Prosecutors want judge out of Jennifer Laude murder trial

MANILA – Public and private prosecutors in the Jennifer Laude murder case want the judge to inhibit from the case since she and the counsel of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton were law school classmates.

The prosecutors filed for the inhibition of Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde, a classmate of Pemberton’s counsel, Rowena Garcia Flores, at San Beda College of Law.

Private prosecutor Harry Roque said Flores admitted they were classmates, but noted the judge’s husband was also a classmate of head public prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos back in law school.

“Nonetheless, we as private prosecutors believe that the evidence [against Pemberton] is overwhelming even if anyone sits there as judge,” Roque said.

He believes these motions will not delay the trial, which the Visiting Forces Agreement provides should not exceed one year.

He said the judge will also have to rule immediately on the request of Pemberton to suspend arraignment even after filing a petition for review with the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking to downgrade the charges filed against him from murder to homicide.

Roque said Pemberton’s camp tried to justify there was no basis for the murder case filed at the Olongapo trial court.

Murder, which has components of treachery and premeditation, is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Homicide, on the other hand, carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Roque said his team and the public prosecutors, led by Delos Santos, will file “an opposition because we believe we have overwhelming evidence for murder.”

A petition for review at the DOJ will not stop the proceedings at the trial court.

Private prosecutor Virgie Suarez said “the different motions should not delay the arraignment of Pemberton.”

Meanwhile, Roque said Delos Santos and the other public prosecutors did not support their motions seeking Pemberton’s transfer to a regular jail in Olongapo, as well as allowing media coverage of the trial.

“[Delos Santos] did not say why. She just said she’s following a directive that it’s enough that Pemberton is detained in Camp Aguinaldo,” Roque said.

He said the private prosecutors will bring to the Supreme Court these issues in case the trial court junks their motions.

“It is in the interest of the public to know what is happening in the trial,” Roque said of the request for media coverage.

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