Murder charge against US Marine remains, Philippines Justice Department rules

By JOMAR CANLAS | The Manila Times, Philippines | Published: January 28, 2015

MANILA (Tribune News Service) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday rejected a plea of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton in connection with his indictment for murder for allegedly killing transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City, Zambales in October 2014.

In a resolution signed by Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, the Justice department affirmed the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office finding that there is probable cause against Pemberton.

“After a judicious scrutiny of the evidence on record, the DOJ found that all elements of murder are satisfied, thus, there is no reason to alter, modify or reverse the resolution of the City Prosecutor of Olongapo City,” the DOJ said.

It also set aside the US Marine’s contention that the crime against him could be murder but only if indeed treachery was committed against Laude.

“Respondent Pemberton rendered Laude unable to defend [herself] or to retaliate; respondent Pemberton choked [her] from behind; the autopsy results as well as the examination conducted by the NCIS [National Criminal Investigation Service] indicate that there were visible pressure marks and a circular purplish discoloration around [Laude’s] neck,” it said.

“Moreover, since Laude went with respondent Pemberton on his own volition to engage in sexual acts in exchange for money, Laude most probably did not expect to be in danger and, consequently, he was likely unable to defend himself against the unwarranted attack,” the department said.

It ruled the crime as murder after also affirming the finding of the American soldier’s abuse of superior strength.

The Justice department used as a basis Pemberton being a member of the US Marine Corps, which is known to have strict recruitment standards, while Laude, although biologically a man, chose to adopt a woman’s physical appearance and behavior.

“Thus it is clear that there is manifest physical disparity between Pemberton and Laude and that the former took advantage of his superior strength to cause the death of the latter, as evidenced by the multiple abrasions and contusions found on Laude,”it added.

Moreover, the Justice department did not give credence to Pemberton’s claim of lack of any direct evidence linking him to the crime.

“(It) does not preclude a finding of probable cause. It has been the consistent pronouncement of the Supreme Court that, in such cases, the prosecution may resort to circumstantial evidence,” it said.


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