Treachery, cruelty in Jennifer's murder explained

by Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Dec 15 2014 06:32 PM | Updated as of Dec 16 2014 02:32 AM

MANILA - Prosecutors in the Jennifer Laude case believe US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton made sure his victim was dead.

In a 23-page resolution, the Olongapo prosecutors led by their chief, Emilie delos Santos, said the American soldier “did not stop at badly beating [Jennifer Laude] up and choking her, he made sure she suffered to her death. He deliberately and repeatedly plunged her head down the toilet until she breathed her last.”

Laude was found dead on October 12, with her head submerged in a toilet bowl.

Delos Santos and her team are expected to act as public prosecutors in the murder case filed on Monday at the sala of Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74.

The case is expected to test anew the relationship between the US and the Philippines since Pemberton is covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Pemberton’s transfer to Camp Aguinaldo sparked protests, with militants saying the Philippines surrendered custody over the American who committed a crime in Philippine soil.

The VFA provides that “the custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

During the preliminary investigation, Pemberton’s counsels did not file a counter-affidavit, but instead asked that a possible case be downgraded to homicide.

Delos Santos and her team said, however, that the probability of guilt for murder charges was present based on circumstantial evidence found in the crime scene.

“We appreciated treachery, abuse of superior strength, and cruelty in qualifying the killing as murder,” the resolution reads.

In qualifying cruelty, the prosecutors said Pemberton allegedly even “augmented” the suffering of his victim.

“Granting for the sake of argument that he was pissed because Jennifer fooled him into believing that she is a woman, does he really need to drag her all the way to the bathroom and dunk her head in the toilet,” the resolution says.

Laude’s medico-legal report showed blood clots and bruises all over her body. The cause of death, however, was revealed to be “asphyxia due to drowning and strangulation.”

The prosecutors said Laude was not able to defend herself from the “superior strength” of Pemberton.

They believed Laude and Pemberton were the only ones inside the room at Celzone Lodge on that day.

Because of her position when she was found, the prosecutors said Laude was choked from behind. “Obviously, in that position, Jennifer was deprived of the opportunity to defend herself.”

Unarmed and with no inkling of the respondent’s next moves, any sudden attack already constitutes treachery, they added.

“The means employed by respondent Pemberton show that it was employed to discount any possibility of retaliation or escape… Thus, with the presence of qualifying circumstance of treachery, murder was perpetrated…”