U.S. Marine Avoids Murder Conviction in Killing of Transgender Woman

Joseph Pemberton

A Philippines court convicted a U.S. marine on Tuesday of killing of a transgender woman after he discovered her sexual orientation in a hotel room last year.

On Oct. 11, 2014, Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, 20, met Jennnifer Laude, 26, at a disco bar in the Philippines city of Olangapo while on leave. Pemberton then took Laude to his hotel room, where he apparently discovered her gender and then strangled her and dunked her head in a toilet bowl, the Associated Press reported.

Pemberton, who hails from Massachusetts, was found guilty of homicide and sentenced to between 6 and 12 years in a Philippines prison.

Pemberton had been charged with murder, but the jury found him guilty of the lesser offense of homicide because there wasn't “treachery” in the killing, reported the New York Times. In addition to the sentence, Pemberton will be required to pay Laude's family $100,000 in compensation.

Harry Roque, an attorney for Laude's family, told the New York Times that the sentence was “very light given the heinousness of the crime.”

During the trial, Pemberton said he discovered that Laude had a penis after she gave him oral sex. The International Business Times reported that Pemberton said he pushed Laude away after making the discovery and the transgender woman retaliated by slapping him. Pemberton said he responded by punching Laude in the head and then putting her in a choke hold until she stopped moving.

Pemberton also admits to putting Laude's head in the toilet, but he claimed he did that to revive her. The court later determined that Laude died by drowning.

By being found guilty of homicide instead of murder, Pemberton avoided a 20 years to life sentence. Roque told the New York Times that Pemberton could be out in as few as three years.

Laude's mother said that she was not satisfied with the sentence.

"But the important thing is he will be jailed," she said. "My son's life is not wasted."

Sources: Associated Press, New York Times, International Business Times

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