MANILA, Philippines – A Philippines appeals court on Monday affirmed a regional trial court's conviction of a U.S. Marine and his sentence of up to 10 years in jail for killing a transgender Filipino, whose heirs he was also ordered to compensate.
The Court of Appeals decision seen Monday did not accept Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton's claim of self-defense in killing Jennifer Laude inside a motel room in northwestern Olongapo city after they met in a disco bar in October 2014.
The killing sparked anger in the Philippines and reignited calls by left-wing groups and nationalists for an end to U.S. military presence in the country.
Pemberton had claimed Laude molested him in the motel room by pretending to be a woman and he had to defend his dignity, but that he had no intention to kill her. He said Laude slapped him when he confronted her for pretending to be a woman.
But the decision penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison said physical evidence contradicts Pemberton's claim.
"As proven by the prosecution, Pemberton did not leave Laude merely unconscious, but ensured his death by submerging his head inside the toilet bowl," it said. "Clearly, Pemberton intended the natural consequence of his wrongful act."
The court also upheld, with slight modification, the order for Pemberton to pay Laude's heirs more than $90,000 for loss of Laude's income, civil indemnity, moral damages and actual damages.
Rep. Harry Roque, who served as the Laude family's private lawyer, welcomed the court's decision, saying that "the fact that a member of the U.S. Marines was found guilty for breach of our criminal laws for the very first time is an affirmation of Philippine sovereignty."
Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who participated in joint exercises in the country in 2014. He and a group of other Marines were on leave after the exercises and met Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo, a city known for its nightlife outside Subic Bay, a former U.S. Navy base. At least two witnesses testified that Laude was a sex worker.
Pemberton has been detained at a compound guarded by Philippine and American security personnel, at the main military camp in metropolitan Manila.