DOJ: Pemberton trial for murder may proceed

MANILA, Philippines – The trial of visiting American soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is charged for murdering a Filipino transgender, will commence after the Department of Justice (DOJ) junked on Tuesday, January 27, a petition to review the case filed by the Olongapo prosecutor.

"After a judicious scrutiny of the evidence on record, the DOJ found that all the elements of murder are satisfied," a DOJ statement read.

The case was earlier filed before the Olongapo Regional Trial Court but was suspended after Pemberton's camp filed a petition for review with the DOJ.

The DOJ resolution paves the way for court hearings on his case to proceed.

Pemberton is the suspect in the slay of transgender Filipino Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude, whose lifeless body was found lying near the toilet of a cheap Olongapo hotel late evening last October 11.

Found to be caused by aspyhxiation by drowning and strangulation, her tragic death prompted calls to revisit the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.

The agreement allows the conduct of US military drills on Philippine soil, which brought Pemberton and other US soldiers to the country.

Evidence of treachery

The DOJ resolution affirmed the earlier findings of the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office.

The DOJ found that Pemberton employed treachery given his "cruelty" and "abuse of superior strength" in Laude's murder. His manner of attack rendered the victim unable to retaliate, the DOJ resolved.

Laude was choked from behind. Autopsy results conducted by the US Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) show pressure marks and circular purplish discoloration around the neck, and the medico legal report shows an injured larynx.

Laude's friend, who was also a transgender woman, was with the victim at the Ambyanz disco bar when they met Pemberton at around 11 pm on October 11.

Together, the 3 proceeded to the Celzone Lodge. Laude was later on found dead at around 11:45 pm.

Among the pieces of evidence considered in the DOJ resolution were: 

The evidence at hand "lead to no other conclusion than that respondent was the perpetrator of the crime," the DOJ resolved.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno earlier said she foresees the murder case to reach the SC. "I believe there is a distinct possibility that that case will be before us in the future," she said. – Rappler.com