Self-defence, not murder, says US Marine

OLONGAPO (Philippines) • A US Marine accused of murder told a Philippine court yesterday that he had fought with and subdued a transgender Filipina in self-defence, but denied murdering her, his lawyer said.

Eight months after he was charged with the death of Jennifer Laude, Joseph Scott Pemberton admitted they fought after oral sex because Laude did not have a female organ, said his lawyer Rowena Flores. The case has attracted national attention as the Philippines seeks closer defence ties with its longtime ally, the United States, in the face of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Pemberton, who was 22 at the time, said Laude, 26, slapped him and caused him to respond "in defence", Ms Flores said.

Mr Harry Roque, a lawyer representing the victim's family at the trial, said the soldier testified that he held Laude in an "armlock" until she stopped moving.

"He then dragged her to (the) bathroom and dumped her," Mr Roque added.

Another lawyer for the victim's family, Ms Virgie Suarez, said Pemberton confessed to choking Laude at a motel room, but said he thought she was just unconscious.

The judicial proceedings will continue until December.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Self-defence, not murder, says US Marine'. Print Edition | Subscribe