1. The appellant was prosecuted in the Court of First Instance of theProvince of Batangas, charged with the murder of one Fortunato Dinal.
2. The trial court convicted him of homicide and from that decision he appealed
3. One of the errors assigned is based upon the refusal of the trialjudge to permit Susana Ezpeleta, the widow of the man whom theappellant is accused of having murdered, to testify as a witnesson behalf of the defense concerning certain alleged dying declarations.
4. Upon asking question to the witness, the fiscal objected. “I object to the testimony of this witness. She has just testified that she is the widow of the deceased, Fortunato Dinal, and that being so I believe that she is not competent to testify under the rules and procedure in either civil or criminal cases, unless it be with the consent of her husband, and as he is dead and cannot grant that permission, it follows that this witness is disqualified from testifying in this case in which her husband is the injured party.”
5. Defense: The disqualification which the fiscal evidently had in mind relates only to cases in which a husband or wife of one of the parties to a proceeding is called to testify; that the parties to the prosecution of a criminal case are the Government and the accused; that, furthermore the marriage of Dinal to the witness having been dissolved by the death of her husband, she is no longer his wife, and therefore not subject to any disqualification arising from the status of marriage.
6. Objection was sustained.
To this objection counsel took exception and made an offer to prove by the excluded witness the facts which he expected to establish by her testimony.
Issue: Whether or not the Lower Court erred in excluding the testimony of the witness Susana Ezpeleta.
Held: Yes. The widow of the deceased is a competent witness, in a prosecution for homicide, to testify on behalf of the defense or the prosecution regarding dying declarations to her by the deceased concerning the cause of his death.
A. Section 58 of General Orders No. 58 (1900) reads as follows:
Except with the consent of both, or except in cases of crime committed by one against the other, neither husband nor wife shall be a competent witness for or against the other in a criminal action or proceeding to which one or both shall be parties.
B. This case does not fall with the text of the statute or the reason upon which it is based. The purpose of section 58 is to protect accused persons against statements made in the confidence engendered by the marital relation, and to relieve the husband or wife to whom such confidential communications might have been made from the obligation of revealing them to the prejudice of the other spouse.
C. Obviously, when a person at the point of death as a result of injuries he has suffered makes a statement regarding the manner in which he received those injuries, the communication so made is in no sense confidential. On the contrary, such a communication is made for the express purpose that it may be communicated after the death of the declarant to the authorities concerned in inquiring into the cause of his death
D. On grounds of public policy the wife can not testify against her husband as to what came to her from him confidentially or by reason of the marriage relation, but this rule does not apply to a dying communication made by the husband to the wife on the trial of the one who killed him.
E. The declaration of the deceased made in extremes in such cases is a thing to be proven, and this proof may be made by any competent witness who heard the statement. The wife may testify for the state in cases of this character as to any other fact known to her. It can not be contended that the dying declaration testified to by the witness was a confidential communication made to her; on the contrary, it was evidently made in the furtherance of justice for the express purpose that it should be testified to in the prosecution of the defendant.