US Marine's conviction for killing transgender Filipina upheld

"Wherefore, premises considered, the instant Appeal is denied for lack of merit and the assailed 18 November 2015 decision and the 29 March 2016 Order of the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City, Branch 74 are hereby affirmed with modifications in that accused-appellant L/Cpl Joseph Scott Pemberton is ordered to pay their heirs of Jeffrey Laude y Serdoncillo the amount of P75,000 as civil indemnity and P75,000 as moral damages", it said in its April 3, 2017 ruling.

Just before another joint military exercise between U.S and the Philippines scheduled for next month, the Philippine Court of Appeals (CA) announced on Monday it has rejected a US marine soldier's plea of self-defense and affirmed guilty verdict for his killing a transgender when he took part in a joint military exercise here three years ago.

THE Philippine Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the conviction of United States Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton for killing a transgender Filipina three years ago. "The only reason why he attacked Laude was that he was furious at him for pretending to be a woman, nothing more, nothing less", it added.

Laude, a transgender woman, was found dead due to asphyxiation in a motel in Olongapo on the evening of October 11, 2014 following her meeting with Pemberton at a bar.

The CA also agreed with the RTC's sentence of imprisonment for a maximum period of 10 years.

Pemberton's homicide conviction was the first under a visiting forces agreement between the USA and the Philippines signed in 1998, covering the legal liability of American troops taking part in military operations in the Southeast Asian nation.

Laude family lawyer Virgie Suarez said they welcome the appeals' court decision, and expect the defense will file a motion for reconsideration.

The court pointed out that physical evidence also contradicted Pemberton's claim that he had no intention to commit so grave a wrong.

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Pemberton said Laude slapped him, which forced him to choke her. "Clearly, Pemberton intended the natural outcome of his wrongful act", it pointed out.

"Consequently, the argument that Pemberton was not under local custody during the trial has no leg to stand on".

Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Ramon Cruz and Henri Jean Paul Inting.

Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, who served as lead counsel for the Laude family, said the affirmation of the guilty verdict was a welcome development.

Roque stressed that Pemberton is the first member of the US Marines found guilty of violating criminal laws in the country.

The appeals court explained, the alleged molestation done to Pemberton can not be considered as unlawful aggression. "It's also a victory and justice for the Filipino people", Atty.

Pemberton will continue to be detained inside an air-conditioned container van at the Philippine military's main base in Manila.

  • Sonia Alvarado