United States Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was found guilty of the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude in a Philippine court today following a lengthy trial.
The US Marine, who was stationed in the Philippines for American military exercises was arrested following the death of 26 year old Jennifer Laude. Pemberton was charged with her killing, and was today found guilty and sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison, along with being fined $100,000 to be paid to Jennifer’s family.
The court heard that Pemberton met Jennifer in a nightclub in Ologapo City, and that the two of them went to hotel room shortly after to have sex. Evidence was presented that showed the two of them entering the room together, but only Pemberton leaving. Jennifer was later found dead in the room, a hotel worker saying that he found the young woman slumped over the toilet, her neck apparently broken.
Defense attorneys argued that whilst Pemberton had agreed to have sex with Jennifer, and that she had performed oral sex upon him, she did so without revealing to him that she was transgender. The defence argued that when Pemberton discovered that Jennifer was trans he panicked, that he ‘felt raped’. A ‘scuffle’ followed in which Pemberton admitted putting Jennifer into a headlock, but claims that she was alive when he left the room.
Unfortunately, due to this claim that she had not told him that she was transgender, and his statement that he panicked and ‘felt raped’ the court lessened the sentence given to him. The court reportedly said, ‘He acted out of passion and obfuscation, in the heat of passion he arm-locked the deceased, and dunked his head in the toilet. The killing of Laude amounted only to homicide.’
The court felt because Pemberton acted in the moment, and after discovering that Jennifer was a trans woman, despite the court referring to her with male pronouns, that the crime amounted only to homicide rather than murder. If Pemberton had have been charged with murder rather than homicide he would have received a harsher sentence.
Mr Rogue, lawyer for the family, has stated that they are ‘outraged’ that the sentence has been reduced on those grounds. ‘We are very angry that the court considered these mitigating circumstances’, he told the press. He went on to say that the verdict was a ‘bittersweet victory’ and that the sentencing was ‘very light given the heinousness of the crime’.
It is unclear as to where Pemberton will be serving his sentence, as under the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and America both countries have to reach an agreement. However, shortly after he left court the Justice Department issued a statement saying that Pemberton would be held at the Philippines military headquarters in Manila until a decision has been made.