THE Olongapo City prosecutor on Monday indicted US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton for murder over the killing of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude last October in Olongapo City.
City Prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos approved the filing of the case before the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court after finding probable cause in the complaint filed by the Laude family against Pemberton.
The case was raffled off to RTC Branch 74, which is expected to order the arrest of Pemberton, who is detained within Camp Aguinaldo.
Laude, 26, was found dead inside the toilet of a motel in Olongapo City on Oct. 11. The autopsy report showed he died from drowning and suffered various injuries to his body.
Delos Santos indicted Pemberton even as the Department of Foreign Affairs praised the speed with which the investigating panel deliberated on the case.
“In accordance with the VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement], we look forward to the full cooperation of the US Government in ensuring that justice is secured for Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude,” the department said in a statement.
Laude’s family welcomed Pemberton’s indictment. Harry Roque Jr., their lawyer, said Pemberton must now be transferred to a regular jail.
“He must be placed in an ordinary jail. The Philippine government must take custody of Pemberton,” Roque said.
The investigating panel led by Delos Santos found “aggravating and qualifying circumstances” of treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty in approving Pemberton’s indictment.
“In the case under scrutiny, respondent Pemberton choked Jennifer from behind. Obviously, in that position, Jennifer was deprived of the opportunity to defend herself,” the panel said in a resolution.
“What is decisive is that the execution of the attack, without the slightest provocation from a victim such as Jennifer, who is unarmed, made it impossible for her to defend herself or to retaliate. A sudden attack against an unarmed victim constitutes treachery.”
The prosecutors also considered the autopsy report, which showed abrasions, bruises and contusions on Laude’s body in establishing the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength.
They said the element of cruelty was undeniable.
“Undeniably, respondent made sure that Jennifer was dead. He did not stop at badly beating her up and choking her, he made sure she suffered to her death. He deliberately and repeatedly plunged her head down the toilet until she breathed her last.”
The prosecutors theorized that Pemberton was provoked after discovering Laude was not a woman, but asked if killing the transgender was necessary.
Pemberton’s lawyers led by Rowena Garcia-Flores of the Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz Law Offices did not comment on his indictment.
Delos Santos, who also handled the 2005 rape case against American serviceman Daniel Smith, will lead the team that will handle the prosecution of the case against Pemberton in court. With Joyce Pangco Pañares and Rio N. Araja
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