Pemberton’s jail sentence reduced
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An Olongapo City court has affirmed the conviction of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton for killing Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, but reduced his sentence from 12 to 10 years in prison.

The court denied Pemberton’s petition for bail and reversal of an earlier decision finding him guilty of homicide.

The ruling was promulgated on March 29 and obtained by reporters at the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday.

Agreeing with the argument of Pemberton’s lawyers, Judge Roline Jines-Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 said the prison term imposed on Pemberton should be lowered by two years due to mitigating circumstances of passion and intoxication.

“The accused shall suffer six years to 10 years in prison with full credit for the period of his preventive imprisonment pursuant to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code,” the ruling read.

The court stood firm on its ruling that the prosecution was able to present enough evidence to prove Pemberton’s guilt in the killing of Laude inside Celzone lodge in Olongapo on Oct. 11, 2014.

It rejected the defense’s claim that a third person could have killed Laude due to the presence of DNA on Laude’s body which did not match either Pemberton or the victim.

The court gave credence to the statement of prosecution witnesses – motel attendant Elias Gallamos and Laude’s friend Barbie – during the trial that Pemberton was the last person seen with the victim on the night he was killed.

In its verdict handed down on Dec. 1 last year, the Olongapo RTC found Pemberton guilty of killing Laude and sentenced him to six to 12 years in prison after downgrading the charges from murder to homicide.

The American serviceman was ordered to pay Laude’s family P50,000 in moral damages and P155,200 in funeral expenses.

Bitter, sweet victory

Although the Laude family lamented the reduction of Pemberton’s sentence, they welcomed the court’s decision to affirm his conviction.

“We are not pleased with the lighter penalty granted,” Harry Roque, lawyer for the Laude family, said.

Roque stressed that the penalty of six to 10 years still disqualifies Pemberton from seeking parole.

“We are happy that Pemberton’s motion for reconsideration was not fully granted. We are happy that the decision remains: that Pemberton is guilty of killing Jennifer Laude. We are happy that he was denied bail,” Roque added.  

Lawyer Virgie Suarez, one of the prosecutors who handled Laude’s case, said the court’s denial of Pemberton’s appeal is a “bitter, sweet victory for the victim’s family and the Filipino people.”

“There is nothing clearer than the court’s ruling that Pemberton killed Jennifer Laude,” Suarez said.

She lamented the court’s decision did not serve complete justice, as an American soldier convicted of homicide continues to enjoy the privilege of serving his sentence in a US-controlled jail facility.

“This is a mockery of our justice system,” Suarez said.  – With Robertzon Ramirez, Bebot Sison Jr.

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