Going the way of the Daniel Smith case?

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - March 25, 2015 - 12:00am

There is a development in the Joseph Scott Pemberton murder case that may be reminiscent of the Daniel Smith case. This case has actually taken a back seat to the Mamasapano debacle and the death of 44 SAF commandos. An alleged offer of twenty-one million pesos to the family of Jeffery "Jennifer" Laude to downgrade the case against Pemberton from murder to homicide. Homicide has a much shorter prison sentence than murder if convicted. The family has rejected the offer, stating that no amount of money can pay for the raising of Jennifer, who was brutally murdered last October, allegedly by Joseph Pemberton. Because of the rejection, the case has officially started with a bellboy identifying Pemberton as Jennifer's companion on the night she was found dead.

The lawyer of the Laude camp denies that they asked for the money, and also believes that the offer did not come from Pemberton's camp. The lawyers of Pemberton have not issued a statement on this issue. So where did the offer come from? The Laude family is actually asking the DOJ to replace Olongapo City Chief prosecutor Emilie de los Santos, even insinuating that the offer was brought up by her. This has been denied by de los Santos. So it is still a mystery as to where the plea bargain originated from, if any at all.

It seems the Daniel Smith case has sort of set a precedent, or a belief that Filipinos can be easily cajoled into changing their minds with the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick. Daniel Smith was accused by "Nicole" of first participating in a gang-rape inside a van, then changing her story saying that only Smith raped her while the others watched. As the case dragged on, "Nicole" recanted her testimony saying her conscience bothered her. We then find out that she eventually migrated to the US with an appropriate visa, while Daniel Smith, after being convicted by the lower courts, was acquitted by the Court of Appeals and set free. He never saw the inside of a local prison cell as he was in the custody of the US Embassy the whole time. Accusations that a deal was struck for his acquittal and eventual release were not without basis.

The family of Jennifer Laude has promised to stay the course and pursue justice for her. But even their lawyer has said that the alleged offer may surface at any time during the trial. And as the case drags on, the burden on the family will weigh heavier, most likely making that pot of money look sweeter and sweeter. This is why cases must be tried at an acceptable rate. The longer a case drags on, the better it is for the accused. And in this country, cases that drag on are more the norm than the exception. One only needs to look at the Maguindanao Massacre, that is almost six years running, without a resolution in sight, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Or plea bargained.


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