‘New tests show no evidence linking Pemberton to crime scene’
OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines — A lawyer of United States Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton on Monday said the prosecution’s evidence tying the soldier to the murder of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude had been debunked by forensic experts of the Philippine National Police.
American experts, who were presented as prosecution witnesses in June, had testified that a condom wrapper found in a motel room where Laude died on Oct. 11 last year bore Pemberton’s fingerprints.
Pemberton’s lawyers had asked the court to allow the PNP Crime Laboratory to re-examine the wrapper.
“Based on the result of the PNP test, Pemberton’s fingerprints were not found on the condom wrapper that was re-examined,” said lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores, one of Pemberton’s counsels.
“There’s no longer [any] physical evidence linking Pemberton to the crime scene. The PNP found fingerprints on that condom wrapper but those were not from Pemberton,” Flores told reporters here on Monday.
Laude was found dead in a bathroom of a motel in this city, after her companion, a foreigner whom witnesses identified as Pemberton, left their room on the night of Oct. 11, 2014.
The court registered a “not guilty” plea for Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, after he refused to enter a plea during his arraignment in February.
It was supposed to be the turn of Pemberton’s lawyers to present evidence on Monday, after the prosecution presented its last witness in June.
But Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde cancelled Monday’s hearing to allow defense lawyers to study a court resolution detailing the prosecution’s formal offer of evidence.
The resolution said Jabalde deferred the admission of the condom wrapper pending the submission of the PNP Crime Laboratory report.
The resolution also excluded at least 20 documentary and object evidence that the prosecution had offered, prompting government prosecutors to ask the court to reconsider.
The prosecution presented more than 300 objects and documentary evidence, and 28 witnesses -— composed of eyewitnesses, policemen, forensic experts and agents from the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
However, among the pieces of evidence that were not admitted in court were a report from the NCIS and the testimony of NCIS Special Agent Michael McCarver, said Olongapo City Chief Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos.
McCarver testified that he interviewed Pemberton after the Marine was implicated in Laude’s murder. McCarver also presented to the court three volumes of the NCIS report detailing its investigation.
The court resolution also raised the prosecution’s failure to authenticate some of the evidence.
“These [pieces] of evidence are heavy and vital… All of the evidence pertaining to… injuries that Jennifer (Laude) sustained are important to be admitted in court because these showed what she had gone through,” De los Santos said.
When asked, Flores said she could not reveal their first witness when the trial resumes on Aug. 10.
But the defense had listed 10 witnesses, among them, Pemberton himself, his mother, an American law expert, a military law expert, a psychiatrist, an NCIS agent and a forensic expert.
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