De Villa v. Director, New Bilibid Prisons : 158802 : November 17, 2004 :
J. Carpio : En Banc : Separate Concurring Opinion
[G.R. NO. 158802 : November 17, 2004]
IN RE: THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS FOR REYNALDO DE VILLA (detained at the New Bilibid Prisons, Muntinlupa City)JUNE DE VILLA, Petitioner-Relator, v. THE DIRECTOR, NEW BILIBID PRISONS, Respondent.
SEPARATE CONCURRING OPINION
I concur with the ponencia. The DNA evidence
presented by petitioner-relator is not material and relevant to the crime of
rape. Even assuming petitioner is not the father of the child that was
conceived within the period of the rape, such fact does not prove that
petitioner could not have committed the crime. The remedies of habeas corpus and new trial are thus unavailing in this case.
However, this case should not close the door to a convicted felon
who after final judgment acquires DNA results exonerating him of the crime for
which he was convicted. Legal relief is still available, for instance, to
a felon convicted by final judgment of rape who subsequently gains access to
DNA results showing that the semen in the victims vagina does not match that
of the convicted felon.
While final judgments enjoy the presumption of correctness, the
confining and traditional legal procedures must respond to the revolutionary
way that DNA results have been proving the innocence of convicts.
American jurisprudence has shown the way in this regard.
Before the enactment of statutes in some states providing for
post-conviction DNA testing, American courts had no precedents to work on to
justify post-conviction DNA testing and the reversal of final judgments of
conviction when the DNA results turned out to be exculpatory. Before the
passage of the DNA testing statutes, it was unclear under what right and
procedure a convict was entitled to post-conviction DNA testing. Even in
the absence of statutes, American courts allowed post-conviction DNA testing by
requiring the convict to apply for such testing before the verdict could be
vacated. 1 The application enables the courts to determine the basis for the application
and to set the standards in case the request is granted. Once the DNA
result confirms the innocence of the convict, American courts conduct a motion
in limine hearing on admissibility or order a new trial. 2 The prosecution usually refuses
to re-try the case and the convict is released.
Under American jurisprudence, post-conviction DNA testing is
availed through a petition for habeas corpus and motion for new
trial. These conventional modes of relief, however, have built-in
restrictions that pose problems to the granting of post-conviction DNA testing.
In habeas corpus cases, relief could not be had unless a
constitutional violation was committed during the convicts trial. In a
motion for new trial, the convict must show that the DNA test is a newly
discovered evidence and must not be time-barred to warrant a new trial.
Despite these legal obstacles, American courts granted, albeit restrictively,
the request for post-conviction DNA testing on a case-by-case basis. The
approach to the legal issues varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In Summerville v. Warden State Prison 3 the Supreme Court of
Connecticut ruled that when evidence is so strong that innocence is highly
likely and that evidence alone establishes innocence, that in itself is already
a basis fro habeas corpus review of convictions and imprisonment.
Thus, habeas corpus warranted the granting of a new trial based on the
petitioners claim of actual innocence. In People v. Callace, 4 the New York court considered
post-conviction DNA testing as newly discovered evidence because the type of
DNA analysis available at the post-conviction stage was not available at the time
of the trial. In State v. Thomas, 5 fundamental fairness allowed the convict to
post-conviction DNA testing even when the request was already stale.
Habeas corpus review and new trial proved to be narrow
remedies as American courts still adhere to the strict requirements of these
two models of relief. Nonetheless, post-conviction DNA testing has been
granted on other grounds. When the application of DNA testing has strong
indications that the result could potentially exonerate the convict, American
courts recognized the convicts right to exculpatory evidence. In Dabbs v. Vergari, 6 citing Brady v. Maryland, 7 the court categorically upheld the convicts constitutional right to
exculpatory evidence despite the absence of a law providing a right to
post-conviction discovery. DNA results exonerated Charles Dabbs and his
conviction was eventually vacated. 8 On other cases, 9 the exculpatory potential of DNA evidence compelled the American courts, in the
interest of justice, to allow access to post-conviction DNA testing.
The rectification of a wrong is the underlying reason for the allowance
of post-conviction DNA testing and the eventual reversal of the verdict based
on exclusionary DNA result. Even the most stringent of rules have to give
way upon a showing that there is a strong probability that DNA result could
prove the convicts actual innocence. For ultimately, it is the primary
duty of the court to prevent the miscarriage of justice.
Every person has a right to avail of a new technology that
irrefutably proves his innocence despite a prior final conviction, provided the
new technology was not available during his trial. This right is part of
a persons constitutional right to due process of law. A person convicted
by final judgment does not lose his constitutional right to due process, and he
may invoke it whenever there is a compelling and valid ground to do so.
The 1987 Constitution expressly empowers the Court to
[p]romulgate rules concerning the protection and enhancement of constitutional
rights. 10 Even in the absence of a law allowing post-conviction DNA testing, the Court
under its constitutional mandate may order a new trial if the post-conviction
DNA testing will establish that the convicted felon could not have possibly
committed the crime. This is the case when the post-conviction DNA
testing shows that the semen in the victims vagina does not match that of the
A new trial on the ground of post-conviction DNA testing is
different from a new trial under Rule 121, 11 which is available only before
final judgment. Unlike a new trial under Rule 121, a new trial for
post-conviction DNA testing does not vacate the judgment of conviction, which
stands until recalled by the court as a result of the new trial. A new
trial after final conviction may be ordered only on the sole ground that DNA
testing will establish that the convicted felon could not have committed the
crime. Moreover, DNA testing must not have been available or possible
during the original trial.
Thus, I submit that a felon convicted by final judgment who could
establish through DNA testing that he could not have committed the crime is not
without remedy to prove his innocence and regain his liberty.
DNA Testing: Recommendations for Handling Requests, http://www.ncjrs.org.
2 State v. Thomas, 586 A. 2d 250 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1991).
3 641 A.2d 1356 (Conn. 1994).
4 573 N.Y.S.2d 137 (N.Y. Co. Ct. 1991).
6 570 N.Y.S.2.d 765 (Sup.Ct. 1990).
7 373 U.S. 83 (S. Ct. 1194 10 L. Ed. 2d. 215 1963).
8 People v. Dabbs, 587 N.Y.S.2d 90 (N.Y. Sup. 1991).
9 State v. Thomas, supra note 2, Sewell v. State, 592 N.E.2d 705 (Ind. Ct. App. 3
Commonwealth v. Brison, 618 A.2d 420 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1992).
10 Section 5(5),
Article VIII, 1987 Constitution.
11 Section 1 of Rule 121 provides: New trial or reconsideration At any
time before a judgment of conviction becomes final, the court may, on motion of
the accused or at its own instance but with the consent of the accused, grant a
new trial or reconsideration.
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