The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday junked a motion for reconsideration (MR) filed by United States Navy Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton in connection with murder charges against for the death of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City, Zambales on October 11, 2014.
In a nine-page resolution, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima denied the appeal filed by Pemberton for lack of merit.
The ruling signed by de Lima, in effect, affirmed findings of Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar after establishing probable cause that murder was committed.
”We reviewed the facts and the procedural backdrop of this case vis-à-vis the arguments in the[MR] and found no sufficient justification to reverse, alter or modify the resolution dated January 27, 2015,” the Justice chief said.
She also affirmed findings of the Olongapo Prosecutor’s Office (OPO) headed by Prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos that there was a prima facie case to indict the US soldier for the crime of murder.
The findings cited “the existence of the circumstances of treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty, which qualify the crime to murder.”
De Lima dismissed Pemberton’s contention that he was not given due process when he was denied a chance to rebut “additional evidence” presented against him.
The “additional evidence” are the pieces of evidence that the OPO received after the US soldier was allegedly declared to have waived his right to file a counter-affidavit on October 27, 2014.
Pemberton said the evidence on record does not establish probable cause against him for either murder or homicide, hence, he should be absolved of the crime.
The DOJ, however, opined that the prosecution only deals with probable cause, not proof beyond reasonable doubt, which is required by the court in criminal cases.
“But the jurisprudence cited refer to cases which are already before the court, where proof beyond reasonable doubt is required. Here, the proceeding before the [OPO] is a preliminary investigation. Only probable cause is required,” it said.
The crime was elevated to murder after finding that there was treachery committed under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.