Trial begins in Philippines of U.S. Marine charged with trans woman’s murder

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine court on Monday began the trial of a U.S. Marine charged with murdering a transgender Filipino after allegedly discovering her gender when they checked into a hotel, in an emotional case that has tested the two countries’ military ties.

U.S. security escorts brought Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, wearing handcuffs, into a heavily secured courtroom in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila, for the trial after an earlier plea-bargain negotiation with the family of the victim, Jennifer Laude, reportedly collapsed, lawyers for Laude’s family said.

Pemberton is charged with murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The court registered a not guilty plea for him last month after he refused to enter a plea.

Government prosecutors expressed confidence they could win a conviction.

“We will prove the elements of murder,” state prosecutor Emilie de los Santos told reporters, referring to what she has described as “treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty” in the attack on the victim, who was formerly known as Jeffrey Laude.

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Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, is accused of strangling Laude and then drowning her in a hotel toilet last October after discovering she was a transgender woman. Prosecutors say they checked into the hotel after meeting in a bar in a red-light district.

Pemberton was bar-hopping with fellow Marines at the time after participating in joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises.

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