OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – Private prosecutors on Monday, August 10, accused lawyers of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, a United States Marine charged with the murder of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, of delaying the trial after again failing to present witnesses.
It was the second week the defense failed to present their witnesses.
In a media briefing, private prosecutor Harry Roque called attention to what he called strategic delays.
“No hearing again today,” said Roque. “This delay is part of their strategy, and we’d like to call the attention of the Supreme Court on this matter.”
Laude was found dead beside a toilet in an Olongapo motel bathroom in October of 2014.
Defense lawyers were scheduled to present evidence on Monday, August 3, after the prosecution’s final witness took the stand last June. Reginal Trial Court Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde, however, cancelled the hearing to allow defense lawyers to review and study a court resolution detailing the prosecution’s formal offer of evidence.
The court’s resolution deferred the admission of a condom wrapper as prosecution evidence, pending the submission of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory report. Some 20 items of evidence offered by the prosecution were also deemed inadmissible.
Government prosecutors had asked the court to reconsider.
The prosecution had offered a total of 300 pieces of evidence, as well as 28 witnesses, including policemen, forensic experts, and agents from the United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
A report from the NCIS and the testimony of NCIS Special Agent Michael McCarver were among the pieces of evidence that were also not admitted in court.
Pemberton and his mother, Lisa, along with 5 others were scheduled to take the witness stand Monday, but no presentation took place.
Mrs Pemberton was to stand as character witness for her son.
Defense lawyer Rowena Flores told media that Pemberton’s mother will testify next week as their first witness.
Roque, however, lamented the lost time.
“We only have a year to finish this case and actually 4 months left,” he said.
He added that the delay must be addressed seriously, saying that it may be an attempt to run out the clock on the case, and thus allow Pemberton to leave the country.
Flores downplayed the situation, saying “the prosecution has not rested their case, and it’s the reason we cannot yet present our evidence.”
She said it was the prosecution that filed a demurrer, not the defense.
‘No physical evidence’
Pemberton’s camp said that after re-examination by the PNP Crime Laboratory, the condom wrapper that government witnesses earlier said bore Pemberton’s fingerprints did not in fact carry Pemberton’s prints. (READ: US expert: Pemberton's fingerprint on condom wrapper)
Flores told the media “there is no longer any physical evidence linking Pemberton to the crime scene.”
One of the public prosecutors, however, said the condom wrapper alone is not sufficient to acquit Pemberton of the murder charge.
“The result of the re-examination must be subjected to the test of the credibility of the procedure,” he said. – Rappler.com