December 1, 2015 at 9:52 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Philippines court convicts U.S. Marine of killing trans woman

hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

A court in the Philippines on Dec. 1, 2015, found a U.S. Marine guilty of killing a transgender woman in October 2014.

A court in the Philippines on Tuesday found a U.S. Marine guilty of killing a transgender woman.

The Associated Press reported that the court convicted Lance Cpl. Joseph Pemberton of homicide in connection with the October 2014 death of Jennifer Laude.

Prosecutors contend that Pemberton met Laude at a nightclub while the USS Peleliu was docked at the Subic Bay Freeport, which is adjacent to Olongapo City on the Philippines main island of Luzon.

The court convicted Pemberton of strangling Laude in a motel room and forcing her head into a toilet bowl.

The Associated Press reported the court sentenced Pemberton to 6-12 years in prison, with credit for the time he has spent incarcerated at a detention facility outside of the Philippine capital of Manila. It also ordered the U.S. Marine to pay Laude’s family $98,000 in damages.

Laude’s death sparked outrage among Philippine advocates who continue to urge members of the country’s Congress to approve an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination measure that has languished for more than a decade. The case has also highlighted opposition to the U.S. military presence in the island archipelago.

“We are aware of media reports indicating that LCPL Pemberton was tried in a Philippine court under the rules and procedures of the Philippine justice system and found guilty of homicide by a Philippine judge, and received a sentence within the guidelines of the Philippine penal code,” State Department spokesperson Julia Mason told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

“The United States has worked with Philippine authorities to ensure that justice is served in this case,” she added. “The United States respects the rule of law and will continue to act in accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) throughout the judicial process. This is an example of the United States and the government of the Philippines working successfully together under the framework provided by the VFA.”

LGBT rights advocates were among those who gathered outside the courthouse on Tuesday in anticipation of the verdict.

Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, is among those who expressed disappointment that the court did not convict Pemberton of the more serious charge of murder.

“I’m so sorry Jennifer that genuine justice has eluded you,” wrote Fontanos on her Facebook page.

Dindi Tan, who is a member of the Quezon City Pride Council board of directors, echoed Fontanos.

“The transgender community of the Philippines expected no less than murder,” Tan told the Blade in a statement. “Justice has finally come to Jennifer Laude and her family but it is one weak enough to cover or even approximate our expectations.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2021. All rights reserved.