Convicted US soldier Pemberton withdraws court appeal over killing of Filipino transwoman

Joseph Scott Pemberton, Jennifer Laude <i>Photo via Twitter</i>
Joseph Scott Pemberton, Jennifer Laude Photo via Twitter

Joseph Scott Pemberton, the United States marine found guilty of killing Filipino transwoman Jennifer Laude in 2014, has withdrawn his appeal of conviction before the Philippine Supreme Court (SC).

In a resolution dated June 2, but released to the media today, the Third Division “accepted” Pemberton’s urgent motion to withdraw his 2017 petition, which asked the SC to review a guilty ruling issued by an Olongapo court six years ago. This meant that the court’s conviction is final.

“The Court grants petitioner’s urgent motion for leave to withdraw stating that after thoughtful consideration of the circumstances of this case, he has decided to withdraw his petition, both as to criminal and civil accepts of the appeal, and accepts and recognizes that his conviction will become final and executory,” said the SC.

“The case is considered closed and terminated,” the resolution read.

Pemberton withdrew his appeal on June 2, the same day that the Philippines officially suspended the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the decades-old military pact with the U.S. which gives the superpower jurisdiction over crimes committed by American military personnel stationed in the Philippines.

Read: Pemberton admits he choked Jennifer Laude

The Olongapo Regional Trial Court sentenced Pemberton to up to 12 years imprisonment in the New Bilibid Prisons for homicide in Dec. 2015. But instead of being jailed in the state penitentiary, the U.S. marine has since served out his sentence at Camp Aguinaldo, a restricted military facility. Before that, he was briefly held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Custodial Center. This courtesy was extended to Pemberton under VFA rules which cited that a convicted U.S. personnel will be detained in a facility mutually agreed on by the two countries.

The U.S. government had been accused of meddling in the trials, earlier saying that it still had legal custody over the marine, then later asking the government to improve Pemberton’s jail cell by installing airconditioning and repainting it. Pemberton was also slated to be deported back to the U.S., however the Philippine Justice Department maintained that he will have to serve out his sentence before he can be deported.

A year after his conviction, Pemberton’s punishment was reduced to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.  He will continue to serve his sentence.

Laude, 26, was found dead in an Olongapo City motel room on Oct. 11, 2014, with her head dunked in a toilet bowl, and visible strangulation marks around her neck.

Pemberton, who said he was unaware that the victim was a transwoman, said he was enraged upon learning that Laude had a penis, and the discovery allegedly led to an altercation between the two. Pemberton’s fingerprints were found on condoms at the crime scene, and he claimed that he strangled Laude out of self-defense.

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