Philippine court affirms guilty verdict of US soldier in transgender killing

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was found guilty of homicide in December 2015 for killing, in a drunken rage, Mr Jeffrey Laude, who also went by the name "Jennifer".
Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was found guilty of homicide in December 2015 for killing, in a drunken rage, Mr Jeffrey Laude, who also went by the name "Jennifer". PHOTO: AFP

MANILA • The Philippine Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court's ruling sentencing an American soldier to six to 10 years in jail for the brutal death of a Filipino transgender nearly three years ago.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was found guilty of homicide in December 2015 for killing, in a drunken rage, Mr Jeffrey Laude, who also went by the name "Jennifer".

The two met in a bar in October 2014 and went to a motel near a former US naval base north of the capital Manila.

In his testimony, Pemberton admitted arm-locking Mr Laude's head after they got into a scuffle.

The soldier's lawyers said Mr Laude was still breathing when Pemberton left the scene. They argued that someone else, who was after some money, might have killed Mr Laude.

The appellate court struck down the appeal "for lack of merit". It said Pemberton's claim that he acted in self-defence when Mr Laude slapped him was "more imaginary than real" and "easily concocted".

"The only reason he attacked Mr Laude was that he was furious at him for pretending to be a woman, nothing more, nothing less," the court stated. It ordered Pemberton, 21, to pay 4-1/2 million pesos (S$127,300) in indemnity to the family of Mr Laude.

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

The case had struck a nerve in the Philippines, as questions over custody of US servicemen accused of crimes had turned into jurisdictional disputes that sparked heated debates on sovereignty.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2017, with the headline 'Philippine court affirms guilty verdict of US soldier in transgender killing'. Print Edition | Subscribe