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U.S. Marine Convicted of Killing Transgender Woman

U.S. Marine Convicted of Killing Transgender Woman


Joseph Pemberton was sentenced by a Philippines court to up to 12 years behind bars, but where he will serve his time remains unclear. 

A United States Marine was convicted in the Philippines Tuesday of killing a woman after he discovered she was transgender, according to the Associated Press.

However, the court found Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton of New Bedford, Massachusetts,guilty of homicide, and not murder, resulting in a far less severe punishment, reported the Philippine Star.

Witnesses testified that Pemberton strangled Jennifer Laude and dunked her head into a toilet bowl in a hotel room. They had met that night in October 2014 at a disco bar in Olongapo, a city northwest of Manila, according to the wire service. Two of Pemberton's U.S. Marine colleagues testified Pemberton used a slur when he told them what happened: "I think I killed a 'he/she,'" the Associated Press reported.

According to police, Pemberton became angry with Laude upon discovering she had male genitalia, CNN reported. In court, Pemberton claimed he acted in self defense and that Laude was not dead when he left her in the hotel shower, according to Reuters.

The Filipino court rejected Pemberton's "trans panic" defense and convicted him of homicide.

For his crime, Pemberton was sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison, but credited for the year he has already spent in detention. He was also ordered to pay Laude's family 4.6 million pesos ($98,000) in damages including burial costs, according to the wire service.

Laude's mother, Julita, told the Associated Press she was not pleased with the short jail sentence and had hoped Pemberton would be found guilty of murder, which could have resulted in a 40-year sentence.

"But the important thing is he will be jailed," she said, crying. In her grief, she misgendered Laude, saying "My son's life is not wasted."

In October 2014, Jennifer Laude's family climbed the fence of the military base where Pemberton was being held because they wanted to see the man accused of killing their loved one and were not allowed legal entry.

The Laude family's lawyer, Harry Roque, told the Associated Press "this is a bittersweet victory because it is not murder," adding that "if what he did isn't cruelty, I don't know what is."

Pemberton is temporarily being held in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, according to the Star. The U.S. Embassy is reportedly going to confer with the Department of Foreign Affairs about where Pemberton will ultimately be imprisoned.

The Star reported Laude family's lawyers claimed that the U.S. refuses to turn Pemberton over to Philippine authorities. Under the Visiting Forces Agreement between the United States and the Philippines, the confinement or detention of U.S. personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed upon by authorities from both countries.

Near the courthouse, dozens of Jennifer Laude's supporters rejoiced when the verdict was announced and burned an effigy of Uncle Sam, screaming "Justice for Jennifer!" The demonstrators were held back by police, fire trucks and iron railings, according to the wire service.

The outrage surrounding the murder was heightened due to tensions regarding the United States military presence in the Philippines, which the Associated Press reported many Filipinos feel undermines the sovereignty of the country.

WATCH: Court narration reveals what happened on the night Pemberton killed Laude.

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