US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted for homicide and sentenced to 12 years in jail for the slay of transgender Jennifer Laude in Oct. 2014.
The Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) handed down its decision on Tuesday, Dec. 1., or almost a year since the case was raffled off to the RTC Branch 74 in Dec. 15, 2014. The judgement effectively lowered the charge from murder to homicide, which sentences a lower jail term.
The court sentenced Pemberton to six years as minimum and 12 years as maximum of imprisonment.
Pemberton was also ordered to pay P4.5 million in damages to Laude’s family.
The court lowered the original murder charge to homicide because the prosecution failed to prove the aggravating circumstances of treachery and abuse of superior strength.
The court also lowered the charge because of mitigating circumstances. The court said Laude hid her gender from Pemberton, who was too drunk at the time.
“The above circumstances sufficiently established by the prosecution… as they form an unbroken chain that led to the reasonable conclusion that Pemberton… is responsible for the killing of Laude,” the court said.
Pending clarification from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the detention facility for Pemberton in light of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, the court temporarily commits Pemberton to serve jail sentence at the National Bilibid Prison.
The court said it considers Pemberton a “national prisoner.”
However, the Department of Justice in a statement said Pemberton would be taken back to his detention facility in Camp Aguinaldo where he would be detained, guarded by the Bureau of Corrections, until the final resolution of his appeal.
Laude was found lifeless, her head shoved in the toilet, in the motel bathroom at Celzone Lodge in the evening of Oct. 12, 2014. She was initially believed to have been strangled and drowned.
Witnesses point at Pemberton, 19, as the suspect, having been with Laude in a bar the night of the alleged murder.
In the statement of facts read out by Clerk of Court Gerry Gruspe, the court noted the prosecution’s evidence that Pemberton upon arriving at the Marine ship admitted to a friend that “he killed a he/she” and to a superior that he “fucked up bad.”
“Laude spent the last 30 minutes of his life with Joseph Scott Pemberton,” the court said in the statement of facts.
“He was so enraged and in the heat of passion arm-locked, dragged him [Laude] inside the bathroom and dunked his head in the toilet bowl,” the court said in its decision.
The court also said Pemberton’s fleeing from the scene and taking a cab to the Marine ship counters his good intentions because he fled instead of seeking help.
The court said flight is an indication of guilt.
The court also found no evidence to prove the defense’s claim that a different suspect killed Laude. The defense pointed at a piece of jewelry found on Laude which allegedly belongs to a second suspect. The defense said the jewelry does not belong to either Laude or Pemberton.
The court said there is no evidence to show who owns the piece of jewerly.
In his testimony, Pemberton admitted to restraining Laude in an “arm lock”until she stopped moving.
Pemberton said he dragged Laude to bathroom to sprinkle her with water. He fled for fear of his life.
Pemberton also admitted that Laude engaged into oral sex with him.
The defense said Laude was killed by another person by neck compression after Pemberton fled from the scene. Laude’s camp countered that Laude died of asphyxiation by drowning when Pemberton allegedly shoved Laude’s head in the toilet bowl.
“The court concludes that the immediate cause of death of (Laude) is asphyxia by drowning,” the Clerk of Court said.
According to the statement of facts, Pemberton said he felt raped because Laude duped him into the act. He said he only acted in self-defense because Laude was slapping him. He added that he left Laude’s body still alive.
Pemberton also accused Laude of lasciviousness for pretending to be a woman so she could give Pemberton oral sex. He added that he was “disgusted” that a transgender would do that to him, and that he was only defending his honor as a man, according to the statement of facts.
Pemberton’s defense said the US Marine suffered from “gay shock syndrome” when he felt Laude’s penis during the act.
Laude’s lawyer Harry Roque had said “gay shock” is not a justification to murder a person.
During the hearing, Laude’s family and kin demanded at least P200 million in exemplary and moral damages from Pemberton when the civil aspect of the trial was tackled.
Laude’s murder trial is the latest incident involving crimes allegedly committed by the US military since the 2005 rape of “Nicole” by Lance Corporal Daniel Smith. Smith was convicted but eventually acquitted after the victim recanted her statement that she was raped while drunk.
Alleged criminal activity involving US military personnel is a sensitive issue in the Philippines because of an existing Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, through which the US and Philippine military engage into joint military exercises.
Under the agreement, the Philippines has jurisdiction over those who committed crimes within the country, but the US has custody over its military official from commission of the offense until the completion of the judicial proceedings.