Monday, February 20, 2012

People vs. Ramirez

Facts: In the late afternoon, Ramirez, the accused fired his pistol at Alo Zaragoza four times in various parts of the body. Zaragoza died two hours later. It was not disputed that the shooting was preceded by a conversation between Ramirez and Zaragoza in a restaurant in Tayug. Seated at same table were Ramirez’s companion, Espero, Mamenta, Carbonel and Castulo. At another table were two other acquaintances, Robosa and Arestado, who both could see the group through the doorway. The conversation was about the setting up of “jueteng” gambling operation in the town although it was unclear who was precisely making the proposal. Soon after the conversation, Zaragoza became agitated and stood up, angrily uttering some words and pounding the table with his hand. Ramirez also stood up and walked away from the table, towards the comfort room. A few minutes later, Zaragoza also walked out of the room. From this point, two different versions were offered by the prosecution and the defense. 

Prosecution side: After leaving the room, Zaragoza stopped between two tables in the main eating area to drink beer from the mug he was holding. While he was standing and drinking, Ramirez suddenly appeared and fired three shots at Zaragoza. Alarmed, Robosa grabbed Ramirez to prevent him from firing more shots, but Ramirez was able to squeeze another shot at Zaragoza before losing his balance. The pistol slipped from Ramirez hand, but accused was able to recover it immediately. Ramirez fired a shot at Robosa but missed. Soon after, Ramirez fled from the restaurant. 

Defense side: According to Ramirez, it was Zaragoza who suggested the jueteng operation. When he refused, Zaragoza became agitated and cursed him for not accepting the proposal. Moreover, he claimed that Zaragoza threatened to kill him when the latter tried to borrow a gun from his companion. In order to avoid trouble, he quickly went to the toilet. On his way out, Carbonel told him that he should go home directly as Zaragoza was very angry. Accused claimed that he shoved Carbonel and walked towards the main room. On his way to the main room, he saw Zaragoza cursing him and saying “I am going to kill you.” Because of Zaragoza’s previous threat, he quickly drew his pistol and fired at Zaragoza while fleeing the restaurant. Accused claimed that he was merely acting on self-defense. 

The Regional Trial Court found the accused guilty. 

Issue: Whether the Regional Trial Court erred in finding the defendant guilty of murder and in disregarding the evidence of self-defense 

Held: Defendant is guilty. The consideration of self-defense is out of question. Regional Trial Court’s decision is affirmed. 

The Court struck out the possibility of unlawful aggression on the part of Zaragoza because evidence obtained from both sides, point to the fact that Zaragoza had no gun or weapon of any other sort when he emerged from the main room. The evidence was that Zaragoza was merely holding a glass of beer. Ramirez’s contention that Zaragoza threatened to kill him was untenable because there is nothing but defendant’s uncorroborated testimony to establish this. Even assuming that Ramirez’s testimony was true, he should have quickly seen that Zaragoza bore no arms and was launching nothing more perilous than a verbal onslaught. Clearly, there was no well-grounded fear of imminent danger to defendant’s life by reason of any real or perceived unlawful aggression on the part of Zaragoza. Thus, without the unlawful aggression element, self-defense should be removed from the equation.

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