Joseph Pemberton faces 20 years in jail if found guilty of murder of Jennifer Laude in case that has fanned anti-US sentiment
Agence France-Presse in Manila
Monday 15 December 2014
Prosecutors in the Philippines have filed murder charges against a US marine accused of killing a Filipino transgender woman in a case that has fanned anti-American sentiment.
Prosecutors found probable cause against Pte First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton and decided that he used “treachery, abuse of superior authority and cruelty” against his alleged victim, lead prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos told a televised briefing.
“You can see the kind of cruelty she endured, the injuries she sustained,” Delos Santos said. “We believe we have a strong case.” Pemberton will not be allowed to post bail, she said. Murder is punishable by up to 40 years in jail.
Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old transgender woman also known as Jeffrey, was found dead on 2 October in a hotel, in the port city of Olongapo. She was discovered half-naked in a bathroom with marks of strangulation on her neck, according to police. Laude died from asphyxia by drowning, according to a police autopsy.
“This is not an ordinary murder. This is heinous because she was beaten up,” the Laude family lawyer, Harry Roque, told reporters.
Pemberton, who had just finished taking part in US-Philippine military exercises near Olongapo, had checked into the hotel with Laude and was the last person seen with her. Police said Pemberton, aged 19 at the time of the death, had asked prosecutors to downgrade the murder charge to homicide, which carries a maximum 20-year prison term.
Laude’s death sparked street protests and the public outcry pressured the Philippine government to seek the transfer of Pemberton’s detention from a US warship to military headquarters in Manila.