Laude’s ma, sister want prosecutor in Pemberton’s murder trial replaced
MANILA, Philippines – The mother and sister of slain transgender Jennifer Laude asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday to replace the Olongapo City prosecutor handling the murder case against suspect Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Accompanied by their lawyer Harry Roque, Laude’s mother Julita, and sister Marilou delivered a letter to De Lima accusing city prosecutor Emilie de los Santos of failing to protect the interest of the victim’s family.
“The trial is just beginning but we are worried. We will only be pacified if we see our lawyer and the public prosecutor on good terms and cooperating in defending our interest to achieve true justice. We do not have any other desire except true justice for Jennifer and this will only happen if there is a new prosecutor who will respect our rights through the lawyer that we chose,” Julita and Marilou said in their letter.
In an interview with mediamen, the two denied reports of the plea bargain with Pemberton and claimed reports about it came from the public prosecutor. Roque said he and other co-counsels recently went to Olongapo to attend a case conference but said they were “driven away.”
“It’s necessary that the public prosecutor be replaced. She did not even want to cooperate without our lawyers,” Marilou said.
“It’s as if she (De los Santos) is with the other side. Why is she insisting that the murder case be downgraded to homicide? Is that just easy?” Julita asked.
Julita and Marilou also claimed De los Santos was behind the alleged plea bargain with Pemberton.
“That’s what she wants to happen,” Julita said when asked if it were De los Santos who wanted the Pemberton to undertake plea bargain.
“What we are fighting for is [prosecution for] murder. What they did to [Jennifer], it was brutal and then they will just offer us money. Just because we are poor, it doesn’t mean we are easy to satisfy. If it’s all about money, what would happen if there would be many other Jennifers who would be treated the same way?” Julita said.
“[Jennifer] was brutally murdered. It can’t be [just homicide]. Even if they give us a million dollars, that would not be enough because she was taken away from us. They took away a big thing from me, it can’t be returned — the love, the care of my child, they cannot be able to repay it,” she added, while sobbing.
Asked if there was an amount being offered as a compensation, Marilou said “There’s no talk about it. There’s no offer to us. The settlement [of the case] they are talking about, there’s no such a thing,”
Marilou also showed a purported letter from the United States Marine Corps staff judge advocate dated Feb. 27, 2015, which informed the Laudes that they might get compensation for any injury, loss or damage they suffered by filling up a form in accordance with the US law.
“The US Foreign Claims Act allows you to present a claim to the US government for the death of your child. If you choose to submit a claim, it must be presented in writing within two years of the death your child. Any claim must: 1) state the time, date and place, and nature of the incident; 2) state the nature and extent of any injury, loss, or damage; and 3) request compensation in a definite amount, in the local currency,” stated the unsigned letter.
When asked, however, if they were completely ruling out the plea bargain offer, Marilou and Julita said they would heed the advice of their lawyer.
Roque said it seemed De los Santos was “more interested” in the plea bargain rather than justice for the family.
Reacting to the alleged offer, he said, “We do not understand why and what are the reasons the Laude family would accept this.” He added that De los Santos spoke with Julita four or five times just to confirm if she was not accepting the offer for plea bargain.
Julita said the prosecutor was worried that the foreign witnesses — Pemberton’s fellow servicemen—might not show up to testify or would not boost the prosecution’s murder angle.
Roque said if De los Santos was really intent in allowing a plea bargain, she should turn over the case to other public prosecutors who thought they could secure a murder conviction.
“For us, if her decision really is to plea bargain, she should allow other public prosecutors to pursue the murder case. There are thousands of prosecutors. It’s the first time in my 25 years of law practice that I encountered a prosecutor (De los Santos) like this. I believe there are many prosecutors willing to handle the case and secure a conviction for murder,” Roque said.
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