Pemberton’s mother fails to testify
OLONGAPO CITY—Lawyers of US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton did not present his mother as witness during Monday’s resumption of their client’s trial for the murder of transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, prompting a local court to postpone the proceedings.
Lisa Pemberton, the American soldier’s mother, would have been the defense’s first witness.
Lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores, Pemberton’s counsel, said the defense could not start presenting their case until the court resolves questions raised by government prosecutors concerning its resolution to exclude several pieces of evidence against her client.
Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 was compelled to again suspend the trial for Aug. 17.
Laude was found dead in a bathroom of a motel in this city, after her companion, a foreigner whom witnesses identified as Pemberton, left their room on the night of Oct. 11, 2014.
The murder complaint was filed in the RTC here in December last year. The court registered a “not guilty” plea for Pemberton after he refused to enter a plea during arraignment in February.
Lawyer Harry Roque Jr., lead counsel for the Laude family, protested the defense lawyers’ tactics, saying it would delay the case.
Under the Visiting Forces Agreement, Roque said, the trial must be completed within a year. If not, Pemberton would be free to leave the country, he said.
“The month of August will soon be over and we have only four months left [to finish the case],” Roque said. “If the defense has no evidence, they should tell [the court] right away. Let’s not waste our time here.”
“We are not accepting the delay because it works against the private complainant. We might not have enough time to finish the trial,” he said.
Defense lawyers did not respond when reporters asked if Pemberton’s mother was already in the Philippines. But they manifested in court that she was ready to testify any time, according to lawyer Virgie Suarez, another counsel for the Laudes.
Flores told reporters that Jabalde must first rule on the prosecution’s motions before the defense could proceed and present its case.
The resolution addresses the prosecution’s formal offer of evidence, including more than 300 objects and documents, and 28 witnesses, which was submitted last month.
The prosecution completed its presentation of evidence in June.
“We could not start presenting our witness because the prosecution has not rested its case [as a result of the pending motions that the court has yet to resolve],” Flores said.
But Laude’s lawyers said the defense informed the court on Monday that it would also file a demurrer to evidence, which may prolong the proceedings. A demurrer is a legal pleading that would challenge the evidence presented by the prosecutors.
Earlier, defense lawyers convinced the court to agree to a reexamination of a condom wrapper, from which American forensic experts uncovered what they believed to be Pemberton’s fingerprints. The wrapper was found in the crime scene.
A recent police forensic examination of the wrapper, however, indicated that the fingerprints were not Pemberton’s.
Suarez said filing a demurrer “is a legal tactic [which was] like saying the prosecution does not have enough evidence and that the case [against Pemberton] should be dismissed.”
“If the court denies the motion for demurrer [to evidence], that’s the only time the defense will start presenting its evidence and witnesses,” she said.
Flores, however, said: “We can’t file that [demurrer] if the prosecution has not rested its case. The prosecution has filed a motion for clarification on the excluded evidence so they haven’t rested their case.”
“Do the defense lawyers really have evidence? They are just buying more time and it saddens us, especially [Laude’s] mother,” Suarez said.
Julita Laude, the victim’s mother, said she felt that Pemberton’s camp was fooling everyone.
“Why do they [defense lawyers] keep postponing the hearing? If they have evidence, then they have to present it. I’m starting to doubt that Pemberton is still in the country,” she said.
Pemberton, who is detained in a facility inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, had appeared in several instances in court since the trial started in March.
“We might present our first witness, Pemberton’s mother, next week. She will be a character witness,” Flores said.
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