A Philippine court on Tuesday convicted a US Marine of killing a Filipino last year after he discovered she was a transgender woman in a hotel they had checked into while he was on a leave in the Philippines. Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of homicide by first strangling Jennifer Laude and then dunking her head into a toilet bowl. He was sentenced to six to 12 years in jail at the New Bilibid national penitentiary, with time served credited. The Oct. 11, 2014, killing sparked anger in the Philippines and reignited calls for an end to America's military presence in the country. The case also revived a debate over which government should have custody of US military personnel who run afoul of local laws.
Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Mass., was one of thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who participated in a joint exercise last year. He and a group of Marines were on leave afterward and met Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo, northwest of Manila. Pemberton and Laude left the bar and checked in at a nearby hotel. Pemberton testified in August that he choked Laude during a fight that erupted when he discovered she was a transgender woman, but he said she was alive when he left her in a shower, per his lawyer. Police said that Laude was apparently drowned in a toilet. Laude's mother says she had hoped Pemberton would be found guilty of murder, a graver crime. "But the important thing is he will be jailed," she says. "My son's life is not wasted."