Lawyer of Laude family faces contempt citation
OLONGAPO CITY—A lawyer of the family of slain transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude is facing a contempt citation for providing reporters details of court proceedings in the trial of US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton.
On Tuesday, lawyer Virgie Suarez faced reporters to inform them that Regional Trial Court Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde had warned her not to publicly discuss the merits of the case.
Pemberton, who was charged with murder for the Oct. 11 slaying of Laude, was absent during Monday’s hearing but showed up in court on Tuesday. He left before noon after informing the court that he would no longer attend the afternoon hearing, Suarez said.
“Before the witnesses were presented today (Tuesday), the defense counsel already moved to cite me in contempt for answering your queries, for facing you, and for allegedly discussing before the media the merits of the case,” Suarez said during a break of the court proceedings.
She said, however, that the judge allowed her to provide reporters only details of what transpired inside the court.
Jabalde has prohibited reporters from covering the trial, which began on March 23. Media organizations have been obtaining details of the trial from Suarez and the public prosecutors.
“What I’m doing now is merely reporting what actually transpired in the court. I’ll be your lens; I’ll be your eyes,” Suarez said.
Since the trial resumed after the Holy Week, only Suarez has been providing details of the trial. City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos held a news conference at the end of the first hearing on March 23.
Pemberton’s lawyers have not acceded to requests for interviews since the trial began.
“Of course, I vehemently opposed the manifestation and the motion [of the defense for the court to cite me in contempt]. I said I did not, in any way, violate the court order not to discuss the merits of the case. I said I did not do any contemptuous acts and I did not do anything wrong,” Suarez said.
“All I did was to report to you my analysis of the case. At the end of the discussions [on Tuesday morning], the court warned me not to inject my opinion or analysis of the case,” she said.
Suarez said she also asked the court to clarify “if I was not at liberty to state my opinion or analysis of the court and was not allowed to answer your queries or tell you who the witnesses were.”
The court directed her to stick to the facts, she said.
“I have always believed in the freedom of expression, freedom to access information. That’s what I’m doing right now,” she said.
Tuesday’s hearing centered on the testimony of Gershome Pura, the operations manager of Ambyanz Disco Bar, where Laude and Pemberton first met, based on various accounts.
Suarez said Pura had knowledge of their meeting, having copied into a separate device a footage taken by the bar’s closed circuit television camera, which was presented in court.
Suarez did not provide details about the footage. But last year, footage supposedly showing Laude and Pemberton leaving the bar together on the night of Oct. 11 surfaced.
According to the testimony of two witnesses, Laude and Pemberton checked into a nearby motel, Celzone Lodge. Laude was later found dead, slumped in a toilet in one of the motel rooms.
SPO3 Tyrone Tecson, an officer of the police’s Scene of Crime Operations (Soco), also testified in court. Tecson, Suarez said, told the court that he led the Laude murder investigation and was the police officer who took the statements of most of the witnesses and the testimonies of other policemen.
“Tecson also testified that he was present during the police photo lineup and that he saw Barbie (Laude’s friend) identify Pemberton from one of the photos,” Suarez said.
This took place on board an American vessel before the US government allowed Pemberton to be detained at a facility supervised jointly by the US and Philippine governments in the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
The Laude family intends to go to the Supreme Court to overturn Jabalde’s directive barring media coverage of the trial and to seek the transfer of Pemberton to Philippine custody, Suarez said.
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