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Philippine Court Rejects U.S. Marine's Bid to Drop Charges in Trans Woman's Murder

Philippine Court Rejects U.S. Marine's Bid to Drop Charges in Trans Woman's Murder


Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton still faces murder charges in the killing of Filipina trans woman Jennifer Laude, after losing an appeal to the Philippine Department of Justice.

A U.S. Marine charged with the October murder of Filipina trans woman Jennifer Laude lost his bid Tuesday to have his murder changes dropped, reports the Associated Press.

A Philippine Department of Justice panel rejected Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton's appeal due to evidence from prosecutors which the panel determined showed Pemberton had killed Laude after meeting her in a bar and accompanying her to an Olongapo city hotel, while he was stationed in the Philippines for military training exercises. The evidence submitted included testimony from a fellow Marine who quoted Pemberton telling him, "I think I killed a he-she."

Laude was found October 11, strangled in a hotel room bathroom after the 19-year-old Marine was allegedly seen entering the building with her and leaving alone shortly thereafter. Pemberton was quickly arrested, stirring international debate on the expanded presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines under the Obama administration's Visiting Forces Agreement. Many Filipino and human rights activists have called for the VFA to be cancelled, but there has been no official indication that the agreement will change.

Following Laude's murder, Pemberton was taken into custody by U.S. officials, but Philippine authories demanded he be turned over to their justice system. In late October, the U.S. agreed to have Pemberton held in the Philippines under joint custody, where he has remained except for a handful of court appearances. In late December, Pemberton was granted a 60-day trial suspension for his counsel to review his murder indictment.

Thus far, Pemberton's defense has been unsuccessful in arguing that lack of "direct" evidence that Pemberton killed Laude should dismiss the charges against him. The Department of Justice appeals panel ruled that prosecutors can use "circumstantial" evidence to prove their case, stating to the AP, "If direct evidence is insisted upon under all circumstances, the guilt of vicious felons who committed heinous crimes in secret or in secluded places will be hard, if not impossible, to prove."

Pemberton's defense may ask the DOJ to reconsider its decision and, if that is also denied, could choose to go to the Court of Appeals.

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