A U.S. Marine has been found guilty of killing a transgender Filipina after discovering her gender in a hotel in the Philippines last year.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted Tuesday of homicide by first strangling Jennifer Laude and then dunking her head into a toilet bowl in the hotel they had checked into after meeting in a disco bar in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila. Court clerk Gerry Gruspe said Pemberton was sentenced to up to 12 years in jail.
The Oct. 11, 2014, killing reignited calls for an end to America's military presence in the Philippines at a time when the U.S. is reasserting its dominance in Asia as China exerts its influence, and Manila has turned to Washington for support amid an escalating territorial dispute with China. The case also reignited a debate over custody of American military personnel accused of crimes.
During the trial Pemberton told the court he acted in self-defense after he discovered that Laude, who was performing oral sex on him, was a transgender woman and pushed her away.
Pemberton, who was 22 at the time, said Laude, 26, slapped him, causing him to respond “in defense,” said Pemberton's lawyer Rowena Flores.
“After some time, to subdue Jeffrey, Joseph Scott Pemberton held his [Laude's] head under his armpit. Jeffrey stopped moving. Joseph Scott Pemberton tried to revive him,” Flores added, saying Pemberton left Laude “alive in the bathroom.”
But Harry Roque, a lawyer representing the victim's family at the trial, said Pemberton “dragged her to [the] bathroom and dumped her.”
Laude's mother, Julita, said that while she was happy the verdict detailed everything that had transpired, she was not pleased with the jail term because she had hoped Penderton would be found guilty of murder, a graver crime.
“But the important thing is he will be jailed,” she said. “My son's life is not wasted.”
Outside the courthouse, a small number of activists rejoiced but warned that they would closely watch to ensure Pemberton is detained in a Philippine jail. In the decision, Regional Trial Court Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde ordered Pemberton jailed at the New Bilibid Prison, a national penitentiary in suburban Muntinlupa City.