his way into the room. Due to the heavy growth of vines along the front of the porch, the room was very dark, and the defendant, fearing that the intruder was a robber or a thief, leaped to his feet and called out. "If you enter the room, I will kill you."
In the darkness and confusion the defendant thought that the blow had been inflicted by the person who had forced the door open, whom he supposed to be a burglar. Seizing a common kitchen knife which he kept under his pillow, the defendant struck out wildly at the intruder who, it afterwards turned out, was his roommate, Pascual.
There had been several robberies in Fort McKinley not long prior to the date of the incident just described, one of which took place in a house in which the defendant was employed as cook; and as defendant alleges, it was because of these repeated robberies he kept a knife under his pillow for his personal protection.
Defendant was placed under arrest forthwith, and Pascual was conveyed to the military hospital, where he died from the effects of the wound on the following day. He was charged with the crime of assassination. During the trial, the defendant invokes self-defense as he was merely trying to defend himself from someone whom he believes to be a robber
The trial court convicted the accused for the crime of homicide.
1) Whether or not, the victim should be acquitted for self-defense
The Supreme Court ruled that the elements of self-defense were not present because there was no "unlawful aggression" on the part of the victim. However, the accused was acquitted for mistake of fact. The crime of homicide requires existence of criminal intent. The fact that the accused believed that the victim is a robber, and tried to attack the robber to avoid injury or loss on his part, negates the existence of criminal intent on the part of the accused.
The Supreme Court explained that: "A careful examination of the facts as disclosed in the case at bar convinces us that the defendant Chinaman struck the fatal blow alleged in the information in the firm belief that the intruder who forced open the door of his sleeping room was a thief, from whose assault he was in imminent peril, both of his life and of his property and of the property committed to his charge; that in view of all the circumstances, as they must have presented themselves to the defendant at the time, he acted in good faith, without malice, or criminal intent, in the belief that he was doing no more than exercising his legitimate right of self-defense; that had the facts been as he believed them to be he would have been wholly exempt from criminal liability on account of his act; and that he can not be said to have been guilty of negligence or recklessness or even carelessness in falling into his mistake as to the facts, or in the means adopted by him to defend himself from the imminent danger which he believed threatened his person and his property and the property under his charge."
The judgment of conviction and the sentence imposed by the trial court should be reversed, and the defendant acquitted of the crime with which he is charged and his bail bond exonerated, with the costs of both instances de oficio.