A Filipino court has ordered that former U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton be released from jail after serving 6 years of his 10-year sentence for the murder of transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
October 11, 2014, Pemberton was recorded on CCTV leaving a bar with transgender woman Jennifer Laude. A few moments later the two were seen entering a room at the Celzone Lodge, a nearby motel. Friends who accompanied Pemberton out of the bar have testified that he told them to leave the two alone, but a DNA test of the used condoms found in the room proved that they were not Pemberton’s. Pemberton was seen shortly after that leaving the room by himself by hotel staff.
The motel Staff later found Laude dead. The coroner reported that Laude died of asphyxiation with her head forced underwater. Marks on her neck are consistent with the marks left by a toilet bowl lid had had it been the murder weapon.
Pemberton was accused of standing on the toilet bowl lid drowning Ms. Laude in the water.
Pemberton’s defense successfully employed the ‘transpanic defence’ as an excuse for murdering Ms. Laude.
Pemberton confessed to killing Jennifer Laude after receiving oral sex from her but justified his actions by claiming that he feared being raped when he discovered Laude was transgender. Pemberton’s attorneys said he then choked her to death out of ‘self-defense’.
In December 2015, a judge convicted Pemberton of homicide, not the more serious charge of murder as prosecutors sought.
The Olongapo court judge said at the time that she downgraded the charge because factors such as cruelty and treachery had not been proven.
Pemberton could have been sentenced Pemberton to life without parole if convicted of murder under Filipino law. Instead, the court convicted him of homicide and sentenced him to 12 years but later reduced the sentence to 6 to 10 years.
Last week the court ordered Pemberton released after 6 years for “good behavior”.
Harry Roque, the attorney who represented Jennifer Laude’s family during the trial now a Presidental spokesman lamented the light sentence, favorable treatment, and early release of Pemberton. As reported by Marine Corps Times he said “Laude’s death personifies the death of Philippine sovereignty.”
“The light penalty imposed on Pemberton proves that despite the president’s independent foreign policy, Americans continue to have the status of conquering colonials in our country,” Roque said.
From the American military perspective, it was as always a simple case of them against us.
The killing reignited calls from left-wing groups and nationalists for an end to America’s military presence in the Philippines at a time when the U.S. was reasserting its role in Asia, and Manila had turned to Washington for support amid an escalating territorial dispute with China, reported the Marine Corps Times.
How many Filipina trans women have been murdered by American Service members?
One, that we know.
Out of all the thousands of service members who through the decades have swooped down to the internationally infamous nightlife at Subic Bay, one and only one.
It was a groundbreaking moment when justice, even incomplete justice was served. That may not have happened if not for the “left-wing groups and nationalists” who’s protests kept this injustice front and center as the trial stretched on.
This was a mixed blessing. While it allowed for better media reporting it has also muddied the waters for trans activists who are primarily concerned that there was #JusticeForJennifer.