THE Olongapo City Regional Trial Court has sustained its earlier conviction of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton for the 2014 killing of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, but the court also reduced his sentence from maximum of 12 years to only up to 10 years imprisonment.
In a resolution promulgated last March 30, Judge Roline Jinez-Jabalde of Branch 70, reduced the sentence imposed on Pemberton because of the mitigating circumstances of “passion and obfuscation” and “intoxication.”
In its Dec. 1, 2015 decision, the lower court noted that Pemberton agreed when Laude, dressed as a schoolgirl, approached him and offered sex.
While inside the motel, the American soldier got excited but “felt something different, something that was not supposed to be there and realized that [Laude] was a dude,” which he said he found revolting.
“He was so enraged and in the heat of passion arm-locked, dragged him [Laude] inside the bathroom and dunked his head in the toilet bowl,” the trial court stressed.
The court noted that all that happened immediately after he discovered that Laude was a man.
Such act is considered a mitigating circumstance of “passion and obfuscation” as stated under Article 13 (6) of the Revised Penal Code, the court resolution said.
On the other hand, intoxication is another mitigating circumstances because his drunkenness is not subsequent to commit the crime.
“Pemberton’s drunkenness slowed down his reflexes and mental faculties and resulted to his lack of physical coordination,” the lower court said, adding that being a member of the Marine Corps means he is not a habitual drinker.
“Having met the requisites, Pemberton should be accorded the benefit of the mitigating circumstance of intoxication,” the resolution emphasized.
In upholding its decision, the RTC pointed out that the Department of Justice were able to present enough evidence to warrant Pemberton’s conviction and that no other person, except him, could have killed Laude inside the Celzone Lodge in Olongapo last October 11, 2014.
The court rejected the defense of Pemberton’s lawyers that there could be a third person who might have killed Laude due to the presence of a DNA in him that was not of the US serviceman.
It also gave credence to the prosecution’s witnesses, including its eye witnesses who testified that Pemberton was the last person they saw with Laude on the night he was killed.
Reacting to the court’s ruling, Laude’s legal counsel Harry Roque hailed the court’s decision upholding Pemberton’s conviction.
“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 said.
However, he said the Laude family is not pleased with the reduction in the maximum sentence of the US Marine.
“We are not pleased with the lighter penalty granted. We hope that this development will inspire a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement. We stressed that the lighter penalty of six to 10 years still disqualifies Pemberton from seeking early release through parole. He will continue to spend time in jail,” Roque lamented.