US Marine fought but did not murder Philippine transgender, lawyer says

The mother of murder victim Jennifer Laude, Julita Cabillan (centre), flanked by lawyers Virgie Suarez (left) and Harry Roque (right), uses a bullhorn as she joins protesters outside the Hall of Justice in the Philippine city of Olongapo on Aug 10, 2
The mother of murder victim Jennifer Laude, Julita Cabillan (centre), flanked by lawyers Virgie Suarez (left) and Harry Roque (right), uses a bullhorn as she joins protesters outside the Hall of Justice in the Philippine city of Olongapo on Aug 10, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

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

Eight months after he was charged over the death of a local transgender woman named Jennifer Laude, Joseph Scott Pemberton admitted they fought after oral sex because Laude did not have a female organ, lawyer Rowena Flores said.

Pemberton, 22 at the time, said Laude, 26, also called Jeffrey Laude, slapped him, causing him to respond "in defence", Flores said.

"After some time, to subdue Jeffrey, Joseph Scott Pemberton held his (Laude's) head under his armpit. Jeffrey stopped moving. Joseph Scott Pemberton tried to revive him," Flores added.

The trial is off-limits to the press and court officials do not comment on details of the trial.

Harry Roque, a lawyer representing the victim's family at the trial, said the US marine testified he held Laude in an "arm lock" until he stopped moving.

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

Flores however said Pemberton told the court he left his adversary "alive in the bathroom".

Government prosecutors did not immediately respond to AFP's requests for comment.

Earlier they said Pemberton and Laude had left a bar in the northern port of Olongapo and checked in at a nearby motel, where they alleged the American strangled the victim.

Pemberton, who had just taken part in joint US-Philippine military exercises nearby when the alleged murder occurred, was taken to the Olongapo trial court Monday by armed escort from his detention cell at a Philippines military camp in Manila.

He was the second witness for the defence.

His mother, Lisa Pemberton, took the stand a week ago, when lawyers said she identified letters from family friends and relatives attesting to his good character.

The judicial proceedings continue until December.

The case has attracted national attention as the Philippines seeks closer defence ties with the United States in the face of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.