Merciales v CA

 Criminal cases for rape with homicide in connection of the death of
Maritess Merciales were filed against private respondents/accused
 During the trial, the public prosecuter filed a motion for the discharge of
accused Nuada so that he could be a state witness but the prosecution
contended that it was not required to present evidence to warrant the
discharge of Nuada because he was already under the Witness Protection
Program of the DOJ
 But this was motion was denied for failure of prosecutor to present evidence
provided in Sec 9, Rule 119 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure

Prosecution then filed petition for certiorari [GR. No. 113273-78, another
case] before the SC question such denial.

The private respondents then filed a motion to set the case for hearing based
on their constitutional right to speedy trial which was granted and the
hearing was set on July 29, 1994
 On that date, the prosecution filed an MR, instead of presenting of further
evidence. The hearing was postponed and set for another hearing (Aug 9)
On that said date, prosecutor again filed for MR and invoked its pending
petition for certiorari with the SC but the respondents objected to reset the
hearing again.
 The judge called for recess to allow the prosecution to present the NBI
agent would be presented to prove the extrajudicial confession of the
accused Nuada
 But after the recess, the public prosecutor declined to present the NBI agent
and manifested that it would not anymore present further evidence
The defense then moved that the cases be deemed submitted for decision
and asked leave of court to file a DEMURRER to evidence

The SG filed in the case before the SC a motion for issuance of a TRO to
enjoin the judge but was denied by the SC

RTC: dismissed the charge of rape with homicide based on demurrer to evidence
filed by private respondents/accused; hence, the accused were ACQUITTED and the
criminal cases against them were DISMISSED for lack of sufficient evidence to
prove the guild of the accused beyond reasonable doubt
Petitioner argued:
 reopening of the criminal case will not violate the accused’s right to double
jeopardy.
There was judicial misconduct due to the prosecutions’ premature resting
and trial court’s grant of the demurrer to evidence even if the presentation of
the evidence for the prosecution has not been completed (violation of due
process)

Respondent’s argument:
 No extrinsic fraud, abuse of discretion and jurisdiction defect to warrant the
annulment or
 Reopening of the case will violate the accused’s right against double
jeopardy
ISSUE: Could there be an acquittal by demurrer in this case? NO. There was grave
abuse of discretion by the trial court.
HELD: PETITION GRANTED, case remanded, RTC judge order to complete
presentation of all available witness for the prosecution
Nonfeasance on the party of the public prosecutor:
 The trial court required the public prosecutor to present evidence to justify
Nuada’s discharge as state witness but it insisted there was no need to do so
because Nuada was already under the Witness Protection Program of the
DOJ
 Due to this refusal to present the required evidence it prompted the trial
court to deny the motion to discharge Nuada
 Again, the trial court the directed public prosecutor to present Atty. Caabay,
the NBI agent who took Nuada’s extrajudicial confession but the prosecutor
declared that he was resting the prosecutions case, knowing fully well that
the evidence he previously presented was not sufficient to convict the
accused.
 And due to that, a demurrer to evidence was filed by the accused and was
granted by the trial court

It was then clear that the public prosecutor was guilty of serious
nonfeasance. It was his duty to take all steps to protect the rights of the
people in trial. He should have exhausted all available proof to establish the
guilt of the accused.

Grave abuse of discretion on the part of trial court:
 Due to the nature of the testimonies of the 7 prosecution witness and and
nature of the circumstances, the trial court (motu proprio) should have
called additional witnesses to question such them to satisfy his mind to the
issues of the case
The petitioner was deprived of her day in court. It is not only the State but also the
offended party that is entitled to due process in criminal cases.
With regard the acquittal of the accused by the trial was done without regard to due
process of law, it is null and void as if there was no acquittal at all. It cannot be
double jeopardy

Moreover. when the accused files a demurrer. which would tend to prove the guilt or innocence of the accused therein.HENCE. “the grant of a demurrer to evidence amounts to an acquittal and cannot be appealed because it would place the accused in double jeopardy. the court must evaluate whether the prosecution evidence is sufficient enough to warrant the conviction of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. for a judgment which is void for lack of due process is equivalent to excess or lack of jurisdiction  “The power of courts to grant demurrer in criminal cases should be exercised with great caution. the evidence must prove: (a) the commission of the crime. it was very apparent that the public prosecutor violated the due process rights of the private complainant owing to its blatant disregard of procedural rules and the failure to present available crucial evidence. the judgment of the TC is considered VOID. and its ruling on the matter shall not be disturbed in the absence of a grave abuse of such discretion.”  “Demurrer to the evidence is “an objection by one of the parties in an action.  The order is reviewable only by certiorari if it was issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. to make out a case or sustain the issue. and (b) the precise degree of participation therein by the accused. because not only the rights of the accused – but those of the offended party and the public interest as well – are involved.”  Thus.”  When grave abuse of discretion is present. whether true or not. just “passively watched as the public prosecutor bungled the case. we likewise found that the trial court was gravely remiss in its duty to ferret out the truth and. . NOTES:  “The grant or denial of a demurrer to evidence is left to the sound discretion of the trial court. instead.”  As to effect. to the effect that the evidence which his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law. an order granting a demurrer becomes null and void. To be considered sufficient therefore.” Doctrine in this case:  When there is a finding that there was grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in dismissing the criminal case by granting the accused’s demurrer to evidence.  The accused cannot be in double jeopardy because the lower court acted without jurisdiction (the trial judge in this case acted without or in excess of jurisdiction.