Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Identifying the Accused

In criminal prosecution, not only is it necessary to prove the existence of the body of the crime or corpus delicti (the fact of the commission of the crime charged - People v. Mittu, 333 SCRA 121), it is also necessary to prove the identity of the accused as the perpetrator. A common way of proving the identity of the perpetrator is to have a witness to the crime point to perpetrator in court.

For out-of-court identification, the Supreme Court in People v. Teehankee (G.R. Nos. 111206-08 October 6, 1995) set the factors to consider in evaluating its admissibility and reliability, known as the Totality of Circumstances Test:

(1) the witness’ opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime;
(2) the witness’ degree of attention at the time;
(3) the accuracy of any prior description given by the witness;
(4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification;
(5) the length of time between the crime and the identification; and
(6) the suggestiveness of the identification procedure.

In People vs. Caliso (G.R. No.  183830, October 19, 2011), the following question was asked: When is identification of the perpetrator of a crime positive and reliable enough for establishing his guilt beyond reasonable doubt?

According the Supreme Court, identification of the perpetrator may not be through an eyewitness if there is none. In lieu of an eyewitness, trustworthy circumstantial evidence can serve as positive identification, such as when the accused is the person or one of the persons last seen with the victim immediately before and right after the commission of the crime. In order for said circumstantial evidence to be enough to convict the accused, it should  when taken together with other pieces of evidence constituting an unbroken chain, lead to only fair and reasonable conclusion, which is that the accused is the author of the crime to the exclusion of all others.

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