Laude lawyer: Settlement impossible as parties rest case
OLONGAPO CITY – The lawyers of the family of slain transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude said a settlement with the camp of US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton is impossible now that both parties have rested their cases.
Pemberton is facing a murder charge at the Regional Trial Court Branch 74 here over the death of Laude, whose body was found inside a motel room on October 11 last year. Witnesses identified Pemberton as the foreigner who was last seen with her as they checked into the motel.
“Any settlement now is impossible, especially since both parties are done presenting their respective evidence,” lawyer Virgie Lacsa Suarez, one of the Laude family’s lawyers, told the INQUIRER in a text message on Monday.
Suarez said since the start of the prosecution’s presentation of evidence on March 23, there have been no talks about a settlement.
“There was only a discussion on a plea bargaining as part of the pretrial period early February,” Suarez said.
She also denied reports that the family demanded P38 million and six US visas to drop the case.
“There is simply no truth to that… Maybe that’s what they (defense lawyers) want to offer [the family],” Suarez said.
She suspected that Pemberton’s lawyers were “testing the water” when they revealed this information.
“There is no truth to reports that we will drop the case at anytime,” Suarez said.
City Chief Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos said Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde has scheduled the summation and simultaneous submission of memorandums on Sept. 14.
De los Santos said the promulgation of the decision is expected by December 14, which is within the prescribed one-year period to finish the court proceedings under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Lawyer Harry Roque Jr., the Laude family’s lead counsel, described reports that the family is open to settlement as a “PR play” or a publicity stunt from Pemberton’s camp.
He also cautioned Pemberton’s lawyers against approaching the Laude family without the consent of the private counsels.
“They should not even come close to my client because, otherwise, I will enforce the ethical prohibition of a trial and I will move for their disbarment for ethical breaches,” Roque told the INQUIRER by telephone on Monday.
He said the warning was also meant for other representatives of the government and American authorities who would try to talk to the Laudes without the private counsels’ knowledge.
Roque said reports on the Laudes’ supposed demands did not come from the family or the private lawyers.
He said any move for a settlement at this time was “too late.”
“A murder case, unlike rape cases, can’t be compromised,” he said.
Laude’s mother, Julita, has been vocal that their family would not accept any settlement. “It’s not money that can compensate for a life that is lost… No amount of money can replace the life of my child. Not even Pemberton’s life can replace that of Jennifer’s,” she said during the trial.
In April, Laude’s relatives sought at least P200 million in moral and exemplary damages as the civil aspect of the case was tackled in Pemberton’s trial.
Roque had said Laude’s sister, Marilou, had told the court that P100 million would compensate for the “agony that the family has to go through because Jennifer was treated like an animal.”
“The family also wants another P100 million for exemplary damages so other people, especially American soldiers, will know the cost of treating someone like Jennifer,” Roque had said.
The Laude family has started preparing for “a national day of outrage” in time for her first death anniversary in October.
Suarez said members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community will also hold a nationwide pride march to demand justice as the Laude family awaits the court’s decision on the murder case against Pemberton.
“Now that we’re through with the hearing, we will not let up on seeking justice for Jennifer’s death,” Suarez said.
She said several organizations have pledged to join the march that will start from the Hall of Justice here and will end at Laude’s grave at the Olongapo Memorial Park. Several groups will simultaneously hold protest actions in Metro Manila.
“It’s going to be a national day of outrage to express our sentiments on discrimination against members of LGBT community,” Suarez said.
In his testimony last week, Pemberton said he pushed Laude when he discovered that she was not a woman. Pemberton said he felt deceived and tried to defend himself when Laude slapped him.
Pemberton said he held Laude in an arm lock and later dragged her to the bathroom, hoping to revive her.
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