Mar 222015

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines—US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton goes on trial here Monday more than three months after he was charged with the murder of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in a local hotel in October last year.

According to Virgie Suarez, one of the Laude family’s lawyers, the family will come prepared for the trial despite apparent tension between the public and private prosecutors of the case.

Suarez said the government prosecution panel on Wednesday barred the Laudes’ private lawyers from attending the trial preparation.

She said the panel, headed by Chief City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos, refused to involve the private lawyers in the conference because only the criminal aspect of the case was to be tackled.

“Prosecutor [De los Santos] said the private lawyers of the Laude family have nothing to do with the case’s criminal aspect,” Suarez said in a text message on Sunday.

De los Santos had told reporters the lawyers of the Laude family could be involved only in the civil aspect of the case.

Suarez said, “We need to prepare [the Laudes]. We need to do something.”

Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of Regional Trial Court Branch 74 in this city has directed court employees to collect the telephones, cameras and other recording gadgets of the lawyers and other people who would be allowed in the courtroom.

Reporters, however, have been barred from the courtroom.

Jabalde has scheduled two hearings weekly to be held Mondays and Tuesdays, the preliminary conference minutes showed.

The court has given the prosecution from March 23 to June 30 to present its case, and the defense’s turn will come on Aug. 3 to Sept. 22.

The Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States gives the Philippines one year to complete a litigation process against an American serviceman charged with a crime in the country.

Court documents show the prosecution will present 37 witnesses—composed of eyewitnesses, policemen, forensic experts and agents from the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).

The defense has listed 10 witnesses, among them, Pemberton himself, his mother, an American law expert, a military law expert, a psychiatrist, an NCIS agent and a forensic expert.

“It’s going to be one witness per hearing,” Suarez said.

Laude was found dead in a hotel bathroom here on the night of Oct. 11 last year, about an hour after she and a Caucasian man had checked in.

Witnesses identified Pemberton as the person who was with Laude.

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