G.R. No. 135981 People v. Genosa January 15, 2004

Facts:

Sometime in November 1995, after a heated argument between appellant Marivic and her husband, the former killed the latter. It was established, among others, that: a) the cause of death was the gunshot at the back of the victim’s head; and b) in different occasions prior to the killing, Marivic had been the subject of severe beatings inflicted by her husband. Appellant claimed Battered Woman Syndrome as a defense to exonerate her from criminal liability.

Issues:

  1. Whether or not appellant acted in self-defense and in defense of her fetus; and
  2. Whether or not treachery attended the killing of Ben Genosa.

Ruling:

  1. No. The Revised Penal Code provides the following requisites of self-defense, to wit: 1) unlawful aggression; 2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and 3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. Unlawful aggression is the most essential element of self-defense. It presupposes actual, sudden and unexpected attack — or an imminent danger thereof — on the life or safety of a person. In the present case, and according to the testimony of Marivic herself, there was a sufficient time interval between the unlawful aggression of Ben and her fatal attack upon him. She had already been able to withdraw from his violent behavior and escape to their childrens bedroom. During that time, he apparently ceased his attack and went to bed. The reality or even the imminence of the danger he posed had ended altogether. He was no longer in a position that presented an actual threat on her life or safety.
  2. No. It is a rule that when a killing is preceded by an argument or a quarrel, treachery cannot be appreciated as a qualifying circumstance, because the deceased may be said to have been forewarned and to have anticipated aggression from the assailant. Moreover, in order to appreciate alevosia, the method of assault adopted by the aggressor must have been consciously and deliberately chosen for the specific purpose of accomplishing the unlawful act without risk from any defense that might be put up by the party attacked. There is no showing, though, that the present appellant intentionally chose a specific means of successfully attacking her husband without any risk to herself from any retaliatory act that he might make. To the contrary, it appears that the thought of using the gun occurred to her only at about the same moment when she decided to kill her batterer-spouse. In the absence of any convincing proof that she consciously and deliberately employed the method by which she committed the crime in order to ensure its execution, this Court resolves the doubt in her favor.

This case was one of its kind when decided in 2004. Admitting she killed her husband, herein appellant anchored her prayer for acquittal on a novel theory — the battered woman syndrome (BWS), which allegedly constitutes self-defense. The case could have been the first to use the syndrome as a self-defense had Marivic been able to convince the court that she was indeed a battered woman — and the ‘unlawful aggression’, which was wanting, would have been found to exist. This is the implication when the Supreme Court announced, thus: “Where the brutalized person is already suffering from BWS, further evidence of actual physical assault at the time of the killing is not required. Incidents of domestic battery usually have a predictable pattern. To require the battered person to await an obvious, deadly attack before she can defend her life would amount to sentencing her to murder by installment. Still, impending danger (based on the conduct of the victim in previous battering episodes) prior to the defendants use of deadly force must be shown. Threatening behavior or communication can satisfy the required imminence of danger. Considering such circumstances and the existence of BWS, self-defense may be appreciated.”