US vs Pineda (G.R. No. L-12858 January 22, 1918)

The United States vs Pineda
G.R. No. L-12858 January 22, 1918

Facts: Santiago Pineda, the defendant, is a registered pharmacist of long standing and the owner of a drug store located at Nos. 442, 444, Calle Santo Cristo, city of Manila. One Feliciano Santos, having some sick horses, presented a copy of a prescription obtained from Dr. Richardson, and which on other occasions Santos had given to his horses with good results, at Pineda’s drug store for filling. The prescription read — “clorato de potasa — 120 gramos — en seis papelitos de 20 gramos, para caballo.” Under the supervision of Pineda, the prescription was prepared and returned to Santos in the form of six papers marked, “Botica Pineda — Clorato potasa — 120.00 — en seis papeles — para caballo — Sto. Cristo 442, 444, Binondo, Manila.” Santos, under the belief that he had purchased the potassium chlorate which he had asked for, put two of the packages in water the doses to two of his sick horses. Another package was mixed with water for another horse, but was not used. The two horses, to which had been given the preparation, died shortly afterwards. Santos, thereupon, took the three remaining packages to the Bureau of Science for examination. Drs. Peña and Darjuan, of the Bureau of Science, on analysis found that the packages contained not potassium chlorate but barium chlorate. At the instance of Santos, the two chemists also went to the drug store of the defendant and bought potassium chlorate, which when analyzed was found to be barium chlorate. (Barium chlorate, it should be noted, is a poison; potassium chlorate is not.) Dr. Buencamino, a veterinarian, performed an autopsy on the horses, and found that death was the result of poisoning.

Issue: Whether or not the testimony of the other witnesses is admissible in accordance with res inter alios acta.

Held: No. As a general rule, the evidence of other offenses committed by a defendant is inadmissible. But appellant has confused this maxim and this rule with certain exceptions thereto. The effort is not to convict the accused of a second offense. Nor is there an attempt to draw the mind away from the point at issue and thus to prejudice defendant’s case. The purpose is to ascertain defendant’s knowledge and intent, and to fix his negligence. If the defendant has on more than one occasion performed similar acts, accident in good faith is possibly excluded, negligence is intensified, and fraudulent intent may even be established. It has been said that there is no better evidence of negligence than the frequency of accidents.

On the trial of a criminal case the question relates to the tendency of certain testimony to throw light upon a particular fact, or to explain the conduct of a particular person, there is a certain discretion on the part of the trial judge which a court of errors will not interfere with, unless it manifestly appear that the testimony has no legitimate bearing upon the question at issue, and is calculated to prejudice the accused.

Whenever the necessity arises for a resort to circumstantial evidence, either from the nature of the inquiry or the failure of direct proof, objections to the testimony on the ground of irrelevancy are not favored.

Evidence is admissible in a criminal action which tends to show motive, although it tends to prove the commission of another offense by the defendant.

Under one conception, and it should not be forgotten that the case we consider are civil in nature, the question of negligence or ignorance is irrelevant. The druggist is responsible as an absolute guarantor of what he sells. 

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