PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Court of Appeals yesterday acquitted US serviceman Daniel Smith of the crime of rape and ordered his immediate release from detention at the US Embassy grounds in Manila.
In a 71-page decision, the CA ruled that what really transpired, which captured the attention of the entire country, was a “spontaneous, unplanned romantic episode by two persons carried away by their passions.”
Incidentally, three justices belonging to the CA Special 11th division that ruled on the case, are women. They are Justices Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa, Remedios Fernando, and Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal.
The appeals court decision cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court under the principle of double jeopardy.
Smith was convicted by the Makati regional trial court on the strength of a complaint filed by a Filipina, Suzette Nicolas who was hidden under the alias Nicole throughout the trial. She has reportedly gone to the US.
In yesterday’s ruling, the CA stressed, “on reasonable ground, the accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is hereby acquitted of the crime of rape as alleged in the information,”
”He is ordered released immediately unless held for other lawful cause,” the CA said.
”What we see was the unfolding of a spontaneous, unplanned romantic episode with both parties carried away by their passions and stirred up the urgency of the moment caused probably by alcoholic drinks they took, only to be rudely interrupted when the van suddenly stopped to pick up some passengers,” the CA said.
The CA further underscored that its decision of acquittal had not been “influenced by a supposed sworn statement (recantation) executed by the victim which was reportedly prepared by Smith’s counsel.” The matter is presently being investigated by the Supreme Court.
”Ultimately, it must be pointed out that in resolving the case, we disregard the alleged recantation of Nicole submitted on March 8,2009.
Nor did we open the sealed draft decision penned by retired Justice Agustin S. Dizon which was attached to the records,” the CA said.
The court insisted that its “careful and judicious perusal of the evidence on record does not convince the prudent mind about the moral certainty of the guilt of the accused,”
”(T)he moment of parting came and the marines had to rush to the ship. In that situation, reality dawned on Nicole�”what her audacity and reckless abandon, flirting with Smith and leading him on, brought upon her,” the court said adding that “her claim that she was unconscious rings hollow, delusive and untrue.”
Earlier this week, Smith’s lawyers were ordered by the high court to answer a petition alleging that they played a part in preparing the supposed “recantation” made by Smith’s accuser.
In a four-page resolution the high court required “the concerned lawyers of Sycip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan to comment within 10 days from notice on the alleged violation.” Smith is being represented by the legal team from the firm led by Jose Justiniano.