Murder raps filed against US Marine in Laude slay
OLONGAPO CITY, Zambales—The prosecutor here charged US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton with murder on Monday in connection with the October 11 killing of Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
The case was raffled off to Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 on Monday afternoon.
The Department of Justice approved the recommendation made by the panel led by Olongapo City Prosecutor Emelie Fe delos Santos that found probable cause to indict Pemberton with murder, a nonbailable offense.
Delos Santos said the prosecution panel held a two-month preliminary investigation studying investigation reports and documents submitted by the US Navy’s Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Philippine National Police and forensic examination results.
Citing the 23-page resolution, Delos Santos said the prosecution panel found aggravating circumstances that included treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty.
The resolution said Laude was deprived of the chance to defend from the attack.
“In the case under scrutiny, respondent Pemberton choked Jennifer from behind. Obviously, in that position, Jennifer was deprived of the opportunity to defend herself. What is decisive is that the execution of the attack, without the slightest provocation from a victim such as Jennifer who is unarmed, made it impossible for her to defend herself or to retaliate,” the resolution said.
The resolution also said Pemberton made sure Laude was dead as the panel theorized that the US serviceman may have been provoked to kill Laude upon discovering that he was not a real woman.
“We believe we have a strong case,” Delos Santos said in an interview.
Delos Santos also led the panel that handled the rape charges in 2005 against US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.
“The volume of evidence from forensic to oral testimony and documentary evidence is strong,” she said, adding that the Pemberton case is even stronger than the case against Smith who was convicted by the Makati RTC but was later acquitted by the Court of Appeals.
Pemberton is detained at a facility jointly managed by the Philippine and US governments in the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ general headquarters in Quezon City.
Laude and a foreigner, whom witnesses identified as Pemberton, had checked into the Celzone Lodge on Magsaysay Drive on the night of October 11. Laude was found dead after the foreigner left the room.
An autopsy report showed Laude had drowned when her head was forced into the room’s toilet.
The lawyers of the Laude family said Pemberton should not be given special treatment and should be turned over to Philippine authorities and detained in a regular jail once the Olongapo RTC issues a warrant for his arrest.
Lawyer Harry Roque, one of the Laude family’s lawyers, urged the public to help them monitor how the case plays out amid debates over the American soldier’s custody.
“Ang katanungan: Makukulong ba siya? Makikita ba siya sa hukuman (The question is will Pemberton be detained? Will he be presented before our courts)?” Roque told reporters here.
Following the formal filing of murder charges against Pemberton, the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday said it was expecting “full cooperation” from the US government.
“The prosecutor has today filed a formal case for murder against [Pemberton] in connection with the death of [Laude]. The prosecutor’s investigation proceeded with all deliberate speed,” DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said in a statement to reporters.
“We now await the decision of the court on the issue of probable cause and for the next steps to proceed. In accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement, we look forward to the full cooperation of the US government in ensuring that justice is secured for [Laude],” he said.
With a report from Matikas Santos
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