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US Marine Convicted of Killing Transgender Woman in Philippines

  • Simone Orendain

FILE - U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, third left, the suspect in the killing of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude, is escorted into the courtroom for his scheduled trial, March 23, 2015, at Olongapo city, Zambales province, northwest of Manila.

FILE - U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, third left, the suspect in the killing of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude, is escorted into the courtroom for his scheduled trial, March 23, 2015, at Olongapo city, Zambales province, northwest of Manila.

A Philippine regional court has found a U.S. Marine guilty of killing a transgender woman while he was on free time following joint military exercises between the two countries in October of last 2014.

A regional trial court judge in Olongapo City found Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty of homicide for killing Jennifer Laude after he found out she was a transgender woman. Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde sentenced Pemberton to six to 12 years in prison with credit for his confinement and ordered him to pay close to $100,000 in damages to the Laude family.

Laude’s mother, Julita, says she is glad Pemberton was convicted but that the family wanted the crime to be murder, which carries a prison sentence of at least 40 years.

“I’m not content, but the important thing is he will be imprisoned. Our fight was not a waste. He will be imprisoned. My son did not die in vain," she said.

A court clerk reading Jabalde’s decision said Pemberton did not set out to kill anyone, but instead, in a drunken moment of anger, put Laude in a chokehold, then drowned her in a toilet after he discovered she had a male sex organ.

The family’s attorney, Harry Roque, says the court should not have taken into consideration Pemberton’s anger at unwittingly having sex with a man. This was classified as a “mitigating circumstance” and says it effectively reduced the conviction to a homicide.

“It is not right that these mitigating circumstances showed his bigotry towards a transgender woman and that the bigotry itself was the reason he killed her," he said.

Judge Jabalde ordered that Pemberton serve out his sentence in a Philippine prison. Under terms of the U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement, the Philippines has jurisdiction over the case, including detention, through the conclusion of the case. The agreement also says confinement for a U.S. service person found guilty of committing a crime in the Philippines is up for negotiation between the two countries.

Pending a decision on a location, the Philippine Justice Department is allowing Pemberton to be detained inside a trailer at a U.S. compound within the Philippine military headquarters. That is where he had been held throughout the case. Anti-American activists protesting some blocks from the courthouse said, “The U.S. disrespect of our courts is brazen.”

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