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The trial court found Pemberton guilty, but downgraded the charge from murder to homicide.
The trial court said the prosecution failed to establish that the killing of Laude was premeditated and that there was no evidence to support abuse of superior strength on the part of Pemberton.
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The court also found mitigating circumstances that led it to rule that the killing was a homicide due to Laude trying to keep his true gender from Pemberton. It added that Pemberton was also drunk and not in the right frame of mind when he committed the crime.
The court sentenced Pemberton to imprisonment of six to 12 years and ordered him to pay the Laude family P4.5 million for civil and moral damages and for funeral and wake expenses.
Flores stressed the defense panel was not satisfied with the downgrading of charge as they expected an acquittal from the trial court.
“If only the court based its decision solely on evidence, then it should have been an acquittal. But we feared that because of the massive pressure on this case, the judge would give in,” she lamented.
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She cited as example the failure of the trial court to identify the third DNA source found in the neck of Laude, boosting their theory that another person might have killed the victim who was supposed to be still breathing when Pemberton left the motel.
“In the court’s decision, it said that the third set probably belonged to a policeman. We cannot accept that because that’s very speculative. Why would a police investigator, who should follow crime scene protocol, touch the victim’s neck with bare hands?” she stressed.
Flores also pointed out the failure of the trial court to determine who stole the money and necklace of Laude during the 30-minute period before his body was discovered.
“There was opportunity for anybody within those 30 minutes after Pemberton left to go inside the room and kill Laude. There was that possibility that someone else went inside the room,” she said.
The lawyer said these issues would prove that the trial court erred in finding Pemberton guilty because it was not beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.
After conviction, Pemberton was brought back to the Armed Forces headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City until the US and Philippine governments agree on his detention facility as provided in the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Former justice undersecretary Jose Justiniano said Pemberton could be released from detention since the crime he was found guilty of is a bailable offense.
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