People v. Alicano G.R. No. 117487 December 12, 1995 251 SCRA 293 (1995)

Facts: in the afternoon of June 12, 1994, father of the victim was drinking in house. Appellant joined them but every now and then would take leave and return. Luisa Rebada also lives in the neighborhood, heard the victim crying. She approached appellant’s house and peeped through an opening between its floor and door. The sight shocked her appellant was naked, on top of the victim, his left hand choking her neck. She retreated to her house in fright. Father of the victim returned to his house at 8 o’clock in the evening. He did not find the victim. He and his wife searched for her until 1 o’clock in the morning. Their effort was fruitless. Rebada was aware that the Penecillas were looking for their daughter but did not tell them what she knew. Another neighbor, Leopoldo Santiago went down from his house to answer the call of nature. He discovered the lifeless body of the victim under his house. Her parents were informed and so was the police. At 9:00 a.m., Rebada suffered a change of heart. She informed the parents of the victim that appellant committed the crime. Forthwith, appellant was arrested and interrogated by PO3 Danilo Tan. He verbally confessed his guilt without the assistance of counsel. On the basis of his uncounselled verbal confession and follow up interrogations, the police came to know and recovered from appellant’s house, victim ‘s green slippers, a pair of gold earrings, a buri mat, a stained pillow and a stained T-shirt all of which were presented as evidence for the prosecution. On July 20, 1994, the trial court found appellant guilty and sentenced him to death and be executed by putting the person under sentence to death by electrocution (electric chair). As soon as facilities are provided by the Bureau of Prisons, the method of carrying out his sentence shall be changed by gas poisoning (sic). The case is before the court on automatic review considering the death penalty imposed by the trial court.

Issue: Whether strong evidence illegally obtained can be used in court to convict the accused for the crime committed.

Held: No, once the primary source (the “tree”) is shown to have been unlawfully obtained, any secondary or derivative evidence (the “fruit”) derived from it is also inadmissible. Stated otherwise, illegally seized evidence is obtained as a direct result of the illegal act, whereas the “fruit of the poisonous tree” is the indirect result of the same illegal act. The “fruit of the poisonous tree” is at least once removed from the illegally seized evidence, but it is equally inadmissible. The rule is based on the principle that evidence illegally obtained by the State should not be used to gain other evidence because the originally illegally obtained evidence taints all evidence subsequently obtained.

The burden to prove that an accused waived his right to remain silent and the right to counsel before making a confession under custodial interrogation rests with the prosecution. It is also the burden of the prosecution to show that the evidence derived from confession is not tainted as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The burden has to be discharged by clear and convincing evidence. Indeed, par. 1 of Section 12 of Article III of the Constitution provides only one mode of waiver — the waiver must be in writing and in the presence of counsel. In the case at bar, the records show that the prosecution utterly failed to discharge this burden. It matters not that in the course of the hearing, the appellant failed to make a timely objection to the introduction of these constitutionally proscribed evidence. The lack of objection did not satisfy the heavy burden of proof that rested on the prosecution.

 

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