A Philippine court convicted a U.S. Marine Tuesday of the murder of a transgender woman a year ago. The incident has fueled protests from opponents of U.S.-Philippine military cooperation.
The ruling was read out on television and video-streaming services from the court in the city of Olongapo. The court ruled that Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton committed homicide against Jennifer Laude at a hotel in the city on Oct. 12, 2014, and sentenced him to six to 12 years in jail, and ordered him to pay 4.2 million pesos ($89,000) in damages -- 50,000 pesos each for civil indemnity and moral damages, and 30,000 pesos in exemplary damages.
Olongapo is based outside the former Subic Bay naval base, a U.S. facility until the early 1990s, where Pemberton's ship USS Peleliu docked last year. The decision can be brought to the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court.
The court determined that Laude died by drowning. Pemberton said when he found out Laude was transgender, he pushed her away and then she slapped him. He said he then choked her, characterizing this as self defense, then brought her to the bathroom to revive her with water from the shower. She was found dead after midnight in the bathroom of the hotel room, with her head hanging over the toilet bowl.
Defense lawyers argued that the court should acquit Pemberton because of DNA evidence that there may have been another party behind the crime. The decision can be brought to the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court.
During trial, Pemberton was held in a U.S. facility within Philippine military headquarters in Manila. The court ordered he be brought to the national jail in the southern part of Manila. Under the latest military agreements between the two countries, U.S. servicemen who are found guilty under Philippine laws are subject to Philippine imprisonment.