Criminal Law

U.S. v. A.H. Barnes G.R. No. 4774. November 18, 1908 Criminal Intent, Reckless Negligence


On December 15,1906, at about 10 o’clock on the morning, A. H. Barnes, J. A. Ryan, and three Filipinos, one of whom was Pedro Leonardo, were out duck shooting. When they were about to return, there were ducks on an estero or stream.

Barnes at once fired his gun twice, Pedro Leonardo being near to him at the time.

When trying to reload the weapon, the cartridge would not go in easily, and Barnes had to force it by closing the breech of the gun which is automatic, pressing the same upon his knee, at which moment the gun was discharged.

Barnes rose to look for the ducks, and he saw the said Leonardo sinking beneath the water. 

They went into the river and with the assistance of the other men recovered the body of Pedro Leonardo who was already dead.

A surgeon who examined the body found a gunshot wound in the back of the head; bones had been broken, and the wound was a mortal one.

Barnes was charged with the crime of reckless negligence. 

The trial court sentenced the accused to the penalty of six months of arresto mayor, to pay an indemnity of P300 to the heirs of the deceased, or, in case of insolvency, to suffer subsidiary imprisonment.

Barnes appealed the judgment.


Whether Barnes is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged.


The acts and omissions punished by law are always presumed to be voluntary unless the contrary shall appear.

In this case, as it is proven in the proceedings, by undeniable evidence, that the gun which is of the automatic class, and for the use of which the accused carried a license, went off at the moment when the accused was placing the cartridge into the chamber and pressing the gun against his knee, and not when he was in the act of aiming and firing; 

And inasmuch as it has not been proven, even by circumstantial evidence, that the accused saw or was aware that the deceased Leonardo, who stood behind him, had moved near him and in front of the muzzle of the gun; the conclusion to be arrived at, must necessarily be that the said death was not the result of a voluntary and criminal act, nor of an omission or reckless negligence, but an involuntary act devoid of a criminal character, that is a regretable and unfortunate accident without any effort of the will.

As the facts proven in the case do not constitute a crime, not even that of homicide through imprudence, it is our opinion that the judgment appealed from should be reversed, and that A. H. Barnes should be acquitted and he is hereby acquitted of the charge.

RECKLESS NEGLIGENCE. — When an act which causes injury to another person is involuntary, free from malice or criminal intent, it does not constitute a crime nor any other offense by reason of reckless negligence, inasmuch as acts executed negligently are voluntary although done without malice or criminal design.

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