US marine's turn to present evidence in Laude murder trial
OLONGAPO, Philippines – The camp of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton is scheduled Monday, August 3, to start presenting his side to a local court trying him for the alleged murder of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude.
Only 4 months since the start of the murder trial, which gained international attention, the defense team will now present testimonies and documents evidence to the Olongapo Regional Trial Court branch 74.
Based on a list of witnesses earlier submitted to the court, the camp of the US marine has 7 witnesses, including himself, his mother, a forensic expert, a US law expert, a military law expert, a psychiatrist, and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent.
There are 17 more expected trial dates after Monday for the Massachusetts native's legal team to squeeze in the testimonies and cast doubt on his guilt.
Lawyer Virgie Suarez, legal counsel for the Laude family, said there is "overwhelming evidence of guilt" against Pemberton.
"Of course, they would try to portray him as a good man, a good person," Suarez told Rappler in a phone interview Monday morning. Aside from the 7 witnesses, Pemberton likewise reserved 3 more character witnesses.
The visiting American marine must be tried within a year, given a limit under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.
Suarez said she is confident the case will be resolved within the prescribed time period, as the monitoring should start from the date of filing but exclude the case's temporary suspension by the justice department.
"The 60-day period was upon the request of the defense," she said.
Laude's brutal slay last October 11, 2014 was attributed to the then 19-year-old visiting marine on shore leave, after witnesses pointed to him as the last person seen with Laude. They were together in a local bar.
Laude's lifeless body was later in the evening found slumped on the toilet of a cheap Olongapo hotel, where she and Pemberton were also seen together.
Pemberton's fingerprint was found in one of 3 condoms found in the hotel room, according to a prosecution expert witness.
Found to be caused by aspyhxiation due to drowning and strangulation, Laude's death reignited calls to revisit VFA.
The agreement allows the conduct of US military drills on Philippine soil, which brought Pemberton and other US soldiers to the country.
Some sectors regarded the transgender Visayan native's murder as a hate crime, driving media frenzy and cracking open deep-seated prejudices against the LGBTQ community in the country. (READ: Remarks vs Laude reflect deep-seated prejudice – CHR)
In a pre-trial conference last February 27, at least 936 documents were marked as documentary evidence and exhibits by the prosecution.
Suarez said some 28 witnesses were presented by the prosecution.
This includes a testimony of one of Pemberton's friends at the US Marines to whom he allegedly confessed of killing a "he-she."
Suarez confirmed that defense lawyers are trying to invoke their interpretation of the VFA that the prosecution cannot use NCIS agents as its witness.
Despite this technicality, Suarez expressed confidence in the murder case against Pemberton. The US marine had reportedly petitioned the appellate court to downgrade his case to homicide.
"Because at the end of the day, it's all about the evidence," she said. – Rappler.com